Poppy Fields…

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Stella Dunkley – Poppy Fields

A complete redo today…. I had a pretty full entry, and just tore it down and started over again.

This is a mono-subject day, Poppies… Poppies…. Poppies…. you are getting drowsy… you are so relaxed….

You get the drill.

On The Menu

The Links

Tales from Kashmir: The Opium Smokers

The Pleasures Of Opium -Thomas De Quincy

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Kubla Khan or, a Vision In a Dream: A Fragment

2 more poems by Coleridge

Have a great day!



The Links:

The Willard Suitcase Exhibit…

Location, Location…

Is There a College Substance Abuse Crisis?

Terra Incognition…

Internal Body Clock Linked to Mania in Mice


Tales from Kashmir: The Opium Smokers

Several opium smokers were once seated in their den. It occurred to one of them that for a long time they had not had an outing and they decided to go to the Shalimar gardens the next Sunday. Those days the boat was the only means of conveyance suited to those going to the gardens on pleasure trips and the small fraternity of opium smokers decided to go to the riverside wherefrom they could be transported across the Dal Lake. They carried with them their rations and some utensils to cook their meals. It was rather too early in the morning for any one to be transported over the Dal and the opium smokers had to wait on the river bank for some time. The early morning breeze was blowing and the friends felt cold. So they decided upon enjoying a smoke and the pipe was filled with tobacco and opium and each of them enjoyed the luxury of a puff.

Not long after one of them shouted: “There you are! A boat is coming.”

“Let us make ready,” said another.

A third shouted, “Friends, you are aware, I am always the first to step into a boat.”

The next was eager to contest this assumed right of his companion. There were arguments and appeals while the first opium smoker shouted, “You accursed boatwoman! Why don’t you make for this bank?”

“But where is she ?” asked one of them who appeared to be comparatively sober.

The first smoker picked up a pebble and saying, “Let this crush her silly head”, hurled it at what he imagined to be a boatwoman plying a boat but what was in reality a fly sitting on a stalk of dried paddy grass. The pebble splashed into the water and the fly was frightened away. “There! there !” said he, “the stone has done away with that dirty woman and the boat is about to capsize.”

After some time they managed to get a boatman to take them across the lake to the Mughal gardens at the foot of the hills flanking Srinagar on the east. The shikara, as the light boat used for such pleasure trips over short distances is called, is a comfortable means of conveyance and one sits in it perfectly at ease as in one’s home. Such an attitude develops the mood for smoking one’s favourite pipe and, having taken a day off, the fraternity of smokers amply fumigated their interior with opium, as amply as only the divines do. Consequently the stars became visible to their naked eyes, and the nymphs under water and the spirits of the air entertained them with their minstrelsy.

In this atmosphere surcharged with gaiety one of them felt a little heaviness in his throat and spat out into the water. A shriek escaped the throat of another. “Oh !” he cried, “our friend has spat his heart out.” There was genuine concern among all of them for their companion who spat into the water and even he came to believe that he must have thrown away his heart. They laid him down, rubbed the soles of his feet, fanned his face and heaved long drawn-out sighs till the influence of opium lifted off his brain.

He sat up and consoled his friends: “Don’t grieve yourselves to death, brethren,” he said, “my heart, nay, not even my whole life is worth all the grieving. May I be your sacrifice! Take comfort and be at peace.”

They ultimately crossed the Dal Lake and the boat landed. They picked up their things from the boat, utensils, rations, sheets, pillows, etc., and the queen of them all, the smoking apparatus. It was decided that they should cook their meals outside the garden and make a repast of it on the flower-bestrewn lawns of the garden under a chinar by the fountains and cascades.

The first step decided upon was to prepare tea and to sip it leaning against the trunks of trees with their branches outspread. While tea-leaves were being heated in the somavar, a mulberry dropped from above and perched on the lip of the opium smoker who lay stretched on the ground under the mulberry tree. They watched him rather enviously and expected him to open his lips and eat the fruit. But he did no such thing and the mulberry lay glued to the spot where it had fallen.

One of his companions could not resist saying, “Look, a mulberry is fallen on your lips. If I were you I would open my lips and swallow it.”

The other replied, “It is all very well for you to advise me to open my lips. But do you take it to be so easy a job to move the heavy gates leading to the stomach and eat the mulberry. If I were as young in years as you, as once I was, I could do so. But now it is too exacting a job.”

In the meantime the mulberry had slipped into the mouth and the man quite enjoyed its taste.

