Battles involving England - Opium Wars

Poem claimed to be inspired by an opium-induced dream

Opium was not prohibited in Britain, but it was in China. It was smuggled by the East India Company into China in defiance of Chinese prohibition laws. Open warfare between Britain and China broke out in 1839. British warships wreaked havoc on coastal towns. After the British took Canton, they sailed up the Yangtzeand took the tax barges, a devastating blow to the Chinese Emperor. In 1842 China sued for peace. The peace treaty gave Hong Kong (location) to Britain.

Burning of the Summer Palaces in Beijing 1860 (location)

Further disputes over the treatment of British merchants in Chinese ports resulted in the Second Opium War which started in 1856. France and Britain attacked Canton and advanced on Beijing, where British troops burned the Summer Palace. The treaty at the end of this war ceded Kowloon (near Hong Kong) to the British as well.

Hong Kong became a higly prosperous port. In 1997, Hong Kong and Kowloon were returned to Chinese rule, although Hong Kong retains its laws and a high degree of autonomy for at least fifty years after the transfer.

Battle-scene from the First Chinese Opium War (1839-42)
Battle-scene from the First Chinese Opium War (1839-42)



Kubla Khan, or a vision in a dream, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1797

Coleridge claimed that the poem was inspired by an opium-induced dream, but that the composition was interrupted by a person from Porlock, and on his return to his room, found that he still retained some vague and dim recollection of the general purport of the vision, yet, with the exception of some eight or ten scattered lines and images, all the rest had passed away like the images on the surface of a stream into which a stone has been cast.

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.

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