what is the poem "kubla khan" about?

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ejmcdon2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Samuel Taylor Coleridge based the poem “Kubla Khan” on an opium induced dream. This is evident from the otherworldly setting of the poem. The speaker of the poem remains unnamed but describes the mystical land of Xanadu. The poem opens with a marvelous description of the “pleasure-dome” decreed by an ancient Mongol Emperor named Kubla Khan. The poem details the magnificent beauty and scenery in Xanadu including a river (Alph) that winds through caverns and empties into the sea. The enchanted quality of the poem is intensified by the addition of a woman haunting the woods and wailing for her demon lover. The poet continues to detail the intense beauty of the cavern and tells of Kubla hearing the ancestral voices prophesying war. Here the poem begins to seem a bit fragmented with the description of a woman with a dulcimer that he held in a vision. Coleridge ends with the proclamation that he would build his own pleasure palace in the air with her song.