Coleridge: Kubla Khan

Today is the anniversary of the death of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Brilliant thinker and poet of the imagination, his work has been a great help to me. I post this poem—one of his better-known works—in his honor. If it seems fragmented and hard to follow, he claims to have written it after taking an opium-induced nap. (Coleridge suffered from lifelong ill health, and became addicted to laudanum, a mixture of alcohol and opium.) He wrote down what he could remember of his dream, but never could recover the rest of the vision.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge. 1772–1834
  
Kubla Khan: 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 blossom’d many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But O, 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 reach’d 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 play’d,
   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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A Dead Deer Reminds Me of William Blake

A Dead Deer Reminds Me of William Blake
She hit it before she had time
to swerve or stomp on the brakes—
the deer wide-eyed in the windshield,
then stretched out on the roadside
as if placed there on purpose.
A tan and white mound of once-life
now dying, the round red intestines
exposed on the grass still
digesting the last meal of clover.
While the deer stubbornly died
she trembled at the curb
in helpless sorrow and cried,
and I couldn’t help but think that her tears
were proof that sometimes we can
even comprehend Blake:
Every thing that lives is Holy.
But what about the dead? Blake again:
If thou art the food of worms,
how great thy blessing!
A day later the buzzards gathered,

nodding bald heads in agreement.

_______________________
Last October I wrote my first poem for dVerse, a marvelous online poetic community. It happened to be a Meeting the Bar prompt. So imagine my happiness to find that for tonight’s Meeting the Bar Tony Maude has invited us to choose a prompt from the previous year to use as inspiration for a poem. I blended a few prompts together for this one–obviously, Victoria’s Literary Allusion prompt. And Anna’s prompt, The Unfathomable, which I didn’t have opportunity to write for the first time around. One might also judge this poem as an example of Anna’s High/Low Art prompt. At any rate, while it’s been a fun year, I wish I could have been more consistent. A poet’s family cannot live by words alone!

Annie Dillard: I Mean to Change His Life

One day I’ll get back to writing. Until then, here is a nice passage from Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, a book I highly recommend for both clarity of expression and depth of thought.

“I have often noticed that these things, which obsess me, neither bother nor impress other people even slightly.  I am horribly apt to approach some innocent at a gathering and, like the ancient mariner, fix him with a wild, glitt’ring eye and say, ‘Do you know that in the head of the caterpillar of the ordinary goat moth there are two hundred twenty-eight separate muscles?’ The poor wretch flees. I am not making chatter; I mean to change his life.”