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Best Famous Kathleen Raine Poems

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by Kathleen Raine | |

Shells

 Reaching down arm-deep into bright water 
I gathered on white sand under waves 
Shells, drifted up on beaches where I alone 
Inhabit a finite world of years and days.
I reached my arm down a myriad years To gather treasure from the yester-milliennial sea-floor, Held in my fingers forms shaped on the day of creation.
Building their beauty in three dimensions Over which the world recedes away from us, And in the fourth, that takes away ourselves From moment to moment and from year to year From first to last they remain in their continuous present.
The helix revolves like a timeless thought, Instantaneous from apex to rim Like a dance whose figure is limpet or murex, cowrie or golden winkle.
They sleep on the ocean floor like humming-tops Whose music is the mother-of-pearl octave of the rainbow, Harmonious shells that whisper forever in our ears, The world that you inhabit has not yet been created.


by Kathleen Raine | |

Storm

 God in me is the fury on the bare heath
God in me shakes the interior kingdom of my heaven.
God in me is the fire wherein I burn.
God in me swirling cloud and driving rain God in me cries a lonely nameless bird God in me beats my head upon a stone.
God in me the four elements of storm Raging in the shelterless landscape of the mind Outside the barred doors of my Goneril heart.


by Kathleen Raine | |

Seed

 From star to star, from sun and spring and leaf,
And almost audible flowers whose sound is silence,
And in the common meadows, springs the seed of life.
Now the lilies open, and the rose Released by summer from the harmless graves That, centuries deep, are in the air we breathe, And in our earth, and in our daily bread.
External and innate dimensions hold The living forms, but not the force of life; For that interior and holy tree That in the heart of hearts outlives the world Spreads earthly shade into eternity.


by Kathleen Raine | |

Introspection

 If you go deep
Into the heart
What do you find there?
Fear, fear,
Fear of the jaws of the rock,
Fear of the teeth and splinters of iron that tear
Flesh from the bone, and the moist
Blood, running unfelt
From the wound, and the hand
Suddenly moist and red.
If you go deep Into the heart What do you find? Grief, grief, Grief for the life unlived, For the loves unloved, For the child never to be born, Th'unbidden anguish, when the fair moon Rises over still summer seas, and the pain Of sunlight scattered in vain on spring grass.
If you go deeper Into the heart What do you find there? Death, death, Death tht lets all go by, Lets the blood flow from the wound, Lets the night pass, Endures the day with indifference, knowing that all must end.
Sorrow is not forever, ad sense Endures no extremities, Death is the last Secret implicit within you, the hidden, the deepest Knowledge of all you will ever unfold In this body of earth.


by Kathleen Raine | |

Lament

 Where are those dazzling hills touched by the sun,
Those crags in childhood that I used to climb?
Hidden, hidden under mist is yonder mountain,
Hidden is the heart.
A day of cloud, a lifetime falls between, Gone are the heather moors and the pure stream, Gone are the rocky places and the green, Hidden, hidden under sorrow is yonder mountain, Hidden, hidden.
O storm and gale of tears, whose blinding screen Makes weather of grief, snow's drifting curtain Palls th'immortal heights once seen.
Hidden, hidden is the heart, Hidden, hidden is the heart.


by Kathleen Raine | |

Lenten Flowers

 Primrose, anemone, bluebell, moss
Grow in the Kingdom of the Cross

And the ash-tree's purple bud
Dresses the spear that sheds his blood.
With the thorns that pierce his brow Soft encircling petals grow For in each flower the secret lies Of the tree that crucifies.
Garden by the water clear All must die who enter here!


by Kathleen Raine | |

Confessions

 Wanting to know all
I overlooked each particle
Containing the whole
Unknowable.
Intent on one great love, perfect, Requited and for ever, I missed love's everywhere Small presence, thousand-guised.
And lifelong have been reading Book after book, searching For wisdom, but bringing Only my own understanding.
Forgive me, forgiver, Whether you be infinite omniscient Or some unnoticed other My existence has hurt.
Being what I am What could I do but wrong? Yet love can bring To heart healing To chaos meaning.


by Kathleen Raine | |

Change

 Change 
Said the sun to the moon, 
You cannot stay.
Change Says the moon to the waters, All is flowing.
Change Says the fields to the grass, Seed-time and harvest, Chaff and grain.
You must change said, Said the worm to the bud, Though not to a rose, Petals fade That wings may rise Borne on the wind.
You are changing said death to the maiden, your wan face To memory, to beauty.
Are you ready to change? Says the thought to the heart, to let her pass All your life long For the unknown, the unborn In the alchemy Of the world's dream? You will change, says the stars to the sun, Says the night to the stars.


by Kathleen Raine | |

Harvest

 Day is the hero's shield,
Achilles' field,
The light days are the angels.
We the seed.
Against eternal light and gorgon's face Day is the shield And we the grass Native to fields of iron, and skies of brass.


by Kathleen Raine | |

Heroes

 This war's dead heroes, who has seen them?
They rise in smoke above the burning city,
Faint clouds, dissolving into sky —

And who sifting the Libyan sand can find
The tracery of a human hand,
The faint impression of an absent mind,
The fade-out of a soldier's day dream?

