The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

VI. Coleridge

§ 7. Kubla Khan

In Kubla Khan, an enemy might say that the “body of thought” does not obtrude itself for the simple reason that there is no thought to obtrude. And it is true that, of all poems, this is the most airy and unsubstantial: a “vision,” a “dream,” if there ever was one; as the author himself tells us, an opium dream—the one good service the “accursed drug” ever did him. This, however, does not rob the poem either of its power or its charm. On the contrary, it is, perhaps, the secret of both. And, even if there were no other argument which forced us to confess it, this one poem would be enough to prove that, while thought alone, however inspiring is powerless to make poetry, pure imagery and pure music, even without thought (if such a thing be possible), suffice, when working in absolute harmony, to constitute what pedantry alone could deny to be a great poem. And, when a poem is so charged with suggestion, when, at each touch, it transports us into a world of the poet’s making, when each shading of the colours, each modulation of the rhythm, presents that world in a new light, when our own mood finds itself forced, step by step, to follow the ever-changing mood of the poet, can we be quite sure that thought is absent? Reflection is; reasoning is; but that subtler, more impalpable, process, which plays a real part not only in our dreams but even in our waking resolves and inferences—this, assuredly, is not. Unconscious though this may be in the process, it is conscious enough in the result. It brings about a frame of mind as distinct, as unmistakable, as any of those universally recognised to be “thought.”