It matters that this is a very specific landscape of the Scottish
Highlands.  The poem is about the Highland Clearances and the narrator's
awareness of a tragic history that she is late in knowing/remembering. 
The presences are those driven off the land in the late 18th and 19th C,
the hills the Highlands that were depleted, the roofless house a cottage
destroyed (probably burned) when the land was cleared, the "song and
story" the oral culture of the Gaels.  It is one of the great and
terrible experiences of Scottish history never told in our schools.

Eliot wrote one poem about Glencoe with similar images.  That is a story
every Scot knows but we also do not learn--the betrayal and slaughter of
the MacDonald's by the British army under  the Campbell Earl of Argyle. 
Eliot also represents crows (always present at battles and Scottish
tragedies) and the sense of great loss and crumbling substance.

Though Raine was born in London and grew up in Northumberland, she
describes Wester Ross in her poems.

>>> [log in to unmask] 09/10/05 5:52 PM >>>
Kate -- I think Kathleen  Raine got into religious verse in her later
(or am I thinking of another  woman poet?). Do you know if she is
related to 
Craig Raine, an arch-defender of  TSE?  --  Jim Loucks

James Loucks, Ph.D.
Ohio State University-Newark
1179 University Dr.
Newark, OH 43055-1797
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fax 740.366.5047
She was into naturalism.  Much of her poetry is about the sea or the 
with mythical overtones. I've pasted a poem of hers below. I don't  know
she was related to Craig Raine.  For her time, she was  extremelyl 
free-spirited.  She married, I believe, three times and had  several
affairs and lived her 
life much as she wanted.  As I mentioned  previously, she was terribly
in love 
with the naturalist, Gavin  Maxwell. Unfortunately for her, he was a 
homosexual and although he admired  her poetry and valued their
friendship, they had a 
falling out when her efforts  to seduce him failed.  She became quite
over this and when he died  of cancer in his 60's, she felt, I believe,
a lot 
of guilt over their  estrangement, as it was mainly due to her inability
accept the fact that he  was gay and would never be in love with her or
love to her.  The title  of Maxwell's most famous book, Ring of Bright
Water, was 
taken from one of her  poems.

    The Wilderness 
I came too late to the hills: they were swept  bare
Winters before I was born of song and story,
Of spell or speech  with power of oracle or invocation,

The great ash long dead by a  roofless house, its branches rotten,
The voice of the crows an  inarticulate cry,
And from the wells and springs the holy water ebbed  away.

A child I ran in the wind on a withered moor
Crying out  after those great presences who were not there,
Long lost in the  forgetfulness of the forgotten.

Only the archaic forms themselves  could tell!
In sacred speech of hoodie on gray stone, or hawk in  air,
Of Eden where the lonely rowan bends over the dark  pool.

Yet I have glimpsed the bright mountain behind the  mountain,
Knowledge under the leaves, tasted the bitter berries  red,
Drunk water cold and clear from an inexhaustible hidden fountain.