Monday, 2 September 2013

The Human Form Divine by Kathleen Raine


THE human contours are so easily lost.
Only close your eyes and you seem a forest
Of dense vegetation, and the lurking beast

That in the night springs from the cover
Tears with tiger’s mouth your living creatures,
A thousand innocent victims without name that suffer.

Science applies its insect-lenses to the form divine
As up the red river (all life comes from the sea)
Swim strange monsters, amoeboid erythrean spawn.

Rock-face of bone, alluvium of cartilage
Remote from man as the surface of the moon
Are vast and unexplored interior desert ranges,

And autonomous cells
Grow like unreaped fields of waving corn.
Air filters through the lungs’ fine branches as though trees.

Chemistry dissolves the goddess in the alembic,
Venus the white queen, the universal matrix,
Down to molecular hexagons and carbon-chains,

And the male nerve-impulse, monition of reality,
Conveys the charge, dynamic of non-entity
That sparks across the void ex nihilo.

At the extreme of consciousness, prayer
Fixes hand and feet immobile to a chair,
Transmutes all heaven and earth into a globe of air,

And soul streams away out of the top of the head
Like flame in a lamp-glass carried in the draught
Of the celestial fire kindled in the solar plexus.

Oh man, oh Garden of Eden, there is nothing
But the will of love to uphold your seeming world,
To trace in chaos the contours of your beloved form!


A Book of Science Verse: The Poetic Relations of Science and Technology, ed. by W. Eastwood, M.A. (London: Macmillan, 1961), 231-2.

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