"Kubla Khan" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge Poem Summary

"Kubla Khan" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge Poem Summary

"Kubla Khan" is a renowned poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1797. The poem's composition was influenced by an opium-induced dream, which Coleridge claimed to have experienced. 

The work is characterized by its vivid and imaginative descriptions of a mythical and exotic landscape.

"Kubla Khan" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge Poem Summary

"Kubla Khan" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge Poem Summary-The poem begins with a vivid portrayal of the ancient Mongol ruler, Kubla Khan, who is depicted as a powerful and majestic figure. Coleridge describes Kubla Khan's decree to build a magnificent pleasure palace in Xanadu, a fictional city in ancient China. The palace is described as having gardens, walls, and towers, all of which contribute to its grandeur.

"Kubla Khan" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge Poem Summary-Coleridge then paints a picture of the surrounding landscape, which is enchanting and mysterious. He describes a sacred river that flows through caverns and meanders through the landscape. The river eventually plunges into a tumultuous waterfall, creating a sense of both beauty and danger. The image of the waterfall is accompanied by vivid descriptions of the sounds and colors associated with it.

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"Kubla Khan" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge Poem Summary-The poet then introduces the reader to a fantastical vision of the landscape, which includes gardens filled with exotic trees and flowers. The imagery becomes more dreamlike as Coleridge describes a vision of a woman playing an instrument, whose music has a supernatural effect on the surroundings. The sounds of her music seem to merge with the sounds of nature, creating a harmonious and otherworldly atmosphere.

Coleridge goes on to describe the power and effect of the woman's music on his imagination. He states that the music creates a "sacred" and "pleasure-dome" in his mind, where he experiences a deep sense of awe and wonder. In this visionary state, he envisions a vibrant and surreal landscape, filled with various sights and sounds.

"Kubla Khan" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge Poem Summary-However, the poet's reverie is interrupted by a sudden sense of loss and frustration. He laments his inability to capture and convey the full essence of his vision through words. Coleridge compares himself to a musician who has forgotten a melody and is unable to reproduce it. The poem ends with the poet expressing his desire to revive the inspiration he experienced and recreate the vision in its entirety.

"Kubla Khan" is often regarded as a prime example of Romantic poetry, known for its emphasis on imagination, nature, and the supernatural. Coleridge's use of vivid and evocative language, as well as his exploration of the power of the creative process, makes the poem a significant contribution to the Romantic literary movement. The work is also notable for its unique structure, which combines elements of both a traditional ballad and a lyrical poem.

"Kubla Khan" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge Poem Summary-Despite its relatively short length, "Kubla Khan" has captivated readers and scholars for centuries with its lush and imaginative imagery. The poem's mysterious and dreamlike qualities continue to inspire interpretations and provoke discussions about the nature of creativity and the power of the human imagination.

Kubla Khan 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 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.


"Kubla Khan" is a captivating and influential poem that showcases Samuel Taylor Coleridge's mastery of poetic language and imagery. Through his descriptions of the opulent palace of Kubla Khan and the surreal landscape that follows, Coleridge transports the reader to a world of wonder and enchantment.

"Kubla Khan" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge Poem Summary-The poem raises questions about the power of the imagination and the role of creativity in shaping our perception of reality. It also hints at the fleeting nature of inspiration and the frustration of being interrupted in the act of creation.

"Kubla Khan" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge Poem Summary-"Kubla Khan" continues to be celebrated for its vivid and dreamlike imagery, its exploration of the sublime, and its contribution to the Romantic movement. Despite its unfinished state, the poem has left a lasting impact on readers and remains a testament to Coleridge's poetic genius.


Q: Who wrote "Kubla Khan"?

A: "Kubla Khan" was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Q: When was "Kubla Khan" written?

A: The poem was written in 1797.

Q: What is the poem about?

A: "Kubla Khan" is a descriptive and imaginative poem that depicts the ancient Mongol ruler Kubla Khan and his decree to build a magnificent pleasure palace in Xanadu. The poem also explores a dreamlike and surreal landscape surrounding the palace, filled with vivid imagery and supernatural elements.

Q: What themes are explored in "Kubla Khan"?

A: Some of the main themes explored in the poem include the power of the imagination, the beauty and mystery of nature, the limitations of language, and the connection between creativity and inspiration. The poem also touches upon themes of exoticism and the supernatural.

Q: What is the overall tone of the poem?

A: The overall tone of "Kubla Khan" is one of awe, wonder, and enchantment. The poem creates a dreamlike and mystical atmosphere, inviting the reader into a fantastical world of beauty and grandeur.


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