Home  »  The Oxford Book of English Verse  »  550. Kubla Khan

Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge. 1772–1834

550. Kubla Khan

  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.         5
  So twice five miles of fertile ground 
  With walls and towers were girdled round: 
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills 
Where blossom’d many an incense-bearing tree; 
And here were forests ancient as the hills,  10
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery. 
But O, 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  15
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  20
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  25
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran, 
Then reach’d 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!  30
  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,  35
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 play’d,  40
  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,  45
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!  50
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.