Duties about the preparation of their meals were allotted but it was decided to do everything without speaking a single word. Whoever broke this golden rule of silence was to stand the others a course of pilau. Consequently all of them set about discharging their duties in absolute silence. One of them improvised an oven, another ignited fire while a third put the pots on the oven. Not a word was spoken. At length the rice boiled and gruel had to be drained off. In Kashmir, pots used for cooking rice are wider at the bottom with a neck which is narrower and about one-third of the size of the pot. The lid was put in place, a duster was tied round the mouth and the pot was lifted to the edge of the water wherein it was intended to let the excess of gruel drip.

As the man did all this quietly, his glance turned in the direction of water where he saw the reflection of the pot. Wider at the bottom and narrow at the mouth with a duster tied round, it had a distant resemblance to a female form in the seated posture as viewed through the befogged eye of an opium smoker and with a feeling of mild surprise he remarked, “Hast thou come too?” He meant, of course, his wife in the characteristic Kashmiri headgear. His companions who were eager for a break in the spell of silence did not ask him how his wife had come but seized the opportunity and shouted, ‘`He will stand us a course of pilaf.” A good deal of hilarity followed.

They spent their time in the garden, lolling on the lawns. They did justice to the rations they had carried but more so they smoked to their heart’s delight. While one of them was nodding drowsily after a heavy meal, a fly sat on his eyelid without his being aware of it. A companion of his took it for no less dreadful a being than an eagle out to pick his eyes out. Eager to save the nodding friend from harm he picked up one of the shoes and shot it at the dangerous enemy perched on the tender organ of the man who was nodding. The latter felt dazed and sparks flew out of his head but was congratulated by the other: “I have saved you from inevitable ruin.”

The sky was bright and blue and no one amongst them was eager to go back home. The sun flushed the west and peeped from the placid lake. Flocks of crows, starlings and sparrows flew across the sky, lured by the blooming west. Before long the moon emerged from behind the Nishat garden and in course of time everything was painted silver. Every vagrant thought of his lair and even the opium smokers decided upon going home.

No boat was visible in the direction in which they went. But it was silver, silver everywhere and who would need a boat in such an atmosphere! When they reached near the edge of the water, only one of them doubted that it was not a continuation of land. The others had no such doubt and to reassure him that what they said was correct they lifted the thin skull cap off his head and hurled it on the water ahead of them. The skull cap, of course, floated on water which convinced the other that they were equally safe. Two of them led the van and in a few moments they found themselves steeped in water, especially the one loaded with pots. But the cold douche washed the vapours of opium off their heads and they promptly retraced their steps and saved themselves but could not salvage the pots!


The Pleasures Of Opium

Thomas De Quincy

It is so long since I first took opium, that if it had been a trifling incident in my life, I might have forgotten its date: but cardinal events are not to be forgotten; and from circumstances connected with it, I remember that it must be referred to the autumn of 1804. During that season I was in London, having come thither for the first time since my entrance at college.

And my introduction to opium arose in the following way. From an early age I had been accustomed to wash my head in cold water at least once a day: being suddenly seized with toothache, I attributed it to some relaxation caused by an accidental intermission of that practice; jumped out of bed; plunged my head into a basin of cold water; and with hair thus wetted went to sleep.

The next morning, as I need hardly say, I awoke with excruciating rheumatic pains of the head and face, from which I had hardly any respite for about twenty days. On the twenty-first day, I think it was, and on a Sunday, that I went out into the streets; rather to run away, if possible, from my torments, than with any distinct purpose. By accident I met a college acquaintance who recommended opium. Opium! dread agent of unimaginable pleasure and pain! I had heard of it as I had of manna or of Ambrosia, but no further: how unmeaning a sound was it at that time! what solemn chords does it now strike upon my heart! what heart-quaking vibrations of sad and happy remembrances! Reverting for a moment to these, I feel a mystic importance attached to the minutest circumstances connected with the place and the time, and the man (if man he was) that first laid open to me the Paradise of Opium-eaters. It was a Sunday afternoon, wet and cheerless: and a duller spectacle this earth of ours has not to show than a rainy Sunday in London. My road homewards lay through Oxford-street; and near “the /stately/ Pantheon,” (as Mr. Wordsworth has obligingly called it) I saw a druggist’s shop. The druggist — unconscious minister of celestial pleasures! — as if in sympathy with the rainy Sunday, looked dull and stupid, just as any mortal druggist might be expected to look on a Sunday; and, when I asked for the tincture of opium, he gave it to me as any other man might do: and furthermore, out of my shilling, returned me what seemed to be real copper halfpence, taken out of a real wooden drawer. Nevertheless, in spite of such indications of humanity, he has ever since existed in my mind as the beatific vision of an immortal druggist, sent down to earth on a special mission to myself. And it confirms me in this way of considering him, that, when I next came up to London, I sought him near the stately Pantheon, and found him not: and thus to me, who knew not his name (if indeed he had one) he seemed rather to have vanished from Oxford-street than to have removed in any bodily fashion. The reader may choose to think of him as, possibly, no more than a sublunary druggist: it may be so: but my faith is better: I believe him to have evanesced,{1} or evaporated. So unwillingly would I connect any mortal remembrances with that hour, and place, and creature, that first brought me acquainted with the celestial drug.

