Martindale and Kathleen Raine

On Saturday we decided to explore Martindale, a beautiful and peaceful valley situated between Ullswater and Haweswater.

Martindale was home to the mystical post Kathleen Raine who, on the outbreak of World War Two came 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.

The Marriage of Psyche

He has married me with a ring, a ring of bright water
Whose ripples travel from the heart of the sea,
He has married me with a ring of light, the glitter
Broadcast on the swift river.

Kathleen Raine wrote two wonderful poems about Martindale and 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! 

Many other writers and poets visited Raine in her eyrie, high above Ullswater including Norman Nicholson, who was in love with Raine; T S Eliot and  the Faber poets - Janet Adam Smith and Michael Roberts.

It is so strange to think that such a secluded and remote part of the world could be home to so much talent. However, there is a wonderful quality about Martindale and it's not hard to imagine why, like Grasmere and Rydal before it, it inspired so many wonderful poets.