Kubla Kahn
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
1816

“Kubla Kahn” is second only to Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in popularity, it’s opening lines
“In Xanadu did Kubla Kahn
A stately pleasure-dome decree”
being among the most-memorable of romantic poetry.  Actually a fragment rather than a complete poem, it was written in the aftermath of an opium-binge and drug-induced dream while Coleridge was reading about Kublai Kahn, famed Mongol leader and founder of the Yuan dynasty in 1271. Composed nearly twenty years before it was published at the urging of Coleridge’s friend and fellow poet Lord Byron, the poem envisions a cavernous garden-city, at once reminiscent of Eden and yet wild and untameable; it marks the gap between imagination and execution, not unlike the gap between the poet’s inspiration and his poem as written. If only, Coleridge laments, that moment of inspiration could be held indefinitely, it might be possible to capture the vision in a form more tangible and lasting.

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