A Common-Place Jotting: Coleridge

Common-Place or “Locus Communis” — a place to remember

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge (18th c.) had a “vision in a dream,” as he called it, and immediately upon waking, he wrote down the poem Kubla Khan which he said came to him fully constructed like the dream. He kept it hidden for many years, reading it in private until, at the prompting of Lord Byron, he finally published it in 1816.

Kubla Khan became, of course, one of his most famous and memorable poems. It begins by describing the mythical kingdom of Xanadu where the most fantastic pleasures of natural beauty were enjoyed. By the end of the poem we are left with same longing for Xanadu that the poet experiences, a longing to revive within ourselves such inspiration as that of “a young Abyssinian maid” as she plays on her dulcimer:

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.

 

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