Arrived at my lodgings, it may be supposed that I lost not a moment in taking the quantity prescribed. I was necessarily ignorant of the whole art and mystery of opium-taking: and, what I took, I took under every disadvantage. But I took it: — and in an hour, oh! Heavens! what a revulsion! what an upheaving, from its lowest depths, of the inner spirit! what an apocalypse of the world within me! That my pains had vanished, was now a trifle in my eyes: — this negative effect was swallowed up in the immensity of those positive effects which had opened before me — in the abyss of divine enjoyment thus suddenly revealed. Here was a panacea – a [pharmakon nepenthez] for all human woes: here was the secret of happiness, about which philosophers had disputed for so many ages, at once discovered: happiness might now be bought for a penny, and carried in the waistcoat pocket: portable ecstasies might be had corked up in a pint bottle: and peace of mind could be sent down in gallons by the mail coach. But, if I talk in this way, the reader will think I am laughing: and I can assure him, that nobody will laugh long who deals much with opium: its pleasures even are of a grave and solemn complexion; and in his happiest state, the opium-eater cannot present himself in the character of /Il Allegro/: even then, he speaks and thinks as becomes /Il Penseroso/. Nevertheless, I have a very reprehensible way of jesting at times in the midst of my own misery: and, unless when I am checked by some more powerful feelings, I am afraid I shall be guilty of this indecent practice even in these annals of suffering or enjoyment. The reader must allow a little to my infirm nature in this respect: and with a few indulgences of that sort, I shall endeavour to be as grave, if not drowsy, as fits a theme like opium, so anti-mercurial as it really is, and so drowsy as it is falsely reputed.

And, first, one word with respect to its bodily effects: for upon all that has been hitherto written on the subject of opium, whether by travelers in Turkey (who may plead their privilege of lying as an old immemorial right), or by professors of medicine, writing /ex cathedra/, — I have but one emphatic criticism to pronounce — Lies! lies! lies! I remember once, in passing a book-stall, to have caught these words from a page of some satiric author: — “By this time I became convinced that the London newspapers spoke truth at least twice a week, viz. on Tuesday and Saturday, and might safely be depended upon for — the list of bankrupts.” In like manner, I do by no means deny that some truths have been delivered to the world in regard to opium: thus it has been repeatedly affirmed by the learned, that opium is a dusky brown in colour; and this, take notice, I grant: secondly, that it is rather dear; which I also grant: for in my time, East-India opium has been three guineas a pound, and Turkey eight: and, thirdly, that if you eat a good deal of it, most probably you must — do what is particularly disagreeable to any man of regular habits, viz. die.{2} These weighty propositions are, all and singular, true: I cannot gainsay them: and truth ever was, and will be, commendable. But in these three theorems, I believe we have exhausted the stock of knowledge as yet accumulated by man on the subject of opium. And therefore, worthy doctors, as there seems to be room for further discoveries, stand aside, and allow me to come forward and lecture on this matter.

