Where Alph, the Sacred River, Ran Through Caverns Measureless to Man

Legend says that opium helped Coleridge write this poem. If true, I’d like to place an order. Actually, I don’t understand much of it. Like this sentence, “As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing . . . ” Maybe that’s the opium talking. But the poem has more than enough richness and craft to make me happy.

Classic poems represent short, finished pieces of outstanding workmanship. They are complete and polished, compared to what I am writing. As I write my book, I look at how everything I pen is is unfinished. And how everything I write must be clear as crystal. No morphine induced musings.

Everything I write now will be revised. My deadline is August 1, 2019. I should have the time, I should be happy with it then. But right now, a dozen different topics need addressing, another forty thousand words needs writing. It is wonderful to read and reread people like Coleridge who long ago completed their struggles.

Kubla Khan

Samuel Taylor Colerridge

Or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment.

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.

Illustration from here http://www.alice-duke.com/archive/

About thomasfarley01

Freelance writer specializing in outdoor subjects, particularly rocks, gems and minerals.
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