..or, A Vision in a Dream
“Curse the person from Porlock!!”
In this dream you’re suddenly Sabertooth from X-Men. At first you see him in the third person, just long enough to realise that this is not the ordinary Sabertooth. There is more red to the mane, as if the furry-trimmed hood of a parka coat had been accidentally washed with a pair of cheap, red chinos. Some other things are different (generally a lot more red which assumes some extra ability) but this is a dream so there are no specifics. You know it’s supposed to be this guy, but it doesn’t completely look like this guy:
You’re some kind of evolved Sabertooth. And that’s when third person becomes first person. Next thing you realise you can throw lazer discs which glow with the piercing ruby of Cyclops’ cursed eye-beams. Sabertooth couldn’t do that. These are like the discs of a common circular saw, but much bigger, much more dangerous, much more threatening. To put it simply: they’re lethal lazer discs. And these you can throw from your hands. And they just appear, it’s not as if you have to store them in a lazer-proof backpack. Think of them used as whimsically as infinite baterangs and with the same sort of flight pattern. They meander like a boomerang so whilst in battle the opponent pretty much forgets about it once it leaves their direct line of vision but then is suddenly cracked in the back of the head when they least expect it. Distraction tactics. Lazer discs. You could even have thrown it before you entered the room.
This is all happening in water – the sea, to be more specific. Oh, you can also fly. Sabertooth can’t normally fly. But it comes to your attention that you can’t fly out of the sea. Perhaps it’s because you’re so hairy and the water-weight weighs you down. It makes sense actually. In fact too much sense for a dream, so it actually doesn’t make any sense at all. So anyway you do manage to find your way onto some metallic structure in the middle of the ocean. One assumes a base or a hideout, akin to that of the stealth boat in Tomorrow Never Dies. My least favourite Brosnan Bond film. But before you find your way onto the structure, a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat, for you non-seafarers) approaches with other mutants in it. You don’t see them but you know they’re the X-Men. Some kind of attack engages and you hear a voice say something along the lines of “you haven’t got a chance unless you can fly!”.
It’s interesting how this works in a dream because they don’t actually say the whole sentence, but you know what they were going to say. You create your own dramatic script and tone. It’s more along the lines of “you haven’t got a chance unless you can….”. And they were going to say “fly”, but they didn’t because you fly up before they get a chance to finish the sentence, but you knew that they were going to say “fly” anyway. More interesting is that the words are actually in your own voice. So it’s a kind of a narcissistic self-commentary. But then this is a dream, so the whole thing is as sad and narcissistic as it gets. Anyway, you knew they were going to say this, not least because it’s your own dream, but also because you knew they were referring to Storm:
Storm is on the RIB (why the hell are the X-Men in a RIB?) and the bitch can fly. But you knew she was there already and you knew that this is what they were referring to. Knew this even without seeing her, like you knew it was the X-Men without seeing them in the boat, like you knew what the end of the sentence was going to be that they didn’t actually say. This must be how God feels. You just think stuff and it happens. You don’t even have to say “let there be light”, you just think it and it immediately is. Anyway, Storm flies into the air. And guess what? This over-reddened knock-off Sabertooth character that you’re supposed to be flies into the air too. You fly out of the water. Yes, out of the water. Turns out it wasn’t a problem to fly out of the water after all, it must have just been some kind of dream-like plot-filler.
And so you surprise them all with the fact that not only can Sabertooth now fly, but he can fly out of the water and not least throw frickin’ lazer discs that look like the discs of a common circular saw (only larger) and glow with the piercing ruby of Cyclops’ cursed eye-beams, can be thrown as whimsically as infinite baterangs of which they follow the same meandering flight pattern and pose the threat of being struck in the back of the head as it departs your direct line of vision in an impressive display of boomerang distraction tactics. Needless to say, Storm went down after a few hits.
And then I woke up.
on to the the point of this post. Which is Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the beauty and mystery that is one of his finest poems, ‘Kubla Khan: or A Vision in a Dream’. But to begin, opium:
Opium is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy. Opium contains approximately 12% morphine, an alkaloid, which is frequently processed chemically to produce heroin for the illegal drug trade and for legal medicinal use in some countries (ty Wikipedia).
In England in the late 1700s it seemed you couldn’t be a professional writer of significant romantic substance or genius without also being an avid opium addict. I mean, gin was big at the time (ironically also the only spirit on which, after having drunk an entire bottle, I can consciously remember crying like a slapped child) but opium, well, all the cool kids were doing it. Who can argue with the famed words of de Quincey?:
“I do not readily believe that any man having once tasted the divine luxuries of opium will afterwards descend to the gross and mortal enjoyments of alcohol”
~ Confessions of an English Opium-Eater
#TRUTH. Coleridge lived not far from my home county, Cornwall. He lived in the the next county up, Devon (about 50 miles or something away). Cornwall and Devon don’t get along, although we share the same Police Constabulary: ‘Devon and Cornwall Constabulary’. I prefer ‘Cornwall and Devon Constabulary’ because I think Cornwall is better and should go first. Even though Devon is closer to London, albeit still a 5 hour drive.
He lived in a small town called Ottery St. Mary. I used to visit there often because whilst I was at University I worked part time with my mum looking after an old lady who lived there. She was 96. She died a few years ago because she was really old. As a good friend of Thomas de Quincey, Coleridge too, indulged in the ‘luxuries’ of opium. And so it was that in 1797, in ill health and during an opium induced dream that he had a vision. A vision after having fallen asleep reading the following lines:
“In Xandu did Cublai Can build a stately Pallace, encompassing sixteen miles of plaine ground with a wall, wherein are fertile Meddowes, pleasant Springs, delightfull streames, and all sorts of beasts of chase and game, and in the middest thereof a sumptuous house of pleasure, which may be moved from place to place.”
The quotation was based on the words of Venetian explorer Marco Polo as he dictated his travels of Xanadu, the summer capital of Mongol ruler and Emperor of China Kublai Khan. Coleridge woke after a three hour sleep with vivid confidence that he could produce, at that moment, a most expressive and sensational poem of no less than 200-300 lines. It was to be no ordinary composition, however, for he felt that
‘all the images rose up before him as things, with a parallel production of the correspondent expressions, without any sensation or consciousness of effort’
~ Christabel, Kubla Khan, and the Pains of Sleep, 1816
Not bad for a drug induced delirium. But, alas, it was not to be. Quite conveniently, Coleridge, during composition of this otherworldly masterpiece, was interrupted by someone who would become infamously known as ‘the person from Porlock’, a neighbouring village. It was something about bad weather and a lifeboat and needing a horse, but to put it briefly, Coleridge was detained for just over an hour. By which time, his inspiration and vision had gone. Henceforth, any person who disturbs a moment of literary inspiration would be referred to with great distaste, as that fucking bastard from Porlock. Anyway, here’s a reading of the poem by Benedict Cumberbatch, the most pleasant reading I could find on Youtube. I’m going to try and memorise it because I think it sounds badass and it might one day come in handy during some kind of poetry flex-off.
‘Kubla Khan, or, A Vision in a Dream, A Fragment’
By Samuel Taylor Coleridge
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.