Tuesday, 28 September 2010

ABC Wednesday - K is for 'Kubla Khan'

In 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 here were gardens bright with sinous rills
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills, And folding 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 Abyssian 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 drank the milk of paradise'.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, whilst in an opium-induced sleep, supposedly composed a poem of two or three hundred lines on the subject of Kubla Khan and the palace he commanded to be built.  On awakening he began to write down the poem but was interrupted by 'a person... from Porlock' at the door, and on later trying to resume his writing found that the above fragment was all that he could recollect.  Good excuse!  I love the poem anyway, a series of wonderfully cinematic images that have a visionary feel to them.  Coleridge himself thought the poem 'a psychological curiosity'.


Sylvia K said...

Great subject for the the K Day! Hope your week is going well!


Gramma Ann said...

I'm not sure I quite understood the poem, but, then I'm not a poet, so maybe I'm missing something there. Have a great K day and week.

Paula Scott said...

Wow-really interesting. I mean, the aspect of writing poems about Kubla Khan in an opium induced state.


photowannabe said...

Very strange a haunting. Great choice and very original for the letter K.

Roger Owen Green said...

I feel opiated just reading the story. Or maybe it's my glass of wine after a day w a sick child.

Good choice.

ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Tumblewords: said...

Wonderful K post! I hadn't thought of Kubla Khan in a long time. ;)

Joy said...

One of the great opening lines. Kudos for K choice.

jabblog said...

Great post! I think it's just as well that Coleridge could not remember any more - these lines stand alone quite perfectly.


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