Sprinkling of Spring

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Vacations, Perspectives, Change and Purpose

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“In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don’t try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present”

TAO TE CHING

To the above I will add, “On vacation, be restful and see what you normally pass by”

It was in April 2008 that I sat in a back garden of a guest house at Center Parcs along with 7 other people.

Vacations arrive and your whole perspective of daily duty and schedule changes in an instant. Suddenly you see with your eyes small life that normally, during your working life is hidden and distant to vision.

It is change; the place you are located at is change, the routine is change. What you see, hear and smell is different – it is change.

A butterfly sits on top of a mole hill, wings closed, while a fly sits, wings open on a dung heap in a cow field. Humans climb up a rocky hill side that has been forced from the earth core by natural geological activity.

With similar effort a mole pushed up the soil which once was rock. What about the cow dung?

You can see the butterfly as nature in a beautiful form sat on the mole hill; what about humans up on top of the rocky hill?

The butterfly and the fly sit while they have the ability to fly, yet they are happy and content to sit on the deposits and efforts of both a mole and a cow.

Are humans ever content and happy just to climb to the top of a rocky hill?

Sat on top of a mountain, hill, mole hill or pile of dung, what is the common significance?

Many humans will answer, “achievement”; Yet they sit on top after a climb that may take a small or large amount of energy, soak in the moment of achievement then go down to the bottom, probably never to go up again.

To the butterfly who’s lifespan is short, the mole hill is a place of rest – a convenience. It matters not the achievement to land on it, or the effort of the mole to push the earth into a fine sifted mound.

Now the fly is selective in it’s location. The dung which is deposited by the cow as waste process material from the food chain becomes a source of nutrition and life to the fly.

For the human, throughout life, mountains are a progress in achievement for some, for others too much effort and for the large majority, never a thought passes their mind to even climb.

How many who reach the top of the mountain look upwards into the sky, the universe beyond and say, “how much further can I go”?

Here’s my take on all of this; when the time comes to stop asking ‘why’, is the time you fully become enlightened.

A butterfly, mole hill, fly, dung, human, mountain. These are not ‘why’, these are ‘purpose’.

Purpose is the journey you take between birth and death; purpose in life is what keeps you moving forward.

While we are all on our own life journey’s we face constant change as part of the ‘purpose’.

Embrace change and do not ask ‘why’, accept it for what it is. If you analyse carefully every negative experience, you can always find a positive associated.

My advice is, take that vacation, enjoy the change and understand that what you work for is no more than the same as a butterfly or fly.

ISSA wrote, “Where there are humans you will find flies – and Buddhas”.

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Sangeorgiu from hanging rock in Buciumi

My latest painting

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The Pidgeon with two rings.

racing pigeon

Yesterday, one of the elderly farmers and his wife invited us to taste honey at their small holding. The property is the first house on the left as you enter Sangeorgiu De Meses.

Plied with apple and cherry palinca, one sour the other sweet; and a plate of steaming crepes to which was added fresh peach jam and acacia honey, stories from the farm unfolded in light hearted, relaxed conversation.

The one that caught my attention related to a stray racing pigeon.

One morning early in Spring of this year, the farmers wife, Viorica, looked up to the dove coop, positioned just below the rafters on the outside wall of the farm cottage.

The pigeon tried to fly out but was either hurt or disoriented. She skittered across the coop, exhausted. Kindly Viorica called her husband and they carefully climbed up to the coop to calm the poor bird with words of comfort.

She let them come very close, but of course, unable to understand the language or actions.

They noticed the bird carried two rings, what to do they thought?

Nelou, the farmer – its a common name in the village – climbed down the ladder and disappeared into the store room where he kept food for the animals, an array of porkers, little porkers, chickens, roosters, fostered baby chicks, goats and just about every other farm species you can think of.

Emerging into the early spring sunlight, Nelou brought with him “medicines used for the chickens when they are unwell”, he said.

