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Something Wonderful: Your SOTU Alternative Universe

As discovered and brought forward as an Open thread 3/1/22 @ The New Neo who remarks, “Let’s escape together.”

I’m in. How about you?

Kubla Khan

Or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment.

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

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Mike Seyle March 1, 2022, 12:56 PM

    Makes me want to complete my book. Started it 25 years ago. I’m on page 15, but it’s a magnificent 15 pages. Hearing that gave me a flash of how to complete it. So, how to fill the middle? Maybe that’s a metaphor on life: Start strong, finish fiery, fill the middle as best you can.

    • Lance de Boyle March 1, 2022, 1:34 PM

      That’s the spirit, Mike!
      Steady work get’s ‘r done.
      A couple more years and you’ll have a magnificent 16 pages.
      I’ve occasonally used Philadelphia Cream Cheese for the middle, with modest results.

      • Mike Seyle March 1, 2022, 2:57 PM

        You won’t believe those 16 pages, Lance. I need to live 150 more years to finish up, and planning on it. (And fuck Julia. That might help the book.)

        • LP March 1, 2022, 6:56 PM

          Mike Seyle,
          If it’s just a short 16 pages, why not post them here on American Digest, (with permission) and everyone will cheer you on, and that’ll give you incentive to finish the other 286 pages.

    • jwm March 1, 2022, 6:17 PM

      What sort of story were you working on, Mike? Writer’s block? It’s a real thing. The muse can be one fickle bitch; get you all fired up, and then dump ice water on your head. Even when the burn is going you have off days, but you can still push through a funk with discipline, and effort. If the burn goes out- no such luck. When my burn went out darn near twenty years ago, I tried to force myself to get back to work, and just couldn’t do it. It returned as suddenly as it left, and I still got the fire. I’m not asking why or how. I’m just grateful to be motivated.


      • Mike Seyle March 2, 2022, 7:43 AM

        Thanks, all, for the encouragement. The book starts out with my first two kisses. I think I’m writing to get those vignettes out; hilarious stuff. The studs among us would scoff, but they’d belly-laugh first. And yes, maybe I’ll pick it up again. Turned 74 on Valentine’s Day, but do have my sights on 150 years out, so there’s still time. And John, I really will get to those stones. As you can see, I work kind of slowly. I did buy some Simichrome though.

    • James ONeil March 2, 2022, 9:42 AM

      Good on yer Mike! You’re inspiring me to finish reading Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, I started it 20 years ago and am all the way through to page 61, only 567 pages to go! Let’s see, where’d I stop last time? Oh yea: “Meager, a naval rating, seated on one of the granite cromlech setts of our new fish-shambles for the usual aireating after the ever popular act,” 😉

      • jwm March 2, 2022, 11:20 AM

        My blessings, and the best of luck with Finnegan. I had to suffer through the Modern Novel in a senior level lit class. We got dragged through DH Lawrence, Henry James, and finally, Ulysses. I purely hated them all. The prof though Ulysses was the apex of Western Literature. Yeah, I got the whole ‘common man as Ulysses’ Odyssey allegory. Even so, I thought it was as boring as the boilerplate text on a life insurance policy. It was a hard brutal slog.

        But, I thought, maybe I missed something, so I actually read it a second time. Maybe I brought a sixty watt brain to a hundred watt novel. I came away from the second reading no more impressed than with the first reading. It was awful.


        • Mike Austin March 2, 2022, 12:29 PM

          Joyce, James and Lawrence are three writers the world would have been better off without. I would add Mailer, Gabriel García Márquez and Boccaccio to that list. And probably most every author born after 1950 or so.

          I always have wondered at those who claim to have read and enjoyed “Ulysses”. They make it a point that everyone around them know it. In that they are like vegans and crossfitters. And besides, I don’t believe them.

      • Mike Seyle March 2, 2022, 11:39 AM

        Never too late, James! Looks like you’re plowing through that book, as I am mine. See you at the finish line.

  • ghostsniper March 1, 2022, 2:42 PM

    ‘To seek the sacred river Alph
    To walk the caves of ice
    To break my fast on honeydew
    And drink the milk of Paradise…’

    I had heard the whispered tales of immortality
    The deepest mystery
    From an ancient book I took a clue
    I scaled the frozen mountain tops of eastern lands unknown
    Time and Man alone
    Searching for the lost Xanadu


    To stand within the Pleasure Dome
    Decreed by Kubla Khan
    To taste anew the fruits of life
    The last immortal man
    To find the sacred river Alph
    To walk the caves of ice
    Oh, I will dine on honeydew
    And drink the milk of Paradise

    A thousand years have come and gone but time has passed me by
    Stars stopped in the sky
    Frozen in an everlasting view
    Waiting for the world to end, weary of the night
    Praying for the light
    Prison of the lost


    Held within the Pleasure Dome
    Decreed by Kubla Khan
    To taste my bitter triumph
    As a mad immortal man
    Nevermore shall I return
    Escape these caves of ice
    For I have dined on honeydew
    And drunk the milk of Paradise


    • Kerry March 1, 2022, 5:58 PM

      I knew you would post something relative to Neil’s interpretation! Thanks for not disappointing!

