Critical Commentary on Kubla Khan

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Critical Commentary on Kubla Khan Kubla Khan is a fascinating and exasperating poem. Almost everyone has read it, almost everyone has been charmed by its magic, almost everyone thinks he knows what it is about -- and almost everyone, it seems, has felt impelled to write about it. It must surely be true that no poem of comparable length in English or any other language has been the subject of so much critical commentary. Its fifty-four lines have spawned thousands of pages of discussion and analysis.


fragment versus complete poem), and its relationship to the Preface by which Coleridge introduced it on its first publication in 1816. In a moment of rash optimism a notable scholar once began an essay by declaring that "We now know almost everything about Coleridge's Kubla Khan except what the poem is about". The truth of the matter, however, is that we know almost nothing conclusive about Kubla Khan, including what it is about. This flower plucked in Paradise (or on Parnassus)


in the long Preface added to the poem in 1816 he provides a much fuller story of the composition of Kubla Khan, but the account in the 1816 Preface differs significantly from that in the Crewe endnote; and (3) in September 1830 he told Henry Nelson Coleridge that "I wrote Kubla Khan in Brimstone Farm between Porlock and Ilfracombe -- near Culbone".3 The rest is silence. Neither in his published works nor in his voluminous correspondence and notebooks (where he often quotes from his own poetry to illustrate some point) is there any reference to or quotation from Kubla Khan. This frustrating silence, moreover, extends from Coleridge himself to his friends and acquaintances.

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