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Kathleen Raine

File:Kathleen Raine.jpg
Kathleen Raine
(Photo by Dmitri N. Smirnov)

Kathleen Jessie Raine CBE (14 June 1908 – 6 July 2003) was a British poet, critic, and scholar writing in particular on William Blake, W. B. Yeats and Thomas Taylor. Known for her interest in various forms of spirituality, most prominently Platonism and Neoplatonism, she was a founder member of the Temenos Academy.[1]


Kathleen Raine was born at Ilford, Essex (now part of London). Her mother was from Scotland[2] and her father was born in Wingate, County Durham. The couple had met as students at Armstrong College in Newcastle upon Tyne. Raine spent part of World War I, 'a few short years', with her Aunty Peggy Black at the Manse in Great Bavington Northumberland. She commented, "I loved everything about it." For her it was an idyllic world and is the declared foundation of all her poetry. Raine always remembered Northumberland as Eden: "In Northumberland I knew myself in my own place; and I never 'adjusted' myself to any other or forgot what I had so briefly but clearly seen and understood and experienced." This period is described in the first book of her autobiography, Farewell Happy Fields (1973). [2]

Raine noted that poetry was deeply ingrained in the daily lives of her maternal ancestors: "On my mother's side I inherited Scotland's songs and ballads…sung or recited by my mother, aunts and grandmothers, who had learnt it from their mothers and grandmothers… Poetry was the very essence of life."[2] Raine heard and read the bible daily at home and at school, coming to know much of it by heart.[2] Her father was an English master at County High School in Ilford. He had studied the poetry of Wordsworth for his M.Litt thesis and had a passion for Shakespeare and Raine saw many Shakespearean plays as a child. From her father she gained a love of etymology and the literary aspect of poetry, the counterpart to her immersion in the poetic oral traditions. She wrote that for her poetry was "not something invented but given…Brought up as I was in a household where poets were so regarded it naturally became my ambition to be a poet". She confided her ambition to her father who was sceptical of the plan. "To my father" she wrote "poets belonged to a higher world, to another plane; to say one wished to become a poet was to him something like saying one wished to write the fifth gospel". [3] Her mother encouraged Raine's poetry from babyhood.

Raine was educated at County High School, Ilford, and then read natural sciences, including botany and zoology, on an Exhibition at Girton College, Cambridge, receiving her master's degree in 1929.[3] While in Cambridge she met Jacob Bronowski, William Empson,[3] Humphrey Jennings and Malcolm Lowry.[4] In later life she was a friend and colleague of the kabbalist author and teacher, Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi.

Raine married Hugh Sykes Davies in 1930. She left Davies for Charles Madge and they had two children together, but their marriage also broke up. She also held an unrequited passion for Gavin Maxwell. The title of Maxwell's most famous book Ring of Bright Water, subsequently made into a film of the same name starring Virginia McKenna, was taken from a line in Raine's poem "The Marriage of Psyche". The relationship with Maxwell ended in 1956 when Raine lost his pet otter, Mijbil, indirectly causing the animal's death. Raine held herself responsible, not only for losing Mijbil but for a curse she had uttered shortly beforehand, frustrated by Maxwell's homosexuality: "Let Gavin suffer in this place as I am suffering now." Raine blamed herself thereafter for all Maxwell's misfortunes, beginning with Mijbil's death and ending with the cancer from which he died in 1969.[5] From 1939 to 1941, Raine and her children shared a house at 49a Wordsworth Street in Penrith with Janet Adam Smith and Michael Roberts and later lived in Martindale. She was a friend of Winifred Nicholson.

Raine's two children were Anna Hopwell Madge (born 1934) and James Wolf Madge (1936–2006). In 1959, James married Jennifer Alliston, the daughter of Raine's friend, architect and town planner Jane Drew. Drew was a direct descendant of the neoplatonist Thomas Taylor [6] whom Raine studied and wrote about. Thus a link was made between Raine and Taylor by the two children of her son's marriage.

At the time of her death, following an accident, Raine resided in London.


Her first book of poetry, Stone And Flower (1943), was published by Tambimuttu, and illustrated by Barbara Hepworth. In 1946 the collection, Living in Time, was released, followed by The Pythoness in 1949. Her Collected Poems (2000) drew from eleven previous volumes of poetry. Her classics include Who Are We? There were many subsequent prose and poetry works, including her scholarly masterwork, the two-volume Blake and Tradition (published in 1969, and derived from the Andrew Mellon Lectures she delivered at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C in 1968), which demonstrated beyond doubt the antiquity, coherence and integrity of William Blake's philosophy, triumphantly refuting T S Eliot's assertion (Collected Essays, 1932) that what Blake's "genius required, and what it sadly lacked, was a framework of accepted and traditional ideas which would have prevented him from indulging in a philosophy of his own."

The story of her life is told in a three-volume autobiography that is notable for the author's attempts to read (or impose) a structure on her memories that is quasi mythical, thus relating her own life to a larger pattern. This reflects patterns that can be detected in her poetry, in which she was clearly influenced by W. B. Yeats. The three books were originally published separately and later brought together in a single volume, entitled Autobiographies (the title itself is in conscious imitation of Yeats), edited by Lucien Jenkins.

Raine made translations of Honoré de Balzac's Cousine Bette (Cousin Bette, 1948) and Illusions perdues (Lost Illusions, 1951).

