October 21, 2017 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Poetry, WRITING & LITERATURE | 0 Comments |

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (born 21 October 1772)

I don’t blame the anonymous person from Porlock who interrupted S.T. at Ash Farm during the composition of Kubla Khan; or, A Vision in a Dream: A Fragment.  (It may have been an opium trip in any case.)

But the point is that Coleridge’s ‘fragment’ is perfect and needs no further embellishment.

Richard Holmes, in his insanely detailed biography of Coleridge (1989), observed “His myth of creativity contains both these elements, which like Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind”, implies both destruction and preservation of a poetic paradise...“Kubla Khanis a pagan celebration of creative force in the universe, which the poet shares in the moment – perhaps irrecoverable – of trance-like inspiration. In the sudden release of unconscious images, which Coleridge credited to his opium “reverie”, the poet becomes both the controlling magus of this power, and also perhaps its sacrificial victim.”

Yes, sure, Ancient Mariner and Christobel are fine but they go on and on…and on.  Kubla Khan is the thinking druggies’ short poem for the ages:

ColeridgeIn Xanadu did Kubla Khan 

A stately pleasure-dome decree: 
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran 
Through caverns measureless to man 
   Down to a sunless sea. 
So twice five miles of fertile ground 
With walls and towers were girdled round; 
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills, 
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree; 
And here were forests ancient as the hills, 
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery. 
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted 
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover! 
A savage place! as holy and enchanted 
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted 
By woman wailing for her demon-lover! 
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething, 
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing, 
A mighty fountain momently was forced: 
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst 
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail, 
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail: 
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever 
It flung up momently the sacred river. 
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion 
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran, 
Then reached the caverns measureless to man, 
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean; 
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far 
Ancestral voices prophesying war! 
   The shadow of the dome of pleasure 
   Floated midway on the waves; 
   Where was heard the mingled measure 
   From the fountain and the caves. 
It was a miracle of rare device, 
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice! 
   A damsel with a dulcimer 
   In a vision once I saw: 
   It was an Abyssinian maid 
   And on her dulcimer she played, 
   Singing of Mount Abora. 
   Could I revive within me 
   Her symphony and song, 
   To such a deep delight ’twould win me, 
That with music loud and long, 
I would build that dome in air, 
That sunny dome! those caves of ice! 
And all who heard should see them there, 
And all should cry, Beware! Beware! 
His flashing eyes, his floating hair! 
Weave a circle round him thrice, 
And close your eyes with holy dread 
For he on honey-dew hath fed, 
And drunk the milk of Paradise.


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