Oh yes I thought, when he mentioned “medicines”, this story is going to turn to the mystical healing powers of palinca. For note, palinca is promoted in Sangeorgiu as ‘the universal medicament for all aliments, sores, discomforts and disease’. Thankfully, the bird received veterinary medicine and survived another day.

These people raise animals each year in cycles, and when the time arrives many go to market or the family table, sacrificed in the name of an annual celebration. Such is the life of a farming community.

I have no doubt in my mind, the care and compassion provided for animal life at this farm, albeit archaic, is one that is honest and with feeling. This leads me to voice and share my own view on the process of caring.

I wonder, were all living beings once connected? Perhaps so, but in this world, the pursuit of love and compassion is not without pain and confusion.

A sage once wrote “Human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called love”.

The pigeon recovered in a few days, rested, it set off on its journey for home. I sincerely hope that the bird arrived at it’s destination ever more safely.

Tea was delicious, the tour of the farm fascinating, and walking home on the road of potholes and rumble, warmed by palinca, the road seemed like a feather bed of soft moss in the warm evening breeze.

Thanks to Cora, the mystery of the two rings has been resolved through her diligent research.

Pigeons with two rings are French pigeons; I wonder whether this pigeon was way of course or on a long distance race back to France from Romania.

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Farmers

When I came to Sangeorgiu De Meses in April 2013, my thoughts were, of course, powered by the adrenaline of a new journey.

At first, you engage in every movement of life, people passing, the smells, noise, tastes of culture, food and interaction of communication in two languages.

Although childhood years were spent in a small English village, the progression of mechanical agriculture had far outgrown the use of horse and plough for many decades.

The initial weeks of living in a new land are associated with considerable activity; like a new broom sweeping a dusty floor that has collected dust for many years, once you stop sweeping, the dust settles. Living in a new place is like this, you settle after a while.

I openly admit that the stress of over 40 years of living in fast moving urban society had taken its toll; recently with the pressures of the world economic crisis, daily life became more uncomfortable. You only need to watch and listen to people in the workplace become predatory, selfishness installed in the psychology of actions. Strong versus weak, trying to position a place of power to protect themselves for cutbacks.

For many years I have searched for simplicity. It’s not a word that means ‘lazy’ or ‘uninterested’, it is as it reads, just simple.

Simple in interaction, in decision making, in work, in arranging your life so that you benefit in a way that is fulfilling to yourself. Surely, if you can’t have a simple life, then you can not embrace freedom to live.

Over the weeks in Sangeorgiu De Meses, I have seen with my own eyes, heard with my ears, what simplicity means.

Plain country folk, who’s skins turn bronze in the valley heat, with full rounded bodies, wide smiles that present fewer white teeth than spaces where teeth should be.

There is no need to question them about Tao or Zen because they are ignorant of these philosophies by name, yet they lead life in a way many educated people search for the meaning of Tao or Zen.

They grow food over Spring and Summer to feed themselves over Autumn and the coldest Winter

They sleep when they are sleepy, usually when the light outside is so dim they can not work

They wake when the rooster announces daylight and the first task is to chop wood carry water.

All activities are coordinated with the seasons, close to the earth, they do not spend time figuring out how to attain status.

There is no distinction between individual ego and the tasks of being a farmer.

Life in this community is not affected by economic downturns, the village is a machine that oils itself, it sustains good and bad weather, it needs no spreadsheet or scientific algorithm to maintain its balance.

Honest, plain, hard work and the cycle of life maintains equilibrium.

Those of us who have lived and worked in cities would become much wiser, yet we would be hard pressed to equal the farmer, if we experienced the simplicity of living in this community.

For myself, I have learned very quickly to give up unnecessary things. This does not mean I live in poverty or without sustaining objects, or eat less well, cloth myself in rags; it actually means I’m in harmony, feel healthy and less stressed.

Now I grow enough to enable the food larder to be well stocked enough to last through the harshest of winter storms, have herbs, fruit produce to fight off chills and virus.

The garden is the playing field of success now.

