For a long time I had wanted to set some of Kathleen Raine’s poems, but they seemed to me as delicate as flowers or shells, and I hesitated to spoil their fragile beauty.
And then came an occasion five years ago when I had to collaborate with this poet. We both have associations with Cambridge, and in 1964 the University was celebrating the 500th year of the first degree ever given in music. Professor Thurston Dart, then Professor of Music in Cambridge, asked us to combine in writing a choral work to be sung on this occasion. We did so, Kathleen Raine writing eight poems for me to set, which formed a sequence in praise of music and which we called The Golden Cantata.
This emboldened me, and early this year I chose seven poems from her collected works written during the years from 1935 to 1949. They are all mystical poems; no wonder she admires and writes so understandingly about Blake. They are charged with human emotion, as if the poet had undergone a deeply affecting experience. She allowed me to call this song cycle Angels of the Mind, because she writes of angels, both terrible and comforting, in the same spirit as Rilke did. The seven poems are called ‘Worry about Money’, ‘Lenten Flowers’, ‘Harvest’, ‘Seed’, ‘In the Beck’, ‘Storm’, and ‘Nocturne’.
© 1969 Sir Arthur Bliss