Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Kubla Khan

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Coleridge's Life

- He was born on October 21, 1772 in Ottery St. Mary and died on July 25, 1834 in Highgate.

- He coined ‘suspension of disbelief’ which describes the state we enter when we read fictional narratives.

- Coleridge took Opium as medication and fell asleep after reading Samuel Purchas's Pilgrimage which was about the court of Kubla Khan. He supposedly made a 200-300 line poem based on his dream and began to write it down when he woke up. However someone interrupted him from writing and when he tried to finish it, he couldn't remember the images of his dream so he left it as only 54 lines.

- Coleridge traveled to Italy, Sicily, and Malta in 1804. Afterwards, he returned to England and began his lectures on Shakespeare which became the basis of his reputation as a literary critic.

- He was friends with William Wordsworth

- He died from complications from his opium use.

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Kubla Khan


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.


- The poem begins with the “stately pleasure-dome” built in Xanadu according to the decree of Kubla Khan, a Mongol Emperor, and where the sacred river Alph ran.
- The speaker discusses the land that was filled with beautiful gardens and forests.

- He makes it seem dark or haunted when he mentions a "woman wailing for her demon lover."

- Then he describes Kubla Khan himself, who hears the loud river and is thinking of war.

- Kubla Khan is presented as a powerful person and seems god-like.

- Overall the poem is quite mysterious and jumps from vision to vision since it is believed to have been Coleridge's dream.

Literary Devices

- Alliteration
  • examples: Kubla Khan; sunless sea

- Assonance

  • example: five miles

- Consonance

  • waning moon was haunted

- Alternating Rhyme Scheme

Vance Joy

Riptide by Vance Joy
Introduction to Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Works Cited

"Surprising Facts about Samuel Taylor Coleridge." Interesting Literature. N.p., 03 Apr. 2013. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.

Allen, Austin. "Kubla Khan." Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.

"In Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Poem "Kubla Khan," What Are Some Examples of Alliteration, Consonance, Assonance, And... - Homework Help -", n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2016.

"Kubla Khan." Poetry for Students. Ed. Mary Ruby. Vol. 5. Detroit: Gale, 1999. 170-188. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 17 Feb. 2016.

Shmoop Editorial Team. "Kubla Khan Summary." Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.