GBMD/ABC Wednesday 4: X is For...


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.

Kubla Khan (1798) - Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)

We're experiencing a heatwave here in the UK at the moment, so I'm having nights of broken dreams and fragments of memory. I imagine they might be a little like Coleridge's interrupted slumbers, but thankfully without the effects of opium and the presence of the rather shadowy Person from Porlock.

It's like venturing out into a warm, wet flannel, so gardening's confined to early morning and the afternoons given over to musing on where Xanadu might be - I suspect anywhere you'd like it to be, real or imagined - and which stately pleasure-dome I might decree for my fantasy garden. A climbable folly affording views from miles around, or a mysterious, glittery grotto would be rather fun, but a bit too big for my real garden unfortunately. But a girl can dream - if you had unlimited space and money, what would you choose?

I've deliberately not posted a picture today, so your imaginations can have a free reign!

Garden Bloggers Muse Day is hosted by Sweet Home and Garden Chicago and all the eXtra posts on the theme of X are over at the ABC Wednesday blog.


  1. Oh VP, such a vision this conjures, thanks for the inspiration to dream during daytime when the heat and humidity are too oppressive to be out in the garden. As for your question, the pie in the sky used to be five acres of land with a barn and tractor to do the heavy lifting. Now a small space with the choicest of evergreens on berms for viewing and perfect pea gravel paths winding around corners of surprising delight, it can be seen as this is written in the mind's eye.

  2. Oh, VP, wouldn't you like to meet me and maggie-the-wonder-dog? :( I was just looking at all your friends in their lists and, well....
    A girl could get hurt.

  3. You have just dragged me back to my O'levels. I had to study this poem and the Ancient Mariner. I used to be able to recite quite abit of Kubla Khan, but can now only manage the first 5 lines.

    I'm sure I saw something on oneof those academic archeological programmes about Kubla Khan's place and that he really existed.

  4. Hmmm, looks like the game will start over soon and when it does, I think I'll join. For me, X would definitely be for Xeric. :)

  5. Actually, right now I'd settle for a few caves of ice. No, make that lots of caves of ice.

  6. A wonderful contribution , as always, to GBMD, VP.

    When I was young the heat and humidity didn't bother me. Of course, growing up on a farm, we often gardened in days that reached 100 degrees. I now find anything above 80 to be oppressive.

  7. This poem should be at the top of the list of great garden poems. Aren't we all trying to achieve our own pleasure domes where we can drink the milk of Paradise?

  8. Frances - I can always rely on you to think of a wonderful answer to this kind of question. I'm still at the five acres of land with a barn stage ;)

    Carrie - yes I would love to meet you and Maggie and does Andy get a look in too? I've just looked at my lists and I can see what the problem is. Your blogname is very similar to Growing Our Own and when I had a tidy up a couple of months ago, I simply deleted the wrong one. As I don't use my blogrolls that often, I'd not spotted it - so thank you for pointing it out. I'll go and change it as soon as I've finished replying to the rest of the comments. You're also due for a couple of post mentions over the next few days, so I hope the link love from them will make amends.

    PG - we studied Christabel for O Level which I remember more these days for having a couple of lines quoted at the end of a John Wyndham story

    Monica - it would be great to have you join in! Anna, Tyra and Prairie Rose already do. I suspect a lot of Gardeners from over the pond would choose Xeric?

    Victoria - oooh don't - now I want loads of ice too!

    Carolyn - and thanks for being such a great GBMD host - I had a chuckle with your garden songs this month. I'm sure you've had plenty of additions to your list by now? I think we usually get a higher humidity over here because of our maritime climate. I certainly don't find the equivalent temperatures as bad over in continental Europe. However having said that I seem to remember Chicago can be pretty humid too when I visited in June 1992.

    Commonweeder - it's great isn't it? It conjures up so many images for me, hence the lack of photo today because I wanted the same thing to happen to anyone visiting. And if I remember correctly garden is another word for Paradise.

  9. Mine has got to be a large conservatory - a sort of miniature Wisley glasshouse with tropical, temperate and desert areas. That would do me nicely. Oh and the house and land to go with it!

  10. Good one VP ! I hate to lower the tone but as soon as I saw your title the Dave,Dee,Dozy etc. song "The Legend of Xanadu" came straight into my head :)

  11. I loved this!
    My dream is to have a helper in the garden to do the weeding! I like to plant!

  12. All is forgiven sweet VP. I wasn't going to be able to angry or upset with you, i like your blog too much ;) x Andy can get a look in too, we kind of just come as one package anyway.

  13. eXcellent! I loved reciting this poem...although we never had to memorize it! gail

  14. Ha! Thanks for this, VP! I confess, It's been so long since I read "Kubla Khan" that I could only remember the first two lines. I, too, have long fantasized about having 5 acres cleared and 45 wooded, which I think is about perfect. But as for a pleasure-garden, I would like my own mountain, with tumbling streams and wildflowers and woods and a view across verdant valleys to another mountain range in the distance, and beyond it, the shining sea. Aaaahhh!!!

  15. I know all about interrupted slumbers! I tend to sleep better with a little opium - or opiates anyway. Pain wakes me often, so codeine before bed is sometimes indicated!

    I only knew the first few lines of that poem.

  16. Oh, dear. I put the wrong link in. Find me here -


  17. What a perfect poem to combine both memes! I am sorry it's so hot there, but I'm glad it's the cause of your fitful sleep, not Coleridge's poppy:) I think Xanadu can be found in a beautiful garden--I visited one last week that made me think of paradise.

  18. I love that poem - perhaps Olivia Newton-John's finest work.

    Mind you "(Let's Get) Physical" is good too.

  19. EG - Exactly. I considered putting up a picture of the Eden Project or Kew's Palm House, but went for mind pictures instead.

    Anna - Dave Dee was a policeman in Chippenham. He was first on the scene when Eddie Cochran had his accident here. Not a lot of people know that!

    Sherry - that sounds like a great idea :)

    Carrie - I thought you two would be like that :)

    Gail - I would preferred this one to Christabel, which was published in 'The Golden Treasury of Longer Poems', so there was a hell of a lot more to learn :(

    OFB - now you're talking. I must put 'and by the sea' on my list.

    Jay - I'm on my way...

    Rose - you've hit the nail on the head there.

    GM - lovely to see you! Now, how did you know I've had ONJ's Xanadu on the brain ever since I wrote this post hmm?


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