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HomePoems > Kubla Khan > Sources > William Bartram > 2. Isle of Palms                           

 

 

1. The Serpentine Rivulet

2. Isle of Palms

3. Gordonia Lasianthus

4. Swelling Green Knoll

5. Crystal Fountain

6. Subterranean River

7. Manatee Springs

8. Alligator Hole

William Bartram:

2. Isle of Palms

Bartram was easily enchanted.

In the following passage, he's inspired by the unexplored, or at least, uncultivated Isle of Palms. This tiny island gives off rich fragrances, wafting from the groves of magnolias, citrus, and other trees, encircled by yuccas.

Bartram loses himself in the mingled odors, an ambrosial perfume coming from this blissful garden set in the middle of a lake.

Coleridge may already have borrowed the scenery from Bartram in a letter to his brother George, in April, 1798, describing the use of laudanum for an infected tooth. The opiate dream resembles that of Kubla Khan:

Laudanum gave me repose, not sleep; but you, I believe, know how divine that repose is, what a spot of enchantment, a green spot of fountain and flowers and trees in the very heart of a waste of sands. Letters I 240

The Note Book of the same period includes this passage:

-some wilderness plot, green and fountainous and unviolated by Man. Archiv 359

That note appears between two parts of a long commentary on crocodiles in Bartram, based on pages 127-130 of Bartram's Travels. Perhaps that note, and the similar passage in the letter, refer to the description of the Isle of Palms, on page 157 of Bartram, where he describes the isle as a "delightful spot," a "beautiful retreat," "blessed unviolated spot of earth," full of flowers and trees, and, if not a fountain, at least a lake.

If Lowes is right, "Impressions of Bartram's 'inchanting little Isle of Palms' were among the sleeping images in Coleridge's unconscious memory at the time when Kubla Khan emerged from it," and, given the fact that he was writing Kubla Khan in another opiate dream, we can imagine that for Coleridge, the scenery itself suggested that divine repose, in which he could have visions, without falling asleep.

This associations--between the drugged state of consciousness and the vision of a spot of enchantment, and within that spot, between flowers, trees, and fountains--make up a cluster, hooked together with other similar images in authors like Purchas, in Coleridge's unconscious, according to Lowes.

"Twice already its imagery had recurred to memory and clothed itself with words. And recurrence to memory soon becomes a habit. Conspicuous now, among its details were 'grassy meadows,' a 'blissful garden,' 'fragrant groves,' and multitudes of trees. And at the moment of the dream, by way of Purchas, impressions of 'fertile Meaddowes' conjoined with a 'goodly Garden' furnished with trees were stirring actively in Coleridge's brain. Clearly, then, there were sufficient links between the images from Purchas which were sinking into the Well, and the images from Bartram which were already there. And they did coalesce. Here are the lovely lines of the fragment once again:

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."

You can see that Lowes has an extraordinary magnifying glass, with which he can see into Coleridge's mind, and watch the associations link together, hook and eye. See whether you think Lowes has spotted a real constellation of associations here, or just some coincidental verbal echoes.

Other sources

William Beckford
F. Bernier
James Bruce
Thomas Burnet
William Collins
Herodotus
Athanasius Kircher
Jerome Lobo
Thomas Maurice
John Milton
Pausanias
Samuel Purchas
Major James Rennell
Seneca
Strabo
Virgil

Mary Wollstonecraft

 

 

Text

I was however induced to…touch at the inchanting little Isle of Palms. This delightful spot, planted by nature, is almost an entire grove of Palms, with a few pyramidal Magnolias, Live Oaks, golden Orange, and the animating Zanthoxilon; what a beautiful retreat is here! Blessed unviolated spot of earth! Rising from the limpid waters of the lake; its fragrant groves and blooming lawns invested and protected by encircling ranks of the Yucca gloriosa; a fascinating atmosphere surrounds this blissful garden; the balmy Lantana, ambrosial Citra, perfumed Crinum, perspiring their mingled odours, wafted through Zanthoxilon groves. I at last broke away from the enchanting spot…then traversing a capacious semicircular cove of the lake, verged by low, extensive grassy meadows, I at length by dusk made a safe harbour. --Bartram, p. 157.

 

Word Line # Line Sources for word
Blossomed

9

Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree

 Bartram 2
 Bartram 3
 Milton 2

Circle

51

Weave a circle round him thrice,

 Bartram 2
 Maurice 3
 Milton 2
 Rennell

Delight 44 To such deep delight 'twould win me  Bartram 2
 Milton 2

 Milton 6
 Purchas 1
 Purchas 4
Earth

18

As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing

 Bartram 2
 Bartram 6
 Bartram 8
 Bernier 2
 Bernier 5
 Bruce 1
 Burnet 2
 Kircher 1

 Kircher 3

 Maurice 1

 Milton 2

 Milton 4
 Pausanias
 Seneca 1
 Seneca 2
 Wollstonecraft

Enchanted

14

A savage place! As holy and enchanted

 Bartram 2
 Bartram 4
 Bartram 5
 Bruce 1
 Collins

Gardens

8

And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills

 Bartram 2
 Bernier 1
 Bernier 2
 Bernier 3
 Milton 4
 Milton 6
 Purchas 3
 Purchas 4
 Rennell

Holy

14

A savage place! As holy and enchanted

 Bartram 2
 Bruce 2
 Bruce 9
 Collins
 Purchas 2
 Rennell

 

52

And close your eyes with holy dread,

 Bartram 2
 Bruce 2
 Bruce 9
 Collins
 Purchas 2
 
Rennell

Incense-bearing

9

Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree

 Bartram 2
 Bartram 3
 Bartram 4
 Beckford
 Bernier 2
 Milton 2
 Milton 4

 

Mingled      
Spots 11 Enfolding sunny spots of greenery  Bartram 2
 Bruce 2
   

 

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