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I hope it’s clear I’m not talking about that silly movie with Olivia Newton-John, Michael Beck (whoever he is), and Gene Kelly in his embarrassingly awful final film role. (IIRC, this was the movie that launched the Razzies, the annual award for the worst [fill in the blank, movie-related category] of the year.
I’m talking about Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Khan, a poem which (Coleridge always said) came to him in a dream, and which he was writing down after he woke up, only to be interrupted by the dreaded “person from Porlock,” who caused him to forget the other two or three hundred lines that were in his mind. So we have only a fragment of about the first fifty lines to wallow in, and I do. It’s one of my favorite bits of Romantic poetry, shrouded as it is in mystery and luscious images (perhaps I like it so much because it reminds me of Keats), and I don’t have to believe the fanciful story of its origins to love it.
It sprang to mind today, in a rare felix culpa in my life (most of my culpae aren’t at all felix, I assure you) when I received a message from dear @arahant this morning, reminding me that I’d signed up for today’s Quote of the Day.
Well, I’d forgotten.
So I did what I always do first thing, and checked births, deaths, events, and holidays and observances in Wikipedia to see if there was something interesting I could hang a post on. (What a weird locution. Normally one hangs things on posts; one doesn’t hang posts on things. Oh, well. I leave that to the grammarians, syntaxticians, and definitional police (and there are plenty here of all of the preceding) to sort out.)
But, what a bonanza of a day! Talk about being spoiled for choice:
First, it’s Donald Trump’s Birthday. Happy Birthday, President Trump! It’s also the anniversary of Richard II’s chat with the Revolting Peasants at Mile End (1381), and of Owen Glendower’s declaration that he was allying himself with the French against Henry IV, in 1404. Perfidious Welshman. No wonder there are a couple of border towns on the English side where it’s still legal to kill a Welshman as long as you do it with a bow and arrow and at certain times of the day or week.
Today, in 1775, the Continental Army was established by the Continental Congress. And Charles Babbage proposed his “Difference Engine” in a paper before the Royal Society in 1822. (That hearkens back to a recent post of mine; the last QOTD from me, in fact.)
On June 14, 1940, the German Occupation of Paris began. “I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray. You wore blue.” On this day in 1982, Argentina surrendered to Great Britain, ending the Falklands War. And three years ago today, the horrific Grenfell Tower fire in London took 72 lives.
Harriet Beecher Stowe was born on June 14, 1811. Margaret Bourke White, 1904. Burl Ives, 1909. Sam Wanamaker, 1921. Boy George (1961).
Benedict Arnold died on this date in 1801 (in his bed, of gout and dropsy). Legend says that his last words were, “Let me die in this old uniform in which I fought my battles. May God forgive me for ever having put on another,” but no one knows if that’s actually true or which uniform he was talking about. Adlai Stevenson (the first one), former Vice-President of the United States–to Grover Cleveland (1914). Emmeline Pankhurst (1928). G.K. Chesterton (1936), Henry Mancini (1994).
Every single one, and lots more, quoteworthy in his, her, or its own right. But the first thing to catch my eye, and the one that stuck, was this:
1287 – Kublai Khan defeats the force of Nayan and other traditionalist Borjigin princes in East Mongolia and Manchuria.
And there you have it. Xanadu, legendary site of Kublai Khan’s summer palace, first recorded in the travels of Marco Polo in 1275, when it served the same purpose for the previous Yuan dynasty.
Some of the loveliest lines in all of English poetry (or so I think):
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.
I don’t want to pass over the fact that it’s also Flag Day in the United States. And so, in conclusion, a musical interlude, another favorite of mine. (Mr. She and I saw these guys and gals perform in Washington PA, several years ago. Wonderful):Published in