This dream vision is about the imaginative and creative process of the poetic genius. The poet-narrator dreams he is the Chinese kingdom of the emperor Kubla Khan, and this dream unleashes a meditation on the power of the poetic sensibility or soul.
The first stanza shows the ordinary beauties of this mythic "Oriental" landscape. This setting represents the ordinary person's imagination. We see walls, towers, and bright gardens, and we smell the "incense-bearing tree." This is a lovely but placid scene.
In the second stanza, we are introduced to the more powerful current of the artistic imagination embodied in the creative genius. This is depicted as a "savage," a "holy," and an "enchanted" place marked by much greater intensity and turmoil than the gentle scene of the first stanza. Here a woman wails for her "demon-lover." A powerful waterfall explodes and cascades down a chasm. This deeply felt creative process, which can produce extraordinary art, is likened to a sexual orgasm, and the poem reaches a climax:
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail.
In the third stanza, the narrator continues to dwell on the creative process, wishing he could "revive" a song he once heard an Abyssinian maid play in a vision he once had. If he could pull up that imagined song from the depths of his soul, he could shake the world with his poetic power.