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HomePoems > Kubla Khan > Sources > Seneca > 2. Sunless sea, lifeless ocean                     

 

 

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2. Sunless sea, lifeless ocean

Seneca

2. Sunless sea, lifeless ocean

Seneca speculates that there may be a vast sea far underground, from which rivers like the Nile and Alpheus ascend, in fountains.

Such an ocean would be uninhabited, and therefore lifeless, and unmeasured by men.

Lowes suggests that Seneca's lifeless sea inspired the sunless seas in Kubla Khan. Seneca suggests that we are too fact-bound if we cannot imagine such a thing, an appeal that would probably have appealed to the man who liked to dispute the differences between imagination and fancy.

Text

Now surely a man trusts too much to the sight of the eyes and cannot launch out his imagination beyond, if he does not believe that the depths of earth contain a vast sea with winding shores.

I see nothing to prevent or oppose the existence of a beach down there in the obscurity, or a sea finding its way through the hidden entrances to its appointed place.

There, too, …the hidden regions being desert  give freer scope to the waves of the nether ocean.
--Clarke translation, pp. 2234-235.

Other sources

William Bartram
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
Strabo
Virgil

Mary Wollstonecraft

 
Word Line # Line Sources for word
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

Eyes 50 His flashing eyes, his floating hair! Bruce 8
Seneca 2
  52 And close your eyes with holy dread Bruce 8
Seneca 2
Lifeless

28

And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean

 Seneca 2

Man

4

Through caverns measureless to man

 Bruce 9
 Milton 3
 Purchas 2
 Purchas 3
 Purchas 4

 Seneca 2
  27 Then reached the caverns measureless to man  Bruce 9
 Milton 3
 Purchas 2
 Purchas 3
 Purchas 4

 Seneca 2
Ocean

28

And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean

 Kircher 1
 Maurice 1

 Milton 2
 Seneca 2

Sea

5

Down to a sunless sea

 Burnet 1
 Kircher 1
 Kircher 3
 Pausanias
 Seneca 1
 Seneca 2
 Strabo 1
 Virgil

See 48 And all who heard should see them there  Bruce 9
 Maurice 3
 Purchas 4
 Seneca 2
Waves

32

Floated midway on the waves;

 Seneca 1
 Seneca 2
 Virgil

 

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