First, then, it is not so much affirmed as taken for granted, by all who ever mention opium, formally or incidentally, that it does, or can, produce intoxication. Now reader, assure yourself, /meo periculo/, that no quantity of opium ever did, or could intoxicate. As to the tincture of opium (commonly called laudanum) /that/ might certainly intoxicate if a man could bear to take enough of it; but why? because it contains so much proof spirit, and not because it contains so much opium. But crude opium, I affirm peremptorily, is incapable of producing any state of body at all resembling that which is produced by alcohol; and not in /degree/ only incapable, but even in /kind/: it is not in the quantity of its effects merely, but in the quality, that it differs altogether. The pleasure given by wine is always mounting, and tending to a crisis, after which it declines: that from opium, when once generated, is stationary for eight or ten hours: the first, to borrow a technical distinction from medicine, is a case of acute – the second, of chronic pleasure: the one is a flame, the other a steady and equable glow. But the main distinction lies in this, that whereas wine disorders the mental faculties, opium, on the contrary (if taken in a proper manner), introduces amongst them the most exquisite order, legislation, and harmony. Wine robs a man of his self possession: opium greatly invigorates it. Wine unsettles and clouds the judgment, and gives a preternatural brightness, and a vivid exaltation to the contempts and the admirations, the loves and the hatreds, of the drinker: opium, on the contrary, communicates serenity and equipoise to all the faculties, active or passive: and with respect to the temper and moral feelings in general, it gives simply that sort of vital warmth which is approved by the judgment, and which would probably always accompany a bodily constitution of primeval or antediluvian health. Thus, for instance, opium, like wine, gives an expansion to the heart and the benevolent affections: but then, with this remarkable difference, that in the sudden development of kind-heartedness which accompanies inebriation, there is always more or less of a maudlin character, which exposes it to the contempt of the by-stander. Men shake hands, swear eternal friendship, and shed tears — no mortal knows why: and the sensual creature is clearly uppermost. But the expansion of the benigner feelings, incident to opium, is no febrile access, but a healthy restoration to that state which the mind would naturally recover upon the removal of any deep- seated irritation of pain that had disturbed and quarrelled with the impulses of a heard originally just and good. True it is, that even wine, up to a certain point, and with certain men, rather tends to exalt and to steady the intellect: I myself, who have never been a great wine-drinker, used to find that half a dozen glasses of wine advantageously affected the faculties — brightened and intensified the consciousness — and gave to the mind a feeling of being “ponderibus librata suis:” and certainly it is most absurdly said, in popular language, of any man, that he is /disguised/ in liquor: for, on the contrary, most men are disguised by sobriety; and it is when they are drinking (as some old gentleman says in Athenaeus), that men [eantonz emfanixondin oitinez eidin]. — display themselves in their true complexion of character; which surely is not disguising themselves. But still, wine constantly leads a man to the brink of absurdity and extravagance; and, beyond a certain point, it is sure to volatilize and to disperse the intellectual energies: whereas opium always seems to compose what had been agitated, and to concentrate what had been distracted. In short, to sum up all in one word, a man who is inebriated, or tending to inebriation, is, and feels that he is, in a condition which calls up into supremacy the merely human, too often the brutal, part of his nature: but the opium-eater (I speak of him who is not suffering from any disease, or other remote effects of opium) feels that the diviner part of his nature is paramount; that is, the moral affections are in a state of cloudless serenity; and over all is the great light of the majestic intellect.


Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Kubla Khan or, a Vision In a Dream: A Fragment (1816)

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.


Coleridge was responsible for attempting to present the supernatural as real whereas his friend William Wordsworth would try to render ordinary reality as remarkable, strange. He suffered great physical and emotional pain during his life and became addicted to opium. He claimed that this poem came to him in an opium dream. It opens with an enigmatic but precise description of an emperor’s pleasure dome located in an enchanted, savage spot where a woman cries for her demon lover and the sacred river is flung up violently, then meanders before plunging through caverns into a sunless sea. In trying to interpret this symbolic site we can begin by seeing the dome as a human creation (art) built in and over nature’s beauty and power. Note that in the last part of the poem the newly introduced “I” has a vision in which, inspired by a singing woman, he would imaginatively recreate in air the Khan’s dome. The artist who could accomplish this would be regarded with awe and even fear by those from whom he is separated by his inspiration. The poem is also a classic case of European fantasizing about the exotic and luxurious East.


The Æolian Harp



My pensive SARA ! thy soft cheek reclined

Thus on mine arm, most soothing sweet it is

To sit beside our Cot, our Cot o’ergrown

With white-flower’d Jasmin, and the broad-leav’d Myrtle,

(Meet emblems they of Innocence and Love !)

And watch the clouds, that late were rich with light,

Slow saddenning round, and mark the star of eve

Serenely brilliant (such should Wisdom be)

Shine opposite ! How exquisite the scents

Snatch’d from yon bean-field ! and the world so hush’d !

The stilly murmur of the distant Sea

Tells us of silence.

[spacer][spacer]And that simplest Lute,

Plac’d length-ways in the clasping casement, hark !

