Solstice – A Midnight when Noon is Born – The Dark-Day Cry of the Great English Poet Kathleen Raine

Poet, Mystic, Scholar – Kathleen Raine (1908-2003)

from The Northumbrian Sequence – Part IV

Let in the wind
Let in the rain
Let in the moors tonight,

The storm beats on my window-pane,
Night stands at my bed-foot,
Let in the fear,
Let in the pain,
Let in the trees that toss and groan,
Let in the north tonight.

Let in the nameless formless power
That beats upon my door,
Let in the ice, let in the snow,
The banshee howling on the moor,
The bracken-bush on the bleak hillside,
Let in the dead tonight.

Kathleen Raine (1908-2003) from The Collected Poems, Golgonooza Press, 2001

The excerpt abouve is part of a longer poem that continues below. For me, I associate it with the Solstice and the Christian season of Advent, the lead up to Christmas.  This heart-cry of a poem that embraces darkness as a way to find the light! The sense of one life ending and another beginning. It’s author, Kathleen Raine was considered one of the great English language poets of her time. And I wrote a long blog post about her and her writing in 2011. For my 2011 blog post on her Raine please click here. 

Raine was many things, a scholar renowned for her work on Blake and Yeats, a poet who wrote thirteen volumes of poetry and a mystic who exlpored the spiritual underpinnings of art and imagination all her life. I first heard Part IV of The Northumbrian Sequence in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Inside that massive stone structure her words  carried a bleakness perfect for the setting. And the hope that comes out of the poem’s end seemed eeven more real and well-earned being heard in that cavernous place. I say a lot more about who read her poem that day and the extraodinary larger-than-life life of Raine in my 2011 blog post.

The rest of the poem follows below. It is for me a Solstice hymn. A cry for light and love at a darkest time. An unflinching look at darkness. Naming it. Let in the fear/ Let in the pain. That courage. What in our darkest days wants to come to birth. What in me on this 21st day of December wants to come into the light out of the dark and illuminate my coming days? What in you this day wants to come to life in you?

The whistling ghost behind the dyke,
The dead that rot in the mire,
Let in the thronging ancestors
The unfulfilled desire,
Let in the wraith of the dead earl,
Let in the unborn tonight.

Let in the cold,
Let in the wet,
Let in the loneliness,
Let in the quick,
let in the dead
Let in the unpeopled skies.

Oh how can virgin fingers weave
A covering for the void,
How can my fearful heart conceive
Gigantic solitude?
How can a house so small contain
A company so great?
Let in the dark,
Let in the dead,
let in your love tonight.

Let in the snow that numbs the grave,
Let in the acorn-tree
The mountain stream and mountain stone,
Let in the bitter sea.

Fearful is my virgin heart
And frail my virgin form,
And mist I then take pity on
The raging of the storm
That rose up from the great abyss
Before the earth was made,
That pours the stars in cataracts
And shakes the violent world?

Let in the fire,
Let in the power,
Let in the invading might.

Gentle must my fingers be
And pitiful my heart
Since I must bind in human form
A living power so great,
A living impulse great and wild
That cries about my house
With all the violence of desire
Desiring this my peace.

Pitiful my heart must hold
The lonely stars at rest
Have pity on the raven’s cry
The torrent and the eagle’s wing,
The icy water of the tarn
And on the biting blast.

Let in the wound,
Let in the pain,
Let in your child tonight.

Kathleen Raine, ibid

Whatever your spiritual or religious leanings I invite you on this Solstice day to let in this poem. Its heart cry for life and love.  For your child whatever that is for you.

Let in the wound,
Let in the pain,
Let in your child tonight.


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