The presence of nature in my winter room
With curtains drawn across the clouds and stars,
lakes, fells, and green sweet meadows far away
Is fire, older and more wild than they.
Fire will outlast them all and take them all
For into fire the autumn woods must fall.
Spring blossoming is the slow combustion of the tree,
The phoenix fire that burns bird beast and flower away.
Once Troy and Dido’s Carthaginian pyre
And Baldur’s ship, and fabulous London burning,
Robes, wooden walls and crystal palaces
In their apotheosis were such flames as these.
Flames more fluent than water of a mountain stream,
Flames more delicate and swift than air,
Flames more impassable than walls of stone,
destructive and irrevocable as time.
Essential fire is the unhindered spirit
That, laid upon the lips of prophecy
Frees all the shining elements of the soul;
Whose burning teaches love the way to die
And selves to undergo their ultimate destruction
Upon those flaming ramparts of the world
That rise between our fate, and the lost garden.
Kathleen Raine : from Modern Verse 1900-1950
Oxford University Press (OUP), ed Phyllis M Jones.