Web Writing That Works!

           A Project of
           The Communication Circle

Guidelines Rants Patterns Poems Services Classes Press Blog Resources About Us Site Map

HomePoems > Kubla Khan > Sources > F. Bernier                           



1. Shalimar in Kashmir

2. House of Pleasure of the Kings of Kashmir

3. Hermitage floating on the water

4. Impetuous fountain

5. Source of the Nile

F Bernier

Coleridge tended to follow references from book to book. In a book by Maurice, he found Major Rennell praised as the author of an intelligent memoir, and a very accurate map of Hindustan. Coleridge entered "Major Rennell" in his notebook, then perhaps read Rennell's book about Kashmir, and if he read Rennell, Coleridge may have come upon this passage:

The reader may collect from Bernier (the most instructive of all Indian travelers) in what mode the emperors traveled to Cashmere; as he has written a full account of his journey, when he traveled thither in the suite of Aurengzebe, in the year 1664. (Rennell, 133)
Maurice himself may have pointed Coleridge to Bernier, "whose curious and entertaining account of part of the Mogul Empire…and of his journey to Cashmire with the Emperor Aurengzeb…fails not on every fresh reading to give new pleasure." Maurice, I, 36-37.

Bernier wrote about Kashmir with imagery like that of Xanadu, but he also promises to "decide unto you the old controversy touching the causes of the increase of the Nile." Churchill 237.

In Delhi, Bernier met two ambassadors from Ethiopia, who told him that the Nile "issueth out of the earth at two big bubbling springs," and, as "a pretty river…it runs bending" from those sources. 243.

The chain of reference is plausible, but not certain. Even Lowes admits that he cannot prove that Coleridge read Bernier, but if so, "he would also find a lively account of Cashmere itself, set down with a wealth of picturesque detail-an account which is extraordinarily rich in its links with that other reading which we know to have poured its imagery into the dreams." 385

Lowes is struck by the correspondences between the visions of Kashmir and the Nile, and argues that "If Coleridge had ever read the Voyage to Surat, its marvels could not but have linked themselves in the dream with the like 'charms and Tremendities of Nature' in Purchas and Bartram and Bruce and Maurice." 386

Of course, the clincher for Lowes is that unlike all the other authors, Bernier describes a pleasure dome, surrounded by water, like the "great and vast dome of white marble," the Taj Mahal. So now, "without question," there are elements that might have "risen up, blended and transfigured, in the lovely image of the dream. And in their light the probability that Coleridge had looked up Bernier approaches certainty."

Having done his best to prove that Coleridge must have read Bernier, Lowes feels free to enter into Coleridge's creative process.

And in the darting play of associations which called up the picture of the floating image of the dome upon the wave, Bartram's fountains (which were, merged with the Abyssinian springs, the very fountain of the dream) may well have had a part. …Admit Bernier's magic touch to set the simulacrum of the dome beside the wave, and the images were foreordained to blend.
Again, we see the possibility become fact, in the mysterious realm of dreams. "Dreams do behave in just that fashion, and the suggestion that this dream was no exception at least strains no probabilities." 387.

Set aside the special pleading, the double negatives, and the question-begging. Perhaps Lowes is right.

Perhaps Coleridge really did absorb imagery from Bernier, and perhaps that imagery coalesced with similar visions from other authors, as he sank into the opiate repose, and wrote, not fully awake, but not asleep. With Lowes, we ourselves slide into the twilight state.

Passages from F. Bernier, Voyage to Surat, reproduced in Churchill, A Collection of Voyages and Travels. 6 volumes. 1744-46, and Volumes VII -VIII, London, 1747, printed by Thomas Osborne.

Other sources

William Bartram
William Beckford
James Bruce
Thomas Burnet
William Collins
Athanasius Kircher
Jerome Lobo
Thomas Maurice
John Milton
Samuel Purchas
Major James Rennell

Mary Wollstonecraft



Home | Guidelines | Rants | Patterns | Poems | Services | Classes | Press | Blog |
Resources | About Us | Site Map

Web Writing that Works!
 © 2004 Jonathan Price
The Communication Circle
Discuss at HotText@yahoogroups.com
Email us directly at ThePrices@ThePrices.com