Coleridge: Apologia Pro Vita Sua

Samuel Taylor Coleridge:
Oct. 21, 1772-July 25, 1834

                        Apologia Pro Vita Sua

               The poet in his lone yet genial hour
               Gives to his eyes a magnifying power:
               Or rather he emancipates his eyes
               From the black shapeless accidents of size–
               In unctuous cones of kindling coal,
               Or smoke upwreathing from the pipe’s trim bole,
                     His gifted ken can see
                     Phantoms of sublimity.

                                                         –Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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.