By Jane Penman
Our second Heritage Trail installation 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 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.
So far two of the three poetry stones are complete thanks to the Lake District Community Fund and we have just heard that The Hadfield Trust will provide funding for the third stone. We look forward to Pip carving the third stone this spring.
The poems from which the lines for the poetry stones are taken are Night in Martindale and On Leaving Ullswater.
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.