Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VI. Fancy: Sentiment
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VI. Fancy.  1904.
 
Poems of Fancy: III. Mythical: Mystical: Legendary
Kubla Khan
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834)
 
IN Xanadu did Kubla Khan 1
A stately pleasure-dome decree
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran,
Through caverns measureless to man,
Down to a sunless sea.        5
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,        10
Infolding sunny spots of greenery.
 
But O 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        15
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        20
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        25
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.        30
 
    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,—        35
  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,        40
    Singing of Mount Abora.
    Could I revive within me
    Her symphony and song,
    To such a deep delight ’t would win me
    That, with music loud and long,        45
    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!        50
    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.
 
Note 1. “In the summer of the year 1797 the author, then in ill-health, had retired to a lonely farmhouse between Porlock and Linton, on the Exmoor confines of Somerset and Devonshire. In consequence of a slight indisposition, an anodyne had been prescribed, from the effect of which he fell asleep in his chair at the moment he was reading the following sentence, or words of the same substance, in Purchas’s “Pilgrimage”: ‘Here the Khan Kubla commanded a palace to be built, and a stately garden thereunto: and thus ten miles of fertile ground were enclosed with a wall.’ The author continued for about three hours in a profound sleep, at least of the external senses, during which time he has the most vivid confidence that he could not have composed less than from two to three hundred lines; if that indeed can be called composition in which all the images rose up before him as things, with a parallel production of the correspondent expressions, without any sensation or consciousness of effort. On awaking he appeared to himself to have a distinct recollection of the whole, and, taking his pen, ink, and paper, instantly and eagerly wrote down the lines that are here preserved. At this moment he was unfortunately called out by a person on business from Porlock, and detained by him above an hour, and on his return to his room found, to his no small surprise and mortification, that though 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 had been cast, but, alas! without the after restoration of the latter.”—The Author, 1816. [back]
 
 
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