      • ghostsniper March 2, 2022, 4:40 AM

        Probably one of the finest musical compositions ever created by just 3 people.

        • Mike Austin March 2, 2022, 8:55 PM

          Clapton, Baker and Bruce will have a word with you.

  • Mike Austin March 1, 2022, 3:48 PM

    Xanadu. Atlantis. La Ciudad Blanca. El Dorado. Shangri-la. The Lost City of Z. Atztlan. Lemuria. The Seven Cities of Cibola. Helike. Colchis. Amarna. Paititi. Vilcabamba…

    The legends of “lost cities” and “vanished civilizations” are as numerous as those strange men who sacrifice everything—even their lives—and go off into the unknown to find gold and adventure and fame. Look up men like Percy Fawcett. And Gene Savoy—who actually found several lost cities in Peru. These men have two ways they almost always end up: dead, lost in some unknown jungle, their bones moldering near an ancient tomb; or alive, only to go mad once back in civilization.

    After capturing Atahualpa (1532), Pizarro agreed to release him if the Inca emperor could fill a room (el Cuarto de Rescate) once with gold, and twice with silver. Atahualpa ordered his subjects to acquire the ransom. And they obeyed. Hundreds of llamas laden with treasure began the route to Cajamaraca. After some weeks, the room was filled. But being a Conquistador, Pizarro had the Inca strangled. But there were still llamas after llamas still on the way to Cajamarca. When the Incas heard of their emperor’s murder, they chose to dump the remaining treasure into an unmarked Andean lake. It remains there to this day. Whoever finds it will become the richest man on earth.

    There dozens of such tales all around the world. When Atilla died (453) a river was diverted by hundreds of slaves, and the coffin of gold and silver, and filled with gems, was buried in the dry river bottom. Then the slaves allowed the river to run its original course. Once the slaves made it back to camp, they were all slain so that no one would know where Atilla was buried. Where is it?

    So are those stories true? Yes, of course. What sort of tedious world would we live in without such tales?

    Troy was once thought to be a mere legend. When a youth of 7, Heinrich Schliemann vowed he would find Troy. After 30 years and 13 languages memorized, he was a multi-millionaire. He simply followed Homer’s description of where Troy was located, started digging, and found Troy. He put Helen’s jewels on his wife Sophia’s body. She was 17 at their marriage; Schliemann was 47.


    Romance and adventure are not dead. Somewhere out there, just beyond the horizon, lies your own Xanadu: “Buried by the sands of time, vanished under the dust of ages.” Go find it.

    • ghostsniper March 2, 2022, 4:44 AM

      Beautifully written Mike.

  • Dirk March 1, 2022, 4:40 PM

    While wonderful, mythical places, exist,,,,, I’m pretty dam happy living here in my own Gods Country”! I saw as a youngster our attitudes are major contributors to each of our own Mythical places.

    Doesn’t matter where it’s at, will require work, to keep other less worthy peeps out.

    Sunset magazine and such, have destroyed more wonderful mythical lands then all other publications combined.

    • Mike Austin March 1, 2022, 5:26 PM

      Usually a man’s own Xanadu can be found in his own home and back yard. As for mine…it hovers, just out of reach, like the shadow of a beautiful woman.

  • gwbnyc March 1, 2022, 4:49 PM

    hard to hear the music with that guy talking.

  • jwm March 1, 2022, 6:41 PM

    Well now that you’re all in the mood-
    Could I interest any of you in purchasing some life insurance?
    Dang, what a buzz kill…


  • John P Coggeshall March 1, 2022, 7:05 PM

    “So twice five miles of fertile ground
    With walls and towers were girdled round”

    So…Washington DC was originally meant to be a “Federal District”…ten miles square…”…twice five miles of fertile ground”… what happened?

  • Lance de Boyle March 1, 2022, 7:19 PM

    Recently discovered City of Lost Pants, or Cuidad de Los Pantalones Perdidos.
    Just a lot of pants [muchos pantalones] wandering around looking for a good time.