Literature: Coleridge’s “Kubla Kahn”

My person from PorlockAfter recently reading Laurence Bergreen’s Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu (2007), I decided to revisit Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem, “Kubla Kahn.” Bergreen begins each chapter with a quote from Coleridge’s “Kubla Kahn,” which is actually a fragment and sometimes given this title:  “Kubla Kahn, or a Vision in a Dream. A Fragment.”  The poem begins:  “In Xanadu did Kubla Kahn / A stately pleasure-dome decree: / Where Alph, the sacred river, ran / Through caverns measureless to man / Down to a sunless sea.”  My favorite part of the poem occurs when the narrator encounters and Abyssinian maid and is enthralled with her music.  He says that others who see him cry: “Beware! Beware! / His flashing eyes, his floating hair!”  The poem’s final lines follow:  “For he on honey-dew hath fed / And drunk the milk of Paradise.”  The famously opium-addicted Coleridge claims he wrote the poem in the fall of 1797, and somewhere in this middle of his drug-induced writing frenzy, a person from Porlock (a nearby town) supposedly knocked at his door and interrupted the vision.  Therefore, the poem remains a fragment.  A reference to a “person from Porlock” has its roots in this famous literary moment, and I’d say that it still works today as a reference to a distraction or unwanted guest.  Last week, I had several procrastination attacks, and I wish that I had a “person from Porlock” to blame.  Instead, it’s just the snow falling here in the Alps that has me walking around in some sort of a living dream.  To read Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Kahn” on Bartleby.com, click here.  To read my more formal-type review of Bergreen’s Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu on About.com, click here.  

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One response to “Literature: Coleridge’s “Kubla Kahn”

  1. Happy Birthday (Dec. 9), Traci! You rock, girl!

    It’s snowy here in Colorado, too.

    Erika

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