“Amongst Spring rain and Summers heat,
Soil turned over by horse and plough,
Green tendrils, heavy with beans,
Coil around rustic cherry branch.
Red, plump tomato’s, cucumbers green,
Purple flowers of lavandulas stem,
A single marrow bold and pale,
Enough to shelter from winters icy gale”

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Passing Through A Village

Upon waking on Friday morning at around 6am, I opened the side window to let some early morning breeze into the bedroom of the little farmhouse.

Magura Mountain stands tall, changing only by seasons colours and the weather. Facing North, in morning you only see the rays of sun cast shadows of every moving shapes.

On this day, a grey bank of mist, rolled downwards, enveloping the peak from left to right, like a pastry crust on an apple pie.

The only other time I have witness such an event has been on the coast of California, either around Golden Gate Bridge or south of Los Angeles, at San Clemente, Orange County.

Here, in the Meses Mountains this mist feels mysterious, it’s sticky fingers clinging to every plum, walnut and the willows that hang over the rivers and streams.

In the silence of early morning, through the mist, even the goats and sheep, winding their way slowly up the mountain paths appear animated in movement.

Life though, stands still for neither mist or morn, rain or sun and soon the familiar sounds of the day echo around the waking valley.

Yang Wanli the Zen poet wrote:

“Through the mist
The river and the mountains are dimly seen,
And from the crowing of the roosters
And the barking of the dogs
I would surmise that we are passing a village”

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Sangeorgiu Valley View

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The view from hill over looking Buciumi, near to the Roman fort.

Sangeorgiu De Meses down in the valley.

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A Summers Day – John Critchley Prince, 1841

Scared at the aspect of advancing Day,
Stern Night puts off his starry robe, and flies;
The joyous lark pours forth his earliest lay,
And bathes his pinions in the dewy skies;
Behold the graceful smoke-wreath warmly rise
From quiet hamlets scattered far and near,
While from his sheltered home the woodman hies,
To win his bread where yonder woods appear;
Look down upon this laughing valley here,
Where stream and pool are kindled in gold;
And on summer venture of the year,
Flowers of all hues their balmy eyes unfold; –
Escaped from slumber’s enervating arms,
I bound at Nature’s voice, and own her purer charms.

Lo! Reared sublime on his meridian seat,
The eternal Sun pours down o’erwhelming rays; –
How shall we bear the splendour of his gaze,
His fierce intensity of light and heat?
Nature grows faint in summer’s vestment wove,
Mute is the music of the sky and grove,
And not a zephyr comes the brow to greet:
Fit time to seek the woodland’s dark retreat,
Where scarce a sunbeam trembles through the shade,
And, on the rivulet’s fresh margin laid,
Pass noontide’s hour in meditation sweet,
Far from all earthly sights and sounds, save those
Which soothe the harassed mind to solitude’s repose.

Like the warm hectic-flush on beauty’s cheek,
The hues of sunset linger in the sky;
But lo! As treacherous, they but brightly speak
The hastening close of day’s expiring eye;
All richly now yon western glories die,
Quenched in the shadows of approaching night;
The quiet moon hath hung her lamp on high,
And Hesper’s star breaks sweetly on the sight;
The flowers are closed, yet Zephyr in his flight
Bears living fragrance on his wanton wings:
Meanwhile, a pure uncertainty of light
Steals calm and soft athwart the face of things ; –
Enchanting Eve! Mild promiser of rest!
How dear thy presence of the mourner’s breast!

Sweet is the smile of dewy-footed Morn –
Sweet the bright ardour of the lusty Noon –
Sweet are the sighs of Evening, when the tune
Off flute- toned voices on the air is Bourne; –
But sweeter still, when living gems adorn
His awful brow, is philosophic Night:
Then Contemplation takes a boundless flight,
Through realms untainted by this world of scorn.
What peace to sit beneath this shadowy thorn,
Where the lone wave steals by with gentle sound –
The wan moon’s soft effulgence slumbering round –
And drink from fancy’s ever flowing horn!
What joy, when forth the unshackled spirit springs,
To hold high converse with all nobler things!

