Thursday, April 27, 2006

my fish plays a dulcimer

i was reminded of one of my favorite poets buy jp over at criminal english.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) has long been my favorite Romantic poet. i've heard stories that before i could read, i would point to the big red The Rime of the Ancient Mariner with woodcuts by Gustav Doré and spend hours quietly flipping the pages. Doré also did woodcuts for Dante's Inferno as well as Edgar Allen Poe's Raven. perhaps i will bring you pictures of the book and you will understand.

                Her lips were red, her looks were free,
                Her locks were yellow as gold :
                Her skin was as white as leprosy,
                The Night-mare LIFE-IN-DEATH was she,
                Who thicks man's blood with cold.

i still love the Mariner but today i feel like bringing you another of Coleridge's poems - mostly because i'm still searching for that pleasure-dome and those caves of ice. (and the Mariner is just way too long, but what part to post? - you see my dilema...) so enjoy!

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 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.

11 little fish:

Blogger jenn see swam up to say...

ah, i love this piece.

if i remember correctly, the story goes that this was an opium dream, & when he woke he started detailing everything he'd seen, then right in the middle of it there was a knock at the door or some such, & following that conversation or whatever, he was unable to remember any more of the dream.

for more weird 19th-century opium-induced ramblings i highly recommend Confessions of an English Opium Eater.

2:24 PM  
Blogger mysfit swam up to say...

so ijust opened this on another computer with a different resolution than i normally use - the lines are all messed up... i wonder how many people have that issue with this post

never read confessions of an english opium eater - but yes the story you remember is correct - a detailed version appears on the Coleridge site i linked to his name.

8:00 PM  
Blogger mysfit swam up to say...

gonna try to fix the lines...

8:01 PM  
Blogger JP swam up to say...

That dastardly person from Porlock!

I once wrote down the words to Kubla Khan in a maths exam, because I didn't know anything else. Weridly, I passed. True Story.

But how did I remind you of Coleridge? I'm glad I did but haven't the foggiest idea how.

2:10 AM  
Blogger mysfit swam up to say...

jp - coleridge is on your list of favorite poets (#2) - you know, i'd like to hear that story - how did you pass?

10:09 AM  
Blogger Fence swam up to say...

That's just so weird, only today I was looking at Wikipedia's entry on the Ancient Mariner.

6:13 PM  
Blogger jenn see swam up to say...

i love wikipedia.

i agree with the mysfit, JP.
i need to hear that story.

12:16 PM  
Blogger banzai cat swam up to say...

Ditto on that story, JP.

And I love the woodcuts on Gustav Dore, mysfit. Very haunting...

2:02 AM  
Blogger JP swam up to say...

Well, it was a supplementary exam - a re-exam, as it were. It was a total charade - halfway through, this peon walked in and started reading out answers from a printed sheet. I was terribly under-prepared, but I was so incensed at this that I just sat and wrote the words to Kubla Kan instead, on the theory that *anything* at all would get me a passing grade if this was how things were being run, and it would be more honest on my part not to cheat in any case. I was right.

Life is odd.

1:23 AM  
Blogger jenn see swam up to say...

what a bizarre scenario.
how did the kid with the cheat sheet get away with that?

6:29 PM  
Blogger mysfit swam up to say...

life is indeed odd and so are you - JP - though you managed to climb higher in my book of coolness ;) well donefrtexc

11:42 AM  

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