She was a frequent contributor to the quarterly journal, Studies in Comparative Religion, which dealt with religious symbolism and the Traditionalist perspective. With Keith Critchlow, Brian Keeble and Philip Sherrard she co-founded, in 1981, Temenos, a periodical, and later, in 1990, the Temenos Academy of Integral Studies, a teaching academy that stressed a multistranded universalist philosophy, and in support of her generally Platonist and Neoplatonist views on poetry and culture. She studied the 18th-century English Platonist Thomas Taylor (1758–1835), and published a selection of his works.[7]

Raine was a research fellow at Girton College from 1955 to 1961. She taught at Harvard for at least one course about Myth and Literature offered to teachers and professors in the summer. She also spoke on Yeats and Blake and other topics at the Yeats School in Sligo, Ireland in the summer of 1974. A professor at Cambridge and the author of a number of scholarly books, she was an expert on Coleridge, Blake,[8] and Yeats.


She received honorary doctorates from universities in the United Kingdom, France and the United States and won numerous awards and honors, including the Edna St. Vincent Millay Prize from the American Poetry Society (date unknown), and also:


Poetry collections

  • Stone And Flower, (p.u.), 1943
  • Living in Time, (p.u.) 1946
  • The Pythoness. (p.u.), 1949.
  • The Year One: Poems, H. Hamilton, 1952
  • The Hollow Hill: and other poems 1960–1964, H Hamilton, 1965
  • Six Dreams: and other poems, Enitharmon, 1968
  • Penguin Modern Poets 17, Penguin, 1970
  • Lost Country, H. Hamilton, 1971
  • On a Deserted Shore, H. Hamilton, 1973
  • The Oracle in the Heart, and other poems, 1975–1978, Dolmen Press/G. Allen & Unwin, 1980
  • Collected poems, 1935–1980, Allen & Unwin, 1981
  • The Presence: Poems, 1984–87, Golgonooza Press, 1987
  • Selected Poems, Golgonooza Press 1988
  • Living with Mystery: Poems 1987-91, Golgonooza Press, 1992
  • The Collected Poems of Kathleen Raine, ed. Brian Keeble, Golgonooza Press, 2000
  • Passion


  • Defending Ancient Springs, 1967
  • Thomas Taylor the Platonist. Selected Writings, Raine, K. and Harper, G.M., eds., Bollingen Series 88, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969 (also pub. Princeton University, USA).
  • Blake and Tradition, 2 Volumes, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969
  • William Blake, The World of Art Library - Artists, Arts Book Society, Thames and Hudson, London, 1970 (216 pp, 156 illustrations),
  • Yeats, the Tarot and the Golden Dawn, Dolmen Press, 1973
  • The Inner Journey of the Poet, Golgonooza Press, 1976
  • From Blake to a Vision, (p.u.), 1979
  • Blake and The New Age, George Allen and Unwin, 1979
  • Blake and Antiquity, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979 (an abbreviation of the 1969 Blake and Tradition; republished in 2002 by Routledge Classics with a new introduction by Raine)
  • The Human Face of God: William Blake and the Book of Job, Thames and Hudson, 1982
  • Yeats the Initiate, George Allen & Unwin, 1987
  • W. B. Yeats and the Learning of the Imagination, Golgonooza Press, 1999.
  • Seeing God Everywhere: Essays on Nature and the Sacred (World Wisdom, 2004) (contributed essay)
  • The Betrayal of Tradition: Essays on the Spiritual Crisis of Modernity (World Wisdom, 2005) (contributed essay)


  • Farewell Happy Fields, Hamilton/G. Braziller, 1974
  • The Land Unknown, Hamilton/G. Braziller, 1975
  • The Lion's Mouth, Hamilton/G. Braziller, 1977. autob.
  • Autobiographies, ed. Lucien Jenkins, Skoob Books, 1991


No End to Snowdrops, Philippa Bernard. Shepheard-Walwyn (Publishers) Ltd, 2009, ISBN 978-0-85683-268-0


Who stands at the door in the storm and rain from The Year One: Poems (1952) was set by composer Tarik O'Regan for unaccompanied chorus in 2006 with the title Threshold of Night; it was first recorded on the 2008 album of the same name. A number of poems were also set by Geoffrey Bush; these settings were recorded by Benjamin Luxon for Chandos.

See also


  1. ^ Couzyn, Jeni (1985) Contemporary Women Poets. Bloodaxe, p. 56
  2. ^ a b c d Couzyn, Jeni (1985) Contemporary Women Poets. Bloodaxe, p. 57
  3. ^ a b c Couzyn, Jeni (1985) Contemporary Women Poets. Bloodaxe, p. 58
  4. ^ Temenos
  5. ^ Kathleen Raine:Obituary, The Guardian, London, 8/7/2003
  6. ^ The ancestral line is: Thomas Taylor (born 1758) > Mary Meredith Taylor (1787) > Samuel Beverly Jones (1827) > Emma Spering Jones (1873) > Joyce Beverly (Jane) Drew (1911) > Jennifer Alliston (1937)
  7. ^ Thomas Taylor the Platonist: Selected Writings, Raine, K. and Harper, G.M., eds., Bollingen Series 88, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969 (also pub. Princeton University, USA).
  8. ^ Lighting a Candle: Kathleen Raine and Temenos, Temenos Academy Papers, no. 25, pub. Temenos Academy, 2008, p. 92

Further reading

  • Lighting a Candle: Kathleen Raine and Temenos, Temenos Academy Papers, no. 25, pub. Temenos Academy, 2008.

External links

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