—————————————————–

Where Prince wrote this poem, or which place he wrote it about, is not clear. If I was to steal for a moment of mystery, I would have been certain, that while on his travels in Europe, he must surely have visited Sangeorgiu De Meses!

This poem describes perfectly my own experience of living this summer in Sangeorgiu. I would, however, change “shadowy thorn” to read, “aromatic walnut leaves”.

Every time I read the works of Prince, I become more aware of his deep, Zen like nature. As life learning starts with the most simplistic of tasks, life is also driven by the conditions you live, your wants and needs, without desire.

This is why John Critchley Prince in my opinion, became as enlightened as one of the ancient sages who also described a Tao or Zen lifestyle by koan or poem.

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Hours with The Muses

A couple of years ago in second hand bookshop, while on a trip to Norwich, in the UK, I found a small green leather bound book of poems.

Hours with the Muses, was written by John Critchley Prince and published in July, 1841. The second edition purchased by myself, dated 6th October, 1841.

The preface to the first edition, I quote from as follows:

“Although a Preface may, by some, be considered an almost useless appendage to a book, yet the author of the following pages deems it necessary to inform his readers, that his poems have been composed at all times and in all place; – some to lighten his weary wanderings in a foreign land; and others as a relief to poverty and toil on his own shore”

John Critchley Prince was a native of Wigan, in Lancashire and was born on 21st of June 1808. His father was a reed-maker for weavers, and, having a family of several children, and a precarious business to depend upon, was unable to send his son, to school.

His mother, however, an intelligent and industrious woman, gave the best example and instruction in her power to her children; and to her maternal solicitude the youthful poet is indebted for what he acquired of correct principles wherewith to begin the world.

At the early age of nine years he was put to learn his fathers trade, at which tedious employment he was compelled to work from fourteen to sixteen hours per day. Every indication of a love of books was sought to be repressed by his father, when, to gratify the ardent longings of his spirit for reading, he was betrayed by the passion into stealing a moment from the severe duties of his employment to engage in the forbidden pursuit.

There is no doubt that these adverse circumstances may have repressed the full development of his poetic genius, but that strong principle of his nature, poverty, want, and punishment were unable to exterminate. A mind skilled in tracing moral effects from their causes, might perhaps be able to prove that the strong love of freedom which so nobly characterises the poets compositions, was in large measure developed by the harsh treatment to which, in his early youth, he was subjected; and that the ardent love of nature which breathes through his strains, was heightened by contrasting the free and joyous life of the inhabitants of woods and wilderness, and the beauty and harmony of trees, streams, and flowers, with the unrelieved and still-recurring toil of his own occupation, carried on in poverty.

Around 1822, Prince obtained a copy of the works of Byron, which he read with the most intense and rapturous delight. For the last few years due to serious unemployment in the area of Manchester, the family had moved several times, eventually to end up in the mill town of Hyde, just west of the Derbyshire Peak hills. At age nineteen Prince married a local girl in 1826; for four years and three children later, he set off for St Quentin, in Picardy, France to procure employment, leaving family behind.

It was in London that Prince heard of the French Revolution, and the flight of Charles X. Determined not to let employment fail he continued to Calais and after a few days to St. Quentin. Here he was doomed to disappointment: the revolution had paralysed everything. Quickly he realised the only option was to proceed to the great hub of manufacturing, Mulhausen, on the Upper Rhine.

Here he found trade little better than at St. Quentin. Many businesses were closed, and the people in great distress. His means of money were completely exhausted. In a land of of strangers, ignorant of the language, with the exception of the few words he had picked up on the road, he was indeed forlorn.

During this time some relief was afforded to him by the generous kindness of Mr. Andrew Kechlin, a manufacturer, the Mayor of the town.

Finding that his hopes were fruitless, and the desire again in seeing his wife and children becoming insupportable, he at length determined to undertake the task of walking many hundred miles, without a guide, and without money.

