Along with “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”(1798) and “Christabel” (1816), “Kubla Khan” is one of Coleridge’s most famous and impressive poems. These poems deal with supernatural events. At the time of the poem’s publication, Coleridge calls Kubla Khan a “fragment” and subtitles it “A Vision in a Dream”, adding an introductory note explaining its unusual origin. The poet remarked that after taking some opium for medication, to which he was known to be addicted. The story of its composition is also one of the most famous in the history of English poetry. Before falling asleep, the author had been reading a passage from Samuel Purcha’s Pilgrimage in which Kubla Khan commanded the building of a new palace. Coleridge claims that while he slept, he had a fantastic vision and composed everything in a flash, while sleeping— some two or three hundred lines of poetry. Unfortunately, a man from Porlock interrupted him, and when the poet had a chance to return to his writing, the images had vanished, leaving him with only vague recollections and an unfinished poem.
The fragmentary nature and dreamlike imagery of the work is considered demonstrative of Romantic poetic theory.
Probably the most fantastical world created by Coleridge lies in “Kubla Khan.” While on opium, it could be said that Coleridge opened a third level of imagination from which “Kubla Khan” emerged. In this particular poem, the author seems to explore the depths of dreams and creates landscapes that could not exist in reality.
The poem begins with a description of a magnificent palace built by the Mongolian ruler Kubla Khan during the thirteenth century. The enormous “pleasure-dome” of the poem's first few lines reflects the Khan's...