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< Theme 7. Imagination, Sense and Nonsense (vii) >

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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< Kubla Khan >

Christabel (1816, 44)
composed Spring 1798 (26)

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.”

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