NABOKV-L post 0003075, Sun, 26 Apr 1998 13:46:33 -0700

Re: Cedarn in PALE FIRE (fwd)
from Tom Bolt <>

Cedarn, Utana

is not *only* a hidden Cedar tree (on a cold ridge), or a town on the
Utah and Montana border. Kinbote writes his Foreword from Xanadu.

In both the comedy (tragic farce) of Shade's death, and in his continual
interruptions in Shade's life and poem, and then even in the reception
of the poem, Kinbote is *The Person from Porlock* (one of VN's
unfortunately unused titles); though in his own mind, of course, he is
Kubla Khan.(Or, a Vision in a Dream. A Figment.)

Some of Coleridge's phantasmic landscape sounds like the actual
West--certainly no weirder than Brice Canyon or Yellowstone. Here's the
poem; CEDARN is in the 13th line down:

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 mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tummult to a lifeless ocean:
And 'mid this tummult 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.

In my opinon, this whole poem, and its inseperable footnote, echo
through the book. PALE FIRE is certainly "a miracle of rare device," but
it is also about inspiration and imagination, and the counterintrusions
of each into each. If STC were VN, we would say he constructed poem and
note as a whole, inventing (or at least elaborating) the experience.

Coleridge's note reads, in part:

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 within 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 awakening 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 unfortunately 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!