Sam took a deep breath, calmed himself and dipped his pen into the ink again
One night Sam woke up from an extremely vivid dream. So intense and vibrant were the images in his head, that he decided that he simply had to commit it to paper.
Personally, it’s not often that I remember my dreams after waking up, and perhaps Sam also knew that he had but a short time to get all his thoughts down. He could see the end of the dream, and how he’d come to that destination, and he was excited to share these thoughts, sure that people would be thrilled to take this magical journey with him.
Sam estimated that to paint the full picture of what he had seen would take around 200 to 300 lines of verse. It would take some time, but he was confident that it would be worth the effort.
However, after he had written just 54 poetic, descriptive, elevating lines that was the foundation, merely the introduction of what he actually wanted to write, there was a knock at his front door. He felt his brain fizz and crackle, and some parts of the details of his dream broke off and floated upwards toward the ceiling.
Sam took a deep breath, calmed himself and dipped his pen into the ink again.
Knock-knock-knockety-knock the person at the front door persisted.
Impatiently, Sam went to the door with the intention of telling whoever it was to excuse him so that he could finish his writing.
However, the visitor, according to tradition, was an unwanted visitor, a man on business from the town of Porlock who detained Samuel Taylor Coleridge for over an hour – long enough for him to lose the entire thread of his dream, and just like that almost 200 lines of the poem Kubla Khan were never written.
This, according to tradition, is how the literary world lost out on what could possibly have been one of Coleridge’s most epic poems. I remember my English lecturer telling us that this fragment of a poem was composed one night in 1797 when Coleridge experienced an opium-influenced dream after reading a work describing the summer palace of the Mongol ruler Kublai Khan.
The opening lines of the poem are breathtaking. “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.”
Almost 200 years later I used to read the poem and wonder what the palace looked like inside. I wondered what Coleridge had seen along the banks of the meandering river, and what wonders he could have told us about in the measureless caverns It must have been an incredible journey.
I wish I could have fully enjoyed what Sam wanted me to experience, and I am not only speaking about words written on a page. I am speaking about colours, temperature and textures. I am speaking about smells and tastes and the freedom to stop and experience my favourite section of the river for as long as I wanted to, before I moved on; and the freedom to come back to Xanadu over and over again if I so chose.
I imagined what it would have been like to gaze on the ‘sunless sea’ glimmering in the moonlight.
Imagine being able to experience the dream of a visionary.
Wouldn’t that be something?
Tragically, another amazing vision has been interrupted in our own lifetime. In his final speech before being sentenced in 1964 Nelson Mandela spoke of his South African dream. “The ideal of a free and democratic society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities is an ideal for which I am prepared to die,” he said.
In 1990 South Africans danced in the streets with visions of Utopia seemingly within reach. Our nation was about to experience something grand, the first descriptive, elevating lines had been written, but then “Porlock” came knocking and the dream was seemingly derailed.
Yet, those who hold the reins of government still have a choice.
They can either continue to entertain the intruder from Porlock or they can show him the door, and get back to creating something beautiful that will last for a long, long time before the dream fades away completely.