Monday, October 13, 2008

How Sweet It Is

Just got a little James Taylor on the mind. I left Carolina, but Carolina didn't leave me, as I've been goin' to Carolina in my mind today. I was thinking again about MY mountains...I can't help but think of them that way.

I love the way the sun dapples through autumn leaves onto the carpeted forest floor. I have always especially loved the mountains at higher elevations where the hardwoods, though varied and beautiful, give way to the evergreens -- firs, cedars, balsams. And underfoot in those damp, dense thickets are inevitably acres of lush fiddlehead ferns. The presence of a few mushrooms makes the perfect setting for a young girl's imagination to run rife with fanciful tales of fairies and gnomes. Those woods have their own fragrance -- that of the evergreens, for certain, but mingled with that is a sweet, damp, muskiness that is found nowhere else. I inhale it deeply and it purifies my spirit. It is the fragrance of new and old, birth and decay, green and brown all in one.

Maybe my fondness for such magical and mysterious environs was the underlying reason that I always so loved "Kubla Khan" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In high school and college, I wrote many a paper on this dramatic vision. Alas, none of them survive to this day. No matter; my own words would necessarily pale in comparison to Coleridge's. I still thrill to imagine beholding such a scene; would that Coleridge's fantastic dream could be my own.

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 as 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 afar
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.

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