18 April 2013

Kubla Khan, or, A Vision in a Dream, a Fragment (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

The following fragment is here published at the request of a poet of great and deserved celebrity, and, as far as the Author's own opinions are concerned, rather as a psychological curiosity, than on the grounds of any supposed poetic merits.

In the summer of the year 1797, the Author, then in ill health, had retired to a lonely farm-house between Porlock and Linton, on the Exmoor confines of Somerset and Devonshire. In consequence of a slight indisposition, an anodyne had been prescribed, from the effects of which he fell asleep in his chair at the moment that he was reading the following sentence, or words of the same substance, in 'Purchas's Pilgrimage': 'Here the Khan Kubla commanded a palace to be built, and a stately garden thereunto. And thus ten miles of fertile ground were inclosed with a wall.' The Author continued for about three hours in a profound sleep, at least of the external senses, during which time he has the most vivid confidence, that he could not have composed less than from two to three hundred lines; if that indeed can be called composition in which all the images rose up before him as things, with a parallel production of the correspondent expressions, without any sensation or consciousness of effort. On awaking he appeared to himself to have a distinct recollection of the whole, and taking his pen, ink, and paper, instantly and eagerly wrote down the lines that are here preserved. At this moment he was unforunately called out by a person on business from Porlock, and detained by him above an hour, and on his return to his room, found, to his no small surprise and mortification, that though he still retained some vague and dim recollection of the general purport of the vision, yet, with the exception of some eight or ten scattered lines and images, all the rest had passed away like the images on the surface of a stream into which a stone has been cast, but, alas! without the after restoration of the latter!

In Xanadu did KubIa 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 chafly 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 KubIa 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 honeydew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

10 April 2013

from My Side of the Mountain (Jean Craighead George)

Frightful and I went to the meadow when the meal was done, and I flopped in the grass.  The stars came up, the ground smelled sweet, and I closed my eyes.  I heard, 'Pip, pop, pop, pop.'

'Who's making that noise?' I said sleepily to Frightful.  She ruffled her feathers.

I listened.  'Pop, pip.'  I rolled over and stuck my face in the grass.  Something gleamed beneath me, and in the fading light I could see an earthworm coming out of its hole.

Nearby another one arose and there was a pop.  Little bubbles of air snapped as these voiceless animals of the earth came to the surface.  That got me to smiling.  I was glad to know this about earthworms.  I don't why, but this seemed like one of the nicest things I had learned in the woods - that earthworms, lowly, confined to the darkness of the earth, could make just a little stir in the world.

09 April 2013

from The Ha Ha Bonk Book (Janet and Allan Ahlberg)

Jokes to tell your Mum

Mums are busy women.  For instance, if your mum is the Prime Minister, she has to run the country.  If she is the Queen, she has to run the country as well, and make Prince Philip's sandwiches.  The Queen, by the way, likes jokes about horses, wooden legs and Englishwomen, Irishwomen and Scotswomen.

One more thing: mums are supposed to be the experts on children; but this is not always so.  After all, who else do you know who gets you up in the morning when you're sleepy, and sends you to bed at night when you're wide awake?

The Easter Anthems (The Parish Psalter)

Christ our passover is sacrificed for us : therefore let us keep the feast.

Not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness : but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more : death hath no more dominion over him.

For in that he died, he died unto sin once : but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin : but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Christ is risen from the dead : and become the first-fruits of them that slept.

For since by man came death : by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

For as in Adam all die : even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost;

As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be : worth without end.  Amen.

02 April 2013

from The Man Born to be King, the twelfth play, The King Comes to his Own (Dorothy L. Sayers)

(A soft knocking on the door)

