Kathleen Raine Poetry Stones

Banner Image: Second poetry stone  © Janet Wedgwood

Grid Reference: NY 427 200

Kathleen Raine Poetry Stones

The Kathleen Raine Poetry Stones can be found in a small clearing in the magical setting of Hallinhag Wood. It can be reached by walking a short distance north-east along the Ullswater Way from Sandwick Bay, or in the other direction south-west from Howtown pier. 

The lines inscribed on three rocks in this dell are from two poems by Kathleen Raine, who lived in Martindale during the 1940s. Raine was a visionary poet and admirer of William Blake, with a profound sense of the beauty and the spirit of the natural world. She regarded Martindale as an idyllic world apart and wrote some of her finest poems in the valley’s peace and seclusion. These include ‘Night in Martindale’ and ‘On Leaving Ullswater’. 

The design and lettering is by Pip Hall, a stone carver from south Cumbria whose other work includes the Poetry Path at Kirkby Stephen and The Stanza Stones in the southern Pennines.

To select the stones Pip visited the site with local residents Jane Penman and Berry Patel.  She then made sketches for each of the three stones before returning to carve them in situ.

The poems from which the lines for the poetry stones are taken are Night in Martindale  and On Leaving Ullswater.

Night in Martindale

Not in the rustle of water, the air’s noise,

The roar of storm, the ominous birds, the cries –

The angel here speaks with a human voice.

Stone into man must grow, the human word

Carved by our whispers in the passing air

Is the authentic utterance of cloud,

The speech of flowing water, blowing wind,

Of silver moon and stunted juniper.

Words say, waters flow,

Rocks weather, ferns wither, winds blow, times go,

I write the sun’s Love, and the stars’ No.

On Leaving Ullswater

The air is full of a farewell –

Deserted by the silver lake

Lies the wide world, overturned.

Cities rise where mountains fell,

The furnace where the phoenix burned.

The lake is in my dream,

The tree is in my blood,

The past is in my bones,

The flowers of the wood

I love with long past loves.

I fear with many deaths

The presence of the night,

And in my memory read

The scripture of the leaves –

Only myself how strange

To the strange present come!

© copyright The Literary Estate of Kathleen Raine, 2000. Quoted by permission.

Kathleen Raine 1908 - 2003

Kathleen Raine was a poet and scholar who wrote in the mystical, visionary tradition of valuing above all things nature and the power of the imagination. She knew from childhood that her vocation was poetry and her parents shared and encouraged her love of it. Born in Essex, she spent several years of her youth with her aunt Peggy Black in Northumberland, a place she remembered as an idyllic world. In the 1920s she studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge but turned away from the prevailing emphasis on rational thought to “the sacred springs of life, which are imagination and the heart.”

After Cambridge she married, but soon eloped with Charles Madge, with whom she had two children. This relationship did not last either. On the outbreak of WW2 she came with her children from London to live in Martindale Vicarage, where she became a friend of Winifred Nicholson and the wealthy art patron Helen Sutherland who lived at Cockley Moor, near Dockray. Locally, Raine was known and remembered as ‘Mrs Madge’. The peaceful seclusion of Martindale enabled her to write some of her finest poetry and in 1943 the volume called ‘Stone and Flower’ was published, with illustrations by Barbara Hepworth. Raine’s Martindale poems perfectly express a theophanic immersion in the natural world.

Her poetry had already achieved much critical acclaim when she met Gavin Maxwell, the love of her life, who was a fond companion but did not, to her distress, reciprocate her love. The title of his book ‘Ring of Bright Water’ is taken from one of her poems. In the 1950s Raine was made a research fellow at Cambridge, where her scholarly writing included her masterwork on William Blake and later on W.B. Yeats. She received numerous literary awards and honours, including the Queen’s Medal for poetry, and inspired many kindred thinkers, including the Prince of Wales. Kathleen Raine died in 2003, aged 95.

by Jane Penman, resident of Martindale

With thanks to our sponsors and supporters

The Lake District Communities Fund

The Hadfield Trust

Dalemain Estates

All images in this section © Jane Penman

Inauguration of the Poetry Stones

Inaugurated on 24th June 2017 in the presence of residents of Martindale, members of FOUW and stone-carver Pip Hall. Miles MacInnes, chair of FOUW welcomed everyone, Jane Penman of Martindale spoke about Kathleen Raine’s life, Pip Hall explained how she designed and carved the poetry stones and poems were read by Jane Macauliffe and Nic Tweddell.

Other Topics that may interest you