Full of desire I lay, the sky wounding me,
Each cloud a ship without me sailing, each tree
Possessing what my soul lacked, tranquillity.
Waiting for the longed-for voice to speak
Through the mute telephone, my body grew weak
With the well-known and mortal death, heartbreak.
The language I knew best, my human speech
Forsook my fingers, and out of reach
Were Homer’s ghosts, the savage conches of the beach.
Then the sky spoke to me in language clear,
Familiar as the heart, than love more near.
The sky said to my soul, `You have what you desire.
`Know now that you are born along with these
Clouds, winds, and stars, and ever-moving seas
And forest dwellers. This your nature is.
Lift up your heart again without fear,
Sleep in the tomb, or breathe the living air,
This world you with the flower and with the tiger share.’
Then I saw every visible substance turn
Into immortal, every cell new born
Burned with the holy fire of passion.
This world I saw as on her judgment day
When the war ends, and the sky rolls away,
And all is light, love and eternity.
Kathleen Raine was born on the 14th of June, 1908 and passed away on the 6th of July, 2003. A British poet, she was known for her interest in various forms of spirituality.
“Passion” is a part of an anthology, “Songs of Ourselves Volume 2, Part 1” which focuses on the themes of love and family. This poem by Kathleen Raine has 8 stanzas in total with 3 verses in each one. She has used metaphors, personification, and many other language features in order to put her message across — that love, even if it gets you down, should not keep you feeling down forever.
The first stanza depicts an image of someone letting their mind and heart revel in solitude whilst yearning for tranquility. The sadness in this stanza is reflected on how the personified sky was “wounding” the person through drizzling rain, and massive clouds moving slowly in the sky (“Each cloud a ship without me sailing”).
In the second stanza, the person insinuates that they only want to hear one thing – their beloved’s voice. It is suggested that they had been planning on making a phone call, perhaps to gain closure from their previous significant other – up to no avail, as they are unable to speak due to immense pain from the heartbreak. The reader is able to empathize due to possibly recounting painful experiences with heartbreak, as it is something which everyone can relate to – as written by the poet: “With the well-known and mortal death, heartbreak.”
Due to the excruciating agony which heartbreak has caused, the person’s ability to speak their mind has depleted, as explained in the third stanza. The third verse indicates that perhaps, the person tried to persuade their significant other to stay or change their mind – but all in vain. The poet used metaphors in order to describe her speech as two things: “Homer’s ghosts” as well as “savage conches of the beach”. Homer is known as one of the greatest Greek poets, whose works are mostly speeches. He has also provided many models in persuasive speaking and writing. Referring to her speech as “Homer’s ghosts” prove that she attempted to persuade her significant other. Meanwhile, the word “savage” merely reiterates the brutality of the feeling of abandonment, as juxtaposed by the author with “conches” – which are attractive abodes abandoned by snails. The setting of the conches being put on the beach could convey the impression that the person felt like their relationship was at a lovely and peaceful place which most people would enjoy, therefore implying that the person suffering the heartbreak was confused as to why it ended.
The person gains a rather happy revelation from the personified sky in the fourth, fifth and sixth stanza; that they had everything they’ve ever wanted, and must not dwell on the small cracks of the road. One can choose to live optimistically or pessimistically (“Sleep in the tomb, or breathe the living air”) even if the personified sky suggests that it would be best to live optimistically by not being afraid of loving once more (“Lift up your heart again without fear”). It is also as if the person is being told that the world comes with both the good and the bad, and it is up to them to find the good in the bad, as well as the bad in the good – the Chinese philosophical concept of yin and yang. (“This world you with the flower and with the tiger share.”)
The words of wisdom take effect on the person, as seen in the seventh stanza – the person is portrayed to change their perspective from negative to positive: “Then I saw every visible substance turn Into immortal, every cell new born”. The positivity is conspicuous as seen in the eighth stanza where the sky clears up (“When the war ends, and the sky rolls away”) and is recapitulated when the poet writes, “All is light, love and eternity”.
Everyone has, or will experience the anguish delivered by heartbreak during their lifetime. “Passion” by Kathleen Raine acknowledges this, but also provides hope for everyone towards the end, encouraging readers to get up and dust themselves off. The reality is that though the misery may send you down into the spiral of depression, the heartache will only make you stronger and will help you improve as a person – if you let it, with optimism.