Kubla Khan

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Kubla Khan
or, A Vision in a Dream.
A Fragment.
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
"Kubla Khan", whose complete title is "Kubla Khan, or a Vision in a Dream. A Fragment.", is a famous poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge which takes its title from the Mongol/Chinese emperor Kublai Khan of the Yuan dynasty. Coleridge claimed that it was written in the autumn of 1797 at a farmhouse near Exmoor, but it may have been composed on one of a number of other visits to the farm. It may also have been revised a number of times before it was first published in 1816.


Poem

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[1] momently[2] 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.


Notes

  1. {{{1}}}
  2. every moment


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