With thanks to Samuel Taylor Coleridge
“My dear,” Merlin Forsyth said, “have you seen this article about the new building that is going up on the Arbuthrite estate?”
“Why, no, I haven’t. What does it say?” Lady Forsyth looked up from her embroidery, an interested smile on her face.
“Why, they are building a Pleasure Dome!” he exclaimed. “Seems like a waste of good land, to me.”
“Perhaps, dear, it could be an educational thing, depending on what they consider pleasures.”
“Yes, but my dear, the only pleasure domes I have heard of are for men only. Very degenerate men, at that. I would certainly consider selling up here and moving miles away, if that is what is being considered.” Lord Forsyth shook his head. I certainly would not want our children to grow up near one of those places. Especially the girls!”
Almost four year old Trystan, who was supposed to be in bed asleep, was hiding behind the sofa. He was a very precocious child, had been reading his older brother’s school text books for a year, and Lancelot was fourteen and in ST. Michael’s Boy’s school in Toronto. When he heard the words Pleasure Dome, he almost gave himself away with his sudden movement.
‘Pleasure dome!” he thought “Oh, maybe it will be like the one in the poem! I would love to see that.’ Softly he whispered to himself the first eleven lines:
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.’
Softly as he whispered, his mother’s sharp ears caught the sound. “Tristan, come out from there this instant!” Mr. Forsyth looked up, surprised, as Tristan crawled out from behind the sofa and stood up. Head down and hands clasped behind his back. Mother sighed, and father asked “what were you doing there?” Trystan explained “I heard you mention a Pleasure Dome when I came down to get the book I was reading. I hid to listen, because I’ve always wanted to see one since I read Mr. Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem.”
“When did you read that?” father asked.
“Last spring when Lance brought it home with him.” Trystan replied.
Both parents exchanged glances and sighed. “Well, off to bed now, and right to sleep. No reading tonight, it is late for you to be awake.” Trystan nodded, said goodnight, and went off, though he stayed awake for some time, thinking about the Pleasure Dome.
The following spring, the new Pleasure Dome was open to the public, and father decided to take mother to see it. Lancelot, and Clarissant were off at boarding school, and Linette was on a trip with her tutor, so they took Trystan with them.
They walked the two miles to the estate, and were awed by the size of the ornate building. On entering, they passed through a reception hall with paintings on the walls of different lands. The Guide told them the pictures represented the eight different geological and biological systems they would experience as they toured the building. Then they passed through an arched entrance, and walked along a hall a few feet to two doors, one on each side.
“On the left is African jungle and savannah; on the right is tropical rain forest. Be prepared to be overawed by what you see.” The guide said. Father moved to the left side door and followed several others in. Once inside, mother gasped and stopped, gripping father’s arm and Trystan’s hand tightly.
“Merlin, this is impossible! It is huge, it stretches out for miles. And I see lions over there. Oh, we will be torn apart by them!”
Father patted her hand. “Now, Bronwen, you know that is impossible. They must have some method of making it look bigger. And as for the lions, if they are real, they will be somehow barred from attacking us. The government would not allow the place to open if it were dangerous.” He coaxed her to walk with him. Trystan managed to extract his hand from her tight grip and walked a bit ahead, gazing around in wonder. They moved on, and saw all the wonders of an actual African jungle and savannah. The lions were real, and came quite close, but seemed to be stopped by an invisible barrier. Trystan was thrilled.
He saw and heard Monkies, a wide variety of birds and plants, there were even hippopotami wallowing in a river! He started to think about how it could be made to seem so huge inside, and decided that it was a combination of murals and mirrors. When he suggested this to father, he agreed that it was possible if the murals were in perspective, and the mirrors didn’t reflect the people.
They left the jungle after an hour. Trystan was getting tired, but wasn’t going to let anyone know it. He wanted to explore some more. “May we go into the Rainforest, please?” he asked father. Father asked mother if she were too tired, but she said no, she was now too interested to stop.
The Rainforest seemed every bit as large as the jungle and savannah had been. It was harder to see very far, but as they walked they saw so many wonderful and scary things. Trystan pulled a book out of the bag he carried on his shoulder and started looking things up.
“Look, Mother, those are Squirrel Monkies,” he moved forward. “Oh and see there? That is a Morpha Butterfly, isn’t it beautiful?” Mother nodded and she and father followed him.
He kept on checking the book as they went and pointed out a Yellow Chevroned Parakeet, an Ocelot, and they were very happy that they had the invisible barrier when it looked at them. On they went, Trystan naming Capuchin Monkies, a Red Ruffed Fruit Crow, three Tamanduas, a Cattaleya Orchid, a Jaguar and a Passion flower.
Finally mother said she was tired, and Trystan at last admitted that he was, too, so they found an exit and went back to the reception area. There was a tea room set up at one end, and they all sank gratefully down to rest and enjoy a well-earned afternoon tea before they set out to walk home. “Trystan,” mother said, smiling, “I do believe you will sleep well tonight.”
Trystan grinned and nodded. Yes, mother, but I will have some wonderful dreams!” They all laughed.