Kubla Khan

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Kubla Khan is a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, completed in 1797 and published in Christabel, Kubla Khan, and the Pains of Sleep in 1816. According to Coleridge's Preface to Kubla Khan, the poem was composed one night after he experienced an opium influenced dream after reading a work describing the Tartar king Kublai Khan. Upon waking, he set about writing lines of poetry that came to him from the dream until he was interrupted by a person from Porlock. The poem could not be completed according to its original 200-300 line plan as the interruption caused him to forget the lines. Although the specific details of Coleridge's Preface are debatable, he most likely composed Kubla Khan during autumn 1797 but left unpublished and kept for private readings until 1816 when, on the prompting by George Gordon Byron, it was made available to the public.

The poem is different in style and form from other poems composed by Coleridge. Kubla Khan is subtitled a "fragment", but it lacks aspects of Coleridge's other fragmentary poems. Instead, its incomplete nature represents aspects of the creative process through its form and message. Its language is highly stylised with a strong emphasis on sound devices that change between the poem's original two stanzas. The first stanza of the poem describes Khan's pleasure dome built alongside a sacred river fed by a powerful fountain. The second stanza of the poem is the narrator's response to the power and effects of an Abyssinian maid's song, which enraptures him but leaves him unable to act on her inspiration unless he could hear her once again. Together, they form a comparison of creative power that does not work with nature and creative power that is harmonious with nature.

Modern critics, with some exceptions, view Kubla Khan as one of Coleridge's three great poems, with The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Christabel. Some critics argue that it is unique in English poetry or one of the greatest English poems, but others claim that its power is overestimated. This is not the case with Coleridge's contemporaries, who mostly denounced the poem upon publication or questioned Coleridge's statements about its origin, but Kubla Khan was originally published because many of Coleridge's associates felt that it, when read by Coleridge aloud, was wonderful. It was not until years later that critics began to openly admire the poem.

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