In the middle of the severe winter of 1831, with an ill- furnished backpack and ten sous in his pocket, he set off from Mulhausen to return to Manchester, with a heart light as the treasure in his exchequer. His wants, his privations damped not the ardour of his soul; his poetic enthusiasm, while it drove him into those difficulties which a more prudent and sanguine temperament would have made him avoid, yet served to sustain the buoyancy of his spirits under the troubles which environed him, and which it had super induced.

Winding his way back through France to Calais, he obtained passage from the British Consul to cross the Channel.

Subsisting on charity of a few English residents whom he found on the way, he lay in four different hospitals for a night, but not once in the open air, as he did afterwards in his own country. When arriving in Kent he applied for food and shelter at a workhouse, and was thrust into a miserable garret, with the roof sloping to the floor. Incarcerated along with twelve others – eight men and four women, chiefly Irish – the lame, blind. Some were in a state of high fever, and raving for alcohol, which was denied them; the door was locked, and those outside, like he bare walls within, deaf to the sound of cries. In the morning he found his bed- fellow dead.

Begging towards London, at the Rag Fair, he sold his waistcoat for eight- pence. He bought a penny loaf to mitigate hunger, and four- pence worth of writing paper, with which he entered a tavern, and, calling for a pint of beer, proceeded to the writing of as much of his own poetry as his paper would contain, and this amid the riot and noise of a number of coal merchants and others.

He tried in vain to sell manuscripts to the pompous and mercantile of London, discarded without sympathy for his sufferings, Prince set off again two days later, heading North.

Sleeping in barns, vagrant offices, under haystacks and miserable lodging houses he made friends with many strange, yet appealing ballad singers, match sellers and mendicants.

He ground corn at Birmingham, sung ballads in Leicester, lay under a tree in Sherwood Forest, near Nottingham, made a tent in the Derbyshire Peaks near Bakewell then finally arrived in Hyde, the town of his departure.

He found there no home; whilst poverty had brought suffering to him while in the quest of finding better means for his family, it had also brought woe and privation to his wife and children.

Unable to provide for her children through work, she had been compelled to apply for Parish aid, and was, in consequence, removed to the ‘poor house’, in Wigan. After a nights rest, Prince rushed off to Wigan and brought them back to Manchester, where he took a garret, without food, clothes, or furniture, of any description. On a bundle of straw did this wretched family, consisting of a man and his wife and three children, lay for several months.

Had it not been for the skill of his wife who was a power-loom weaver in one of the hundreds of wretched cotton mills of Manchester, the family would not have survived, as no work could be found for Mr. Prince. Tragically, the youngest child died due to this severe privation.

During all these years, Prince continued to write his poetry. At different times he had contributed to Manchester newspapers, and to three of its local periodicals – The Microscope, The Phoenix, and The Companion, all of which are now immured in ” the tomb of the Capulets”.

It is pleasing to observe that Prince’s poetry is little touched with that spirit of repining misanthropy, or harsh hatred of those superior to him, which has too frequently characterised the effusions of several other poets of the suffering poor. There is gracefulness in the expression, and a musical flow in the language, which mark the suavity of the poets temperament. Not even a stranger to Prince would infer that his polished lines were the outpourings of a self-educated artisan, who had given them birth amid scenes of the most dire distress, or under the prostrating influence of fatigue, surrounded by the anti-poetical smells of oil and steam, and the rumbling clatter of wheels and machinery in a cotton mill. Yet, under these adverse circumstances have some if the most beautiful of his compositions been conceived, and noted down at meal times, and after the labour of a sixteen hour day.

It’s is suggested that Mr. Prince was a very retiring character; no one would imagine, from a slight acquaintance with him, that he had seen so much of the world, much less that he had wandered European lands, and drank so deep from the bowl of misery. He seems to have passed through these varieties of human condition rather as an observing wayfarer, than as participating therein. In a great measure his ill-success in the world is fairly attributed to the want of confidence in himself, and of that becoming assurance without which, however great a mans talent or sterling merit, the path to achievement is not in his way.