You'll know your love no more, nor his sweet kisses —
He's forgotten you, girl, and in the idle sun
In long green grass that the east wind caresses
The seed of man is ravished by the corn.


by Kathleen Raine | |

In the Beck

 There is a fish, that quivers in the pool,
itself a shadow, but its shadow, clear.
Catch it again and again, it still is there.
Against the flowing stream, its life keeps pace with death - the impulse and the flash of grace hiding in its stillness, moves to be motionless.
No net will hold it - always it will return Where the ripples settle, and the sand - It lives unmoved, equated with the stream, As flowers are fit for air, man for his dream.


by Kathleen Raine | |

Paradise Seed

 Where is the seed 
Of the tree felled, 
Of the forest burned, 
Or living root 
Under ash and cinders? 
From woven bud 
What last leaf strives 
Into life, last 
Shrivelled flower?
Is fruit of our harvest,
Our long labour
Dust to the core?
To what far, fair land 
Borne on the wind 
What winged seed 
Or spark of fire 
From holocaust 
To kindle a star?


by Kathleen Raine | |

Love Poem

 Yours is the face that the earth turns to me,
Continuous beyond its human features lie
The mountain forms that rest against the sky.
With your eyes, the reflecting rainbow, the sun's light Sees me; forest and flower, bird and beast Know and hold me forever in the world's thought, Creation's deep untroubled retrospect.
When your hand touches mine it is the earth That takes me--the green grass, And rocks and rivers; the green graves, And children still unborn, and ancestors, In love passed down from hand to hand from God.
Your love comes from the creation of the world, From those paternal fingers, streaming through the clouds That break with light the surface of the sea.
Here, where I trace your body with my hand, Love's presence has no end; For these, your arms that hold me, are the world's.
In us, the continents, clouds and oceans meet Our arbitrary selves, extensive with the night, Lost, in the heart's worship, and the body's sleep.


by Kathleen Raine | |

Nocturne

 Night comes, an angel stands
Measuring out the time of stars,
Still are the winds, and still the hours.
It would be peace to lie Still in the still hours at the angel's feet, Upon a star hung in a starry sky, But hearts another measure beat.
Each body, wingless as it lies, Sends out its butterfly of night With delicate wings, and jewelled eyes.
And some upon day's shores are cast, And some in darkness lost In waves beyond the world, where float Somewhere the islands of the blest.


by Kathleen Raine | |

The Ancient Speech

 A Gaelic bard they praise who in fourteen adjectives
Named the one indivisible soul of his glen;
For what are the bens and the glens but manifold qualities,
Immeasurable complexities of soul?
What are these isles but a song sung by island voices?
The herdsman sings ancestral memories
And the song makes the singer wise,
But only while he sings
Songs that were old when the old themselves were young,
Songs of these hills only, and of no isles but these.
For other hills and isles this language has no words.
The mountains are like manna, for one day given, To each his own: Strangers have crossed the sound, but not the sound of the dark oarsmen Or the golden-haired sons of kings, Strangers whose thought is not formed to the cadence of waves, Rhythm of the sickle, oar and milking pail, Whose words make loved things strange and small, Emptied of all that made them heart-felt or bright.
Our words keep no faith with the soul of the world.


by Kathleen Raine | |

The End of Love

 Now he is dead
How should I know
My true love's arms
From wind and snow?

No man I meet
In field or house
Though in the street
A hundred pass.
The hurrying dust Has never a face, No longer human In man or woman.
Now he is gone Why should I mourn My true love more than mud, than mud or stone?


by Kathleen Raine | |

The Wilderness

 I came too late to the hills: they were swept bare
Winters before I was born of song and story,
Of spell or speech with power of oracle or invocation,

The great ash long dead by a roofless house, its branches rotten,
The voice of the crows an inarticulate cry,
And from the wells and springs the holy water ebbed away.
A child I ran in the wind on a withered moor Crying out after those great presences who were not there, Long lost in the forgetfulness of the forgotten.
Only the archaic forms themselves could tell! In sacred speech of hoodie on gray stone, or hawk in air, Of Eden where the lonely rowan bends over the dark pool.
Yet I have glimpsed the bright mountain behind the mountain, Knowledge under the leaves, tasted the bitter berries red, Drunk water cold and clear from an inexhaustible hidden fountain.


by Kathleen Raine | |

Transit of the Gods

 Strange that the self’s continuum should outlast 
The Virgin, Aphrodite, and the Mourning Mother, 
All loves and griefs, successive deities 
That hold their kingdom in the human breast.
Abandoned by the gods, woman with an ageing body That half remembers the Annunciation The passion and the travail and the grief That wore the mask of my humanity, I marvel at the soul’s indifference.
For in her theatre the play is done, The tears are shed; the actors, the immortals In their ceaseless manifestation, elsewhere gone, And I who have been Virgin and Aphrodite, The mourning Isis and the queen of corn Wait for the last mummer, dread Persephone To dance my dust at last into the tomb.


by Kathleen Raine | |

Vegetation

 O never harm the dreaming world, 
the world of green, the world of leaves, 
but let its million palms unfold 
the adoration of the trees.
It is a love in darkness wrought obedient to the unseen sun, longer than memory, a thought deeper than the graves of time.
The turning spindles of the cells weave a slow forest over space, the dance of love, creation, out of time moves not a leaf, and out of summer, not a shade.


by Kathleen Raine | |

Worry About Money

 Wearing worry about money like a hair shirt
I lie down in my bed and wrestle with my angel.
My bank-manager could not sanction my continuance for another day But life itself wakes me each morning, and love Urges me to give although I have no money In the bank at this moment, and ought properly To cease to exist in a world where poverty Is a shameful and ridiculous offence.
Having no one to advise me, I open the Bible And shut my eyes and put my finger on a text And read that the widow with the young son Must give first to the prophetic genius From the little there is in the bin of flour and the cruse of oil.