Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s two most famous poems are without doubt – The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan. The former, my all time favorite about which I could write at length. However such a poem is far to long to place in these blogs, so I will settle for Kubla Khan. While reading a travelogue written in 1613 about the Mongolian/Chinese Emperor Kubla Khan building a new palace, Coleridge, having taken some pain relief in opium falls into a dream and upon waking begins furiously to write about his dream. While writing he is interrupted by a man from Porlock who detains him for some time and when he departs Coleridge has difficulty finishing his vision/dream poem. Coleridge in his own notes about the poem which he wrote in 1797 regards it as a fragment – that man from Porlock cost him dearly! In fact you might have heard the expression regarding an unwanted interruption which disturbs the creative spirit, as being a man from Porlock. Take a moment to use the link to Jonathan Miller, an amazing individual, scholar, doctor, comedian, opera direction, talk about such an interruptionhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phc7Nm_hm_8. Do skip the ads and no need to listen to the whole interview.! Back to the poem, enjoy it and if you wish some explanation or commentary – google it!! In short its about the creative spirit within our souls. I delight in all the alliteration.
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.
I am placing my soul and my body
under Thy guarding this night, O Christ
May Thy cross this night be shielding me.
The God of life with guarding hold you;
the loving Christ with guarding fold you;
the Holy Spirit, guarding, mould you;
each night of life to aid, enfold you;
each day and night of life uphold you.
May God shield me;
may God fill me;
may God keep me;
may God watch me;
may God bring me this night
to the nearness of His love.
The peace of the Father of joy,
the peace of the Christ of hope;
the peace of the Spirit of grace,
the peace of all peace
be mine this night
in the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Celtic Daily prayer from the Northumbria Community
One thought on “A man from Porlock?”
In such a creative mind as Coleridge’s I often wonder if the supposed interruption he experienced was not real, but merely a gift he gave to us all; the universal excuse. Surely we’ve all had visits from the man from Porlock. I certainly have. In fact he comes regularly in the form of a ringing phone, a barking dog, a pot boiling on the stove, etc. Since parts of our brains are not yet active as we wake up from a deep sleep, much less brains experiencing opium, dreams aren’t fully stored in our memories and are easily forgotten. So perhaps Coleridge did indeed finish his poem through the invention of his visitor and the man from Porlock became his Albatross. And of course, the next logical question is whether or not he had any dream at all. Nevertheless, it is fun to wonder about such things.
The prayer is beautiful. Thank you.