Unfinished Art Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Kubla Khan

About the unfinished work of art Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Kubla Khan, history and description of the piece.

RENOWNED UNFINISHED WORKS FROM THE ARTS TO ARCHITECTURE

5. SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE: "KUBLA KHAN" (begun 1797)

One of the most beloved fragments in English poetry begins:

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.

In the summer of 1797, Coleridge, 25, in ill health, stayed at a lonely farmhouse near Porlock in Somersetshire. Laudanum, a form of opium prescribed by his doctor, caused him to fall asleep while reading the following sentence in the book Purchas's Pilgrimage: "Here the Khan Kubla commanded a palace to be built, and a stately garden thereunto." He slept about three hours, dreaming that he had effortlessly composed some 300 lines of poetry. Upon awakening, he eagerly wrote down the 50 lines that have been preserved. Then, unfortunately, a "person on business from Porlock" called, detaining him "above an hour." Returning to his room, he found the vision and the poem had "passed away like the images on the surface of a stream." He attempted to finish it, but without success.

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