Forty generous people from Manchester to Birmingham and London provided £51 16 shillings, through subscription for the purpose of publishing the second edition of the poems. There were around 800 copies of first and second edition bought.

I am fortunate not only to own one of these second editions, but to have been able on my own journey to live in a poor, yet peaceful village where the poems of John Critchley Prince, resides with me as comfort and motivation to live side by side with people who have not experienced the economies, conditions and progression of western civilisation.

My own story here unfolds in ‘A Year in The Meses Mountains”, living from the land in conditions as do the welcoming citizens of Sangeorgiu De Meses.

I hope the inspiration provided to me through the hardships of John Critchley Prince, can sustain my journey to document in words, picture and poetry, life here in this place which I now call home.

In future blogs, I’ll take the liberty to share Prince’s poetry from Hours with the Muses so that all interested can be part of his journey.

The world is a tough place to live these days, many tales of sadness and despair can be read in print and through web news, non of this compares to the courage of people in our past history. Time will tell how courage can drive us forward, yet my fear is that courage is something that many replace with anger and negative action, as we forget how our ancestors lived and worked through pollution, disease and destruction of war.

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Kubla Khan, Coleridge, Wales and Zen

Kubla Khan is a poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the origin of the poem has always been questioned and whilst it is recognised as been written on Exmoor at the village of Porlock, completed in 1797 it was not published until 1816.

The question is not on the dates of writing or publication but, how is Wales associated with both Coleridge and Xanadu and who is the image that Kubla Khan was visualised from. There is no doubt that the poem was composed after Coleridge experienced the content from a dream, under the influence of Opium and after reading a work describing Xanadu.

Xanadu was located in what is now called Inner Mongolia 220 miles north of Beijing, about 17 miles  northwest of the modern day town of Duolun,  Venetian explorer Marco Polo, in 1275, is believed to have visited Xanadu.

Coleridge, at waking, after the night of the opium episode and the deluded dream, started writing lines of poetry that came to him from the dream until he received a visit from a person from Porlock village. The interruption hence, caused Coleridge to forget lines from its original 200–300 line plan and was never completed. The work was left unpublished and Coleridge retained it for readings to his friends until George Gordon Byron convinced him to finally publish in 1816.

There has been many questions about the origin from some of Coleridge’s contemporaries, however, how did Coleridge visualise Xanadu, its situation, location and the character of Kubla Khan?

Xanadu is a place of wonderous dreams, an Aladdin or Sinbad adventure, even though detailed by many Eastern Silk Road trader, but the Xanadu in Coleridges opium deluded mind,  I believe, does exist as part of a visualisation that Coleridge had on a trip to Wales.

If, as I believe, it is the same place, have seen it, or seen the location, as now the original building has long gone due to a fire that destroyed it. The caverns, measureless to man, are still there and the River Alph (River Ystwyth ) you can still walk along to the sea.

John Livingston Lowes (maybe a long lost ancestor of myself), painstakingly took every image in the poem and matched it to the description of places in every single book that was in print in Coleridge`s day. The poet may well have read many of these books, its even possible in his vast library he had stacked the shelves, and in his times of research found details of sights and sounds, and turned already written documents into a set of confused ramblings from which the poem was formed.

Through highways and byways, there is an alternative and quite credible road to take to Xanadu, the present A4120 from  Aberystwyth to Devils Bridge in west, mid Wales.

In 1794 Coleridge with three friends set off on a walking tour of North Wales, this was four years before he wrote “Kubla Khan”,  and four years before his recollection of Xanadu presented itself as a delusion, probably mixed in a cocktail of readings from his library on the historic Xanadu in north east Asia.

It was July 29th, 1794 the walking group arrived in Aberystwyth and journeyed  on to Devil`s Bridge. Coleridge wrote in a letter of “immense and rugged clefts in the mountains, which in winter must form cataracts most tremendous; now there is just enough sun-glittering water dashed down over them to soothe, not disturb the ear.”

