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Module 1: Coleridge Kubla Khan

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XSIQ
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English - Background history

Background history

Just near Culbone Church, Somerset, Coleridge took two grains of Opium.
The resulting reverie was the stimulus for Kubla Khan.

Coleridge had apparently been reading from the text _Purchas his
Pilgrimage,_ which contains the following passage:

I_n Xamdu did Cublai Can build a stately Palace, encompassing sixteen
miles of plane ground with a wall, wherein are fertile Meddowes, pleasant
springs, delightfull Streames, and all sorts of beasts of chase and game,
and in the middest thereof a sumptuous house of pleasure, which may be
removed from place to place_.

While reading this text, Coleridge says he fell asleep and records the
following in what is known as the Crewe MS.:

_This fragment with a good deal more, not recoverable, composed, in a sort
of Reverie brought on by two grains of Opium, taken to check a dysentery at
a Farm House Between Porlock and Linton, a quarter of a mile from Culbone
Church, in the fall of the year, 1797._

He was supposed to have dreamt 300-400 of the actual lines of a poem, but
been interrupted (in one his versions of the story) by 'a person on
business from Porlock' before he could transcribe the words. Hence the
poem's reputation, and designation, as a 'fragment'.

But what is the poem about? It is worthwhile to know something of the
trends in its criticism. Until the mid-20th century, positive criticism of
the poem (and there was a lot not that was positive) saw it as a clever
exercise in sound, with no particular meaning that could be explained.
"Magic" and "music" were common words used to describe the poem.

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