Tuesday, June 28, 2011

X is for....

I have no beautiful photograph or painting of Xanadu.  In fact it is probably more appropriate that I do not. For Xanadu is perhaps a product of one's imagination -- a utopia.  What would be utopian for me may not be so for you.

The name Xanadu is an ancient name for Shanghai the summer capital residence of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan, which was originally described by Marco Polo who is believed to have visited the city during his travels in the 1300's. The city had every outward sign of pastoral beauty, material luxury and opulance. It was eventually destroyed and so the transient and dreamlike quality, as with a mirage, was ascribed to it.  Today we might call it Utopia or Shangri La.

Many writers over past years have attempted to describe or even create their perfect society.  Thomas Moore wrote "Utopia", Henry David Thoreau wrote  "Walden". The English romantic poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge made the name Xanadu famous through his unfinished poem "Kubla Khan".

It is slightly bemusing to me that my gracious and rather proper English teacher in high school extolled the merits of this poem, even as far as to having us memorize some of it.  Bemused, because the poem was written by Coleridge after waking from an opium induced haze in which he dreamed of visiting Xanadu. Upon awakening he immediately sat down to write about his experience. Surely Miss Eaton would not have wanted to encourage her impressionable young pupils to follow Coleridge's example in order to produce a literary masterpiece!  That would be like the hippies of the 70's justifying their use of LSD to enhance their creative powers.

Unfortunately Coleridge had written only two stanzas when a visitor arrived and interrupted his efforts.  Afterwards he was never able to recall the rest of his experience and the poem remained unfinished.  In one sense that is perhaps appropriate for as mankind has and still is searching to create his own Xanadu, it slips from his grasp as ephemeral and fleeting as mists rising at the beginning of a hot summer's day.

So X is for Xanadu and that is whatever you would like to make it.


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
through which the river runs.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And here 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.
(For more of this poem please refer to Wikipedia)
This page is my contribution to Mrs. Nesbitt's ABC WEDNESDAY.  Please click on the link to see more imaginative contributions.


Jama said...

We used to have a nightclub called Xanadu long time ago, after the movie by Olivia Newton John came out, but eventually it changed name years later.

Roger Owen Green said...

actually quite effective sans pic. good telling.
ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Autumn Leaves said...

Love the lesson of this one, Chris. I for once recognized a poem, not that I would have known that until I read it! LOL I love learning new things and your background on this one was fabulous!

Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪 said...

Thanks, I thought it was the movie where Olivia Newton John sang about.

MorningAJ said...

Back in the early 70s there was a perfume called Xanadu. I remember hearing an announcement in Debenham's about a special offer on it and the girl pronounced it Exanardoo. I've never been able to think of it any other way since!

Xcellent post!

Jose said...

Just like Ann above me did, I associated the name Xanadu with the Travolta/Newton John movie more than anything. This was definitely a nice post to read. I know right now I am in my own Xanadu and no drugs are needed to enjoy it, thank you very much. lol

snafu said...

I too learned that one at school and being English, I always thought it funny that a river was called Alph which sounded to me too much like Alf, a common name around Britain in those days, short I assume for Alfred. Eventually used for the terrible character Alf Garnet in the sitcom Till Death do us Part. Whenever I hear or read the poem, I think of Alf Garnet, not a pretty thought.

Tumblewords: said...

An enlightening and interesting post, to be sure! Thank you!

Chubskulit Rose said...

Such an interesting choice for X.

Please come and find out what the Letter X is at my page. Have a lovely day.

Meryl said...

Great "X" post. I really appreciated the poem and background. I look forward to next week!

Gattina said...

I learned something ! never heard of Xanadu !

jabblog said...

Xanadu, so exotic:-)

claude said...

Hello Chris !
I particapted twice to the ABC wednesday. About a few letters it is very diffuclt to find a word in french.