A companion of Coleridge on the 29th July walk, John Hucks, documented in his journal of their trip and the journey from Devil`s Bridge to Tregaron. However, Hucks does not mention the summer dwelling home of a certain Colonel Johnes, Hafod, located near Devils’ Bridge.

Johnes was the land owner of the valley and built a magnificient estate. This included the mining village of Pontrhydgroes. Mining of Silver and Lead has deceased many years ago but drinking the spring water which runs down into the local river is still not wise.

When you enter, the current estate is now overgrown with weeds but the forest of the original three million tree’s exists in a breathtaking view. The grand house, farm, a church and a library, where all built and enclosed behind eight miles of wall. The library, octagonal in shape, was crowned with a copper dome. Is this the pleasure dome, or pleasure in seeing the dome, recounted by Coleridge in Kubla Khan? In the walled gardens there were statues, ornamental gardens and fountains. Another entrance to the estate of Hafod was cut through solid rock, from which visitors could stand in awe and see Xanadu from a different dimension.

And so, if Hafod is Xanadu then assumption can be made that Colonel Johnes is Kubla Kahn.

Nothing now remains of Hafod grandeur, the story of demise is a tragic tale of fire. In 1803 the farm caught fire and was totally destroyed. On Friday the thirteenth of March, 1807, the house suffered the same fate, the library and its precious contents were lost and the dome (of pleasure) in which ancient Welsh manuscripts were located, and all the other collections of literary value were destroyed. Finally in 1932 the church, the last standing piller of Xanadu, was destroyed by fire.

How then do we link Hafod to Coleridge, as previously stated his visit of 1794 was not documented clearly enough to confirm his presence within the Hafod Estate.

What we are sure of is that Coleridge, walked past the gates of Hafod while walking onwards to the village of Tregaron.  Hafod in its day was famous and the respected Colonel Johnes was an associate of Coleridge’s geat mentor William Wordsworth, who visited Hafod at least twice and Coleridge had accompanied Wordsworth to Wales in 1798, the Colonel also a patron of the arts. Did Coleridge just walked on by without an inquisitive air, unlikely for a man who’s writing was full of inspired intrigue.

Then to the ‘Caves of Ice’; In the cliffs above Devils Bridge, hidden behind a waterfall,  Colonel Johnes had hue’d an entrance through the rock to entertain his visitors from which they could stand behind the waterfall in awe. Surely in winter an icywaterfall, and the cave with pillers of ice!.

The innovative Colonel Johnes, for  amusement, associated himself with hermits with long unruly hair, ragged clothes and wild eyes. In quotation of Coleridge:

“And all who heard should see them there,

And all should cry, Beware! Beware!

His flashing eyes, his floating hair”

And so is the real story behind Kubla Khan and Xanadu, the memories of a visit to Hafod estate, a recollection a few years later in a mixed up state of delusion fueled by the poisons of the opium poppy.

The time at which Coleridge first developed his opium habit is uncertain but it clearly dates from a fairly young age. Coleridge’s wrote a letter to Joseph Cottle and quote;

“I was seduced into the ACCURSED Habit ignorantly – I had been almost bed ridden for many months with swelling in my knees – in a medical journal I happily met with an account of a cure performed in a similar case … by rubbing in of Laudanum, at the same time taking a given dose internally – it acted like a charm, like a miracle! … At length, the unusual stimulus subsided – the complaint returned – the supposed remedy was recurred to – but I cannot go thro’ the dreary history – Suffice to say, that effects were produced , which acted on me by Terror & Cowardice of PAIN and sudden death”

SWEETEST POISON

“Face as white as the opium poppies petals A heart as cold as the blood red base In sorrow we sleep the night away This broken heart, still in pain each day To taste the sap of the sweetest flower Forgotten in one hour. A body goes limp as poison grips tighter Sweet dreams. Night Night, THE END, No more Life”

Copyright 2012/2013 – KAL

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