Kathleen Raine – The Underlying Order and other essays


Edited with an Introduction by BRIAN KEEBLE



Temenos Academy Papers 30
153 pages
ISBN 978 0 9551934 6 0 cased

This collection of six previously uncollected essays was published by the Temenos
Academy to mark the centenary of the birth of its principal founder, the poet Kathleen
Raine. During a long life Dr Raine was a prolific poet, essayist, scholar, reviewer,
editor and translator and a champion of standards and values she equated with the
Perennial Philosophy. Having let it be known that she regarded modernism as having
severe inadequacies, mainly due to its being based upon the purely materialist and
quantitative premises of modern science, Raine was by degrees marginalized by the
literary establishment. This had the eVect of deepening and adding to the passion with
which she gave expression to those meanings and values she held to be requisite for a
legitimate culture.
These essays are addressed primarily to an audience for whom their author believed
what mattered about the arts is that they are above all a lived experience: not something
we learn about but the very source from which we might learn what the transformative
energies of imaginative vision can contribute to the integral wholeness of life itself.

Nature and Meaning
The Underlying Order: Nature and the Imagination
A Sense of Beauty
John Donne and the Baroque Doubt
Shelley as a Mythological Poet
Wordsworth: A Remembered Experience

‘It is diffcult / to get the news from poems, / yet men die miserably
every day / for lack / of what is found there’. On that basis The
Underlying Order and other essays by Kathleen Raine, a book of six of
her previously uncollected essays about Shelley, Wordsworth, Donne,
imagination, beauty, and Raine’s personal development as a poet, is
life-saving work; it will help you to appreciate poetry as if you are
reading it for the first time. … [Raine] devoted her life to the moral and
spiritual calling of poetry, acknowledging that calling, just as William
Carlos Williams did, as the prime need for humanity. She rejected the
philosophical doctrine of secular materialism, believing that poetry
cannot be produced in the absence of spirituality: ‘Such work fulfils
no function at all which cannot be done as well or better in a news
bulletin’. This book of essays is an excellent introduction to her many
collections of philosophical poetry and criticism.

‘I felt … that poetry and literature in general were not “subjects”
to be studied and learned but the stuV of life … . I have learned more
about poetry from my mother, from my friends, from solitude, and
from the school of life than I could ever have done from the Cambridge
English School’. Raine drew on nature and fortified her inspiration by
her studies in biology, having pursued botany and zoology instead of
English studies. Nonetheless, if one cannot learn enough about poetry
from life, her collection of essays about poetry is the next best thing.

She writes that John Donne was shaped by his personal experience
as well as history, ‘as to feel the pull of all those great forces that were
rendering the world apart’. She sees Shelley as a mythological poet
whose ‘vision was more real than the world of “cold mortality” that
has judged him, and he believed that, some day, the world will live
according to the truth’. And she writes of Wordsworth that ‘his poetry
… confirmed me’. It is clear why she chose these poets: they valued
spirituality as the prime need for life and poetry. Their poetry in its
premises resembles her own. We are drawn by what we imitate, and
Raine, it is clear, needed to write poetry to live.

Jeannie Vanasco
Times Literary Supplement 9 October 2009
reprinted with permission

Kathleen Raine (1908–2003) was one of the most important
poets and critics of the twentieth century. A co-founder
of the journal Temenos, and principal founder of the
Temenos Academy, she received honorary doctorates from
the Universities of Leicester, Durham and Caen. Admired
in France, she was made Commandeur de l’Ordre des
Arts et des Lettres in 2000. Her works include Blake and
Tradition (1969, republished 2002), Yeats the Initiate (1986),
Autobiographies (1991) and The Collected Poems of Kathleen
Raine (2001; reprinted 2019). Kathleen Raine was a recipient of the Queen’s
Medal for Poetry and in 2000 was appointed cbe for
distinguished services to literature.