How by the desultory breeze caress’d,

Like some coy maid half-yielding to her lover,

It pours such sweet upbraiding, as must needs

Tempt to repeat the wrong ! And now, its strings

Boldlier swept, the long sequacious notes

Over delicious surges sink and rise,

Such a soft floating witchery of sound

As twilight Elfins make, when they at eve

Voyage on gentle gales from Faery-Land,

Where Melodies round honey-dropping flowers,

Footless and wild, like birds of Paradise,

Nor pause, nor perch, hovering on untam’d wing !

O ! the one Life within us and abroad,

Which meets all motion and becomes its soul,

A light in sound, a sound-like power in light,

Rhythm in all thought, and joyance every where–

Methinks, it should have been impossible

Not to love all things in a world so fill’d ;

Where the breeze warbles, and the mute still air

Is Music slumbering on her instrument.

And thus, my Love ! as on the midway slope

Of yonder hill I stretch my limbs at noon,

Whilst thro’ my half-clos’d eye-lids I behold

The sunbeams dance, like diamonds, on the main,

And tranquil muse upon tranquility ;

Full many a thought uncall’d and undetain’d,

And many idle flitting phantasies,

Traverse my indolent and passive brain,

As wild and various, as the random gales

That swell and flutter on this subject Lute !

And what if all of animated nature

Be but organic Harps diversly fram’d,

That tremble into thought, as o’er them sweeps

Plastic and vast, one intellectual breeze,

At once the Soul of each, and God of all ?

But thy more serious eye a mild reproof

Darts, O belovéd Woman ! nor such thoughts

Dim and unhallow’d dost thou not reject,

And biddest me walk humbly with my God.

Meek Daughter in the Family of Christ !

Well hast thou said and holily disprais’d

These shapings of the unregenerate mind ;

Bubbles that glitter as they rise and break

On vain Philosophy’s aye-babbling spring.

For never guiltless may I speak of him,

The Incomprehensible ! save when with awe

I praise him, and with Faith that inly feels ;

Who with his saving mercies healéd me,

A sinful and most miserable man,

Wilder’d and dark, and gave me to possess

Peace, and this Cot, and thee, heart-honour’d Maid !

A Soliloquy of the Full Moon, She Being in a Mad Passion

Now as Heaven is my Lot, they’re the Pests of the Nation!

Wherever they can come

With clankum and blankum

‘Tis all Botheration, & Hell & Damnation,

With fun, jeering




And still to the tune of Transmogrification–

Those muttering




With no Hats

Or Hats that are rusty.

They’re my Torment and Curse

And harass me worse

And bait me and bay me, far sorer I vow

Than the Screech of the Owl

Or the witch-wolf’s long howl,

Or sheep-killing Butcher-dog’s inward Bow wow

For me they all spite–an unfortunate Wight.

And the very first moment that I came to Light

A Rascal call’d Voss the more to his scandal,

Turn’d me into a sickle with never a handle.

A Night or two after a worse Rogue there came,

The head of the Gang, one Wordsworth by name–

`Ho! What’s in the wind?’ ‘Tis the voice of a Wizzard!

I saw him look at me most terribly blue !

He was hunting for witch-rhymes from great A to Izzard,

And soon as he’d found them made no more ado

But chang’d me at once to a little Canoe.

From this strange Enchantment uncharm’d by degrees

I began to take courage & hop’d for some Ease,

When one Coleridge, a Raff of the self-same Banditti

Past by–& intending no doubt to be witty,

Because I’d th’ ill-fortune his taste to displease,

He turn’d up his nose,

And in pitiful Prose

Made me into the half of a small Cheshire Cheese.

Well, a night or two past–it was wind, rain & hail–

And I ventur’d abroad in a thick Cloak & veil–

But the very first Evening he saw me again

The last mentioned Ruffian popp’d out of his Den–

I was resting a moment on the bare edge of Naddle

I fancy the sight of me turn’d his Brains addle–

For what was I now?

A complete Barley-mow

And when I climb’d higher he made a long leg,

And chang’d me at once to an Ostrich’s Egg–

But now Heaven be praised in contempt of the Loon,

I am I myself I, the jolly full Moon.

Yet my heart is still fluttering–

For I heard the Rogue muttering–

He was hulking and skulking at the skirt of a Wood

When lightly & brightly on tip-toe I stood

On the long level Line of a motionless Cloud

And ho! what a Skittle-ground! quoth he aloud

And wish’d from his heart nine Nine-pins to see

In brightness & size just proportion’d to me.

So I fear’d from my soul,

That he’d make me a Bowl,

But in spite of his spite

This was more than his might

And still Heaven be prais’d! in contempt of the Loon

I am I myself I, the jolly full Moon.

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