Kubla Khan Poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Kubla Khan

Rating: 3.9


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.

COMMENTS OF THE POEM
Cameren Lee 20 January 2012

This is a milestone in poetry, and not only because of its influence on psychedelia [I, for the record, discovered this poem upon learning that it was the influence for the classic Rush song/epic Xanadu. That may sabotage my credibility here, but at least I'm being honest.]. The Abyssinian maid really hit me personally.

20 13 Reply
Susan Williams 08 March 2016

Coleridge finds a lot of his dramatic material for his poetry in nature. He sees POWER in the workings of nature. He's totally captivated by that power. He wants to duplicate the lightning strike, the intense winds that blow roofs off of houses, the formation of ice, the rampaging waters of a river in flood stage. He doesn't want to just duplicate them, he wants his poetry to be them. That is typical opium using Coleridge for you. That's why his poems are so intense, emotional and rooted in the natural world. They definitely are not polite, quiet, regular type poems. Nope. He's wanting to create a riot of emotions instead of restraining it. Kubla Khan is probably the most intense, emotional, strange, power-ridden poem you'll ever read. Bringing all that raging power of nature into this is his not very subtle way to get you to think about love, death, the soul, and strange magnetic men called Kubla Khan.

26 3 Reply
Kevin Straw 09 November 2009

Is it not a mystery how some poets can pack into a few words an energy that makes those words resound to every generation that reads them? This poem is a magnificent failure, but head and shoulders above many a mundane success. My only problem with the Romantic movement is that many poets have taken its message to be 'whatever you write is poetry if it's about your feelings'. Blake, Keats, Coleridge etc were masters of their craft - not just self-indulgent babblers using words to make a vague stab at describing what they feel.

12 15 Reply
Cs Vishwanathan 09 November 2010

I concur with most of what Straw and Fraser say, particularly with these romanticists being masters of their craft. The mastery of craft itself is a measure of the poet's talent and genius. Coleridge, s corpus was amazingly uneven. Only in three or four poems his genius finds full expression - 'Kubla Khan' being one of them. Its last two verses give it a kind of closure and completeness which makes it a fully formed poem by itself despite the interruption by the 'man from Porlock'. Coleridge's poetry straddles Wordsworth's nature mysticism (romanticism?) and the world-well-lost romantic bravura of Shelly and Keats. He also foreshadows pre-Raphaelites. He also had in abundance what can only be called the dulcet measure of mellifluousness. Only Swinburne matches him in this. This quality of his poetry makes it live for us even now. sure

11 16 Reply
Ian Fraser 06 February 2009

This superb poem has had an influence across the centuries on many generations of the young, most notably upon the 'pychedelic' movement of the 1960s and is a perfect example of the style of writing of the Romantic movement with its exotic setting and grandiose, visionary style. There is a strong surreal element in it and indeed it is said that Coleridge did in fact write it under the influence of opium. It is also generally regarded as unfinished and there is a funny story attached to that. It is said that while he was writing, he was interrupted by a visitor from Porlock, a nearby village. When he returned to his desk he could no longer remember what he was going to write. Since then the phrase 'persons from Porlock' has come to mean irritating visitors who distract us from what we were doing. Despite this, many people like the way the poem ends with the wild image of the priestly mage who 'hath drunk the milk of paradise'.The whole poem has a lawless, uncontrolled feel about, though in fact it is written in a very strict classical meter, the iambic tetrameter, with a complex formal scheme of rhyme.. It is this contrast between the wild and ungovernable on the one hand and the classical on the other that gives the best writing of this period so much of its particular flavor. It is, however, quite easy to parody this style and I came across one young reader who thought it was something from Dungeons and Dragons!

15 10 Reply
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Ramesh T A 12 April 2022

This is the Poem that has inspired me to think of writing Poetry and has made me also a Poet in the world!

0 0 Reply
Sylvia Frances Chan 12 April 2022

EXTRA COMMENT: This brilliant gem of the genius poet deserves TEN Points,5 Stars TOPscore and myriad more! Truly he does not deserve as stated above, of course not! . I have enjoyed tremendously this gem by this genius poet.

0 0 Reply
Sylvia Frances Chan 12 April 2022

LAST Response: dominate, and control nature. In this sense, the river begins with rationality—the reasonable parts of the human mind. The river ends, however, in icy caverns, 'measureless to man

0 0 Reply
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