JOHN: Is that you, Mary?
JOHN: Come in.  My mother will be down in a moment ... How did you find them all at Bethany?
MARY MAGDALEN: With heart and spirit broken.  But a little comforted to know that all of us were safe.  They were dreadfully anxious, thinking you and Peter had been arrested, and wondering what would happen to your mother and Mary Cleophas, and the mother of our dear Lord, left unprotected in Jerusalem.  Martha scolded me terribly for having run off into danger, crying and kissing me all the time, and breaking off every few minutes to fly to the kitchen and cook some little tempting dish or other to comfort us.
JOHN: Dear funny Martha!
MARY MAGDALEN: And when we couldn't eat, exclaiming that she was a wicked woman, and had broken the Sabbath for us, all to no purpose!  And Matthew said without thinking, 'Don't you worry - the Sabbath was made for man -' and that just about finished us.
JOHN: I know.  A familiar word - the echo of a laugh - it is like a stab in the heart.  Yesterday I found a pair of old sandals, moulded by the feet that wore them.  We hid them from Peter.
MARY MAGDALEN: Peter is here with you?
JOHN: Like a sick animal that has crawled home to die.  He can't eat.  He can't sleep.  He can't forgive himself (with passionate self-reproach) It was my fault.  I knew he was frightened, yet I left him alone in the house of Annas.  Dear Lord! was there none of us you could trust for five minutes?
MARY MAGDALEN: Poor Peter!  He takes his failures hard.
JOHN: He calls himself a worse traitor than - I can't speak the name.  It is like poison in me.  I can't say our Master's prayer.  'Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive' - no, it's impossible ... You heard what became of him?
MARY MAGDALEN: Yes.  John, you can't hate him worse than he came to hate himself.  His self-hate murdered him.
JOHN (slowly): If I hate him, I am his murderer too ... Oh, God! there is no end to our sins!  Do we all murder Jesus and one another?
MARY MAGDALEN: John, dear, you don't hate Judas - not really.  You can't bear the idea of hurting him.  You don't understand his sin or his despair, but that's because you've never been truly wicked.  The Master's the only good man I ever met who knew how miserable it felt to be bad.  It was as if he got right inside you, and felt all the horrible things you were doing to yourself ... But I don't suppose Judas ever let him in.  He was too proud.  I think it was harder for him than for people like Matthew and me and that poor robber on the cross.  We know we're so awful anyhow that it's no good pretending we're not, even to ourselves.  So it doesn't matter if other people come in and see what we're like inside.
JOHN: Blessed are the humble, and the wretched and the poor -
MARY MAGDALEN: And the lost sheep and the sinners.  You know, when the Rabbi said that, he really meant it ... Don't fret too much about Peter.  He's not proud.  He'll never go the way of Judas ... Only, don't be soft with him.  The Rabbi wasn't soft - he was sharp and stern and bracing, and never let you pity yourself.  Peter must face what he did, and learn to put it aside and do better next time.
JOHN: What next time?  Our Master is dead.  When you anointed him in the house of Simon the Leper, it was for his burial, as he said.  And here come Mary Cleophas and my mother, bringing the spices that they have prepared ... Mother, Mary Magdalen is here.
SALOME: Good morning, Mary dear.
MARY MAGDALEN: Dear Salome.  Dear Mary Cleophas.
MARY CLEOPHAS: God bless you, Magdalen.  Mary the mother of Jesus sends you her love.
MARY MAGDALEN: How is she, poor lady?
MARY CLEOPHAS: Worn out with grief, but wonderfully brave and calm.  She said very sweetly that she commended her son's body to our love.  And she gave us this to take with us.
MARY MAGDALEN: Oh, but what is it? I never saw such a beautiful casket.  The gold and jewels are fit for a king's treasure.
MARY CLEOPHAS: It came from a king's treasure.  It is King Balthazar's gift of myrrh, that he brought to Jesus at Bethlehem.  It has waited for him three-and-thirty years.
MARY MAGDALEN: It shall lie above his heart where the soldier's spear smote him ... I have brought aloes and cassia ...
SALOME: Palm-wine for the washing; cloves and balm of Gilead ...
MARY CLEOPHAS: Labdanum, camphire, nard, and oil of sandal and cedar.
MARY MAGDALEN: We shall need a basin.
SALOME: Here it is.  And a comb and scissors ... Have we towels enough?
MARY CLEOPHAS: I think so.  And a clean linen garment.  And fresh grave-bands.
MARY MAGDALEN: We shall find those at the sepulchre.  Joseph of Arimathea brought them; a new garment, white as snow; and we dressed our Master in it and swathed the long cloths about him and bound his head with a fine napkin.  The richest nobleman could have no better.
SALOME: Take them, all the same.  It is well to be prepared ... Are the gates of the city open?  Mary, how did you get in?
MARY MAGDALEN: I made a little present to the watchman.  He is expecting us, and will let us out by the postern.
SALOME: Then we had best be starting ...
JOHN: I don't like your going alone.  Hadn't I better come too?
SALOME: No, dear.  We shall be safer without you.  Nobody will interfere with three women bound on an errand of mercy.  Besides, this is a woman's business.
JOHN: I wish there was something I could do.  I feel so helpless and hopeless.
SALOME: It's always so, my son.  Men make a great bustle in life, but women wind the swaddling-bands and the grave-bands for all of them ... Come and see us out, and bar the door after us.
JOHN (meekly): Yes, Mother ... The moon's still up.  You'll be able to find your way.
MARY CLEOPHAS: And the sun will rise soon.  It's close on cock-crow.
JOHN: That's a bad time with Peter.  I must go up to him.
MARY MAGDALEN: That's right, John.  Peter's your job.  Do your best for him.
JOHN: I will, Mary ... (He unbars the door) ... Wait a moment ... All's quiet.  Not a soul in the street ... Go quickly, and God be with you!

(He bars the door again)