1] First published in 1816 with Christabel and "The Pains of Sleep" with the sub-heading: "Or, a Vision in a Dream. A Fragment." "Kubla Khan" was written probably in 1798, though Coleridge's own note says it was 1797. But controversy surrounds the date, the question as to whether the poem should be considered a complete whole or a fragment, its meaning, and the veracity of Coleridge's recollections. He states in his preface to the poem: "The following fragment is here published at the request of a poet of great and deserved celebrity [Lord Byron], and, as far as the Author's own opinions are concerned, rather as a psychological curiosity, than on the grounds of any supposed poetic merits. In the summer of the year 1797, the Author, then in ill health, had retired to a lonely farm-house 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 effects of which he fell asleep in his chair at the moment that 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 inclosed 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 awakening 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." "A person on business from Porlock" interrupted him and he was never able to recapture more than "some eight or ten scattered lines and images."
Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department
of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.
Original text: S. T. Coleridge, Christabel, 2nd edn. (London: William Bulmer, 1816). D-10 8859 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
First publication date: 1816
RPO poem editor: Kathleen Coburn, R. S. Woof
RP edition: 3RP 2.446.
Recent editing: 4:2002/3/20
Form note: irregularly rhyming
Other poems by Samuel Taylor Coleridge