A PLEASURE DOME
Twice denied his Japan conquest by fickle winds, you’d have to feel for poor Kubla. But he did achieve something approaching everlasting fame thanks to an (unfinished) poem by 19th century writer Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It’s a fairly obscure poem – Coleridge admitted it was written during an opiuminduced vision – but it does suggest that Kubla, as a failed conqueror, nursed his wounded pride by building himself a seriously flash bach in Xanadu. Xanadu was China’s original capital, but after he’d conquered the country, Kubla moved the capital to Dadu, in present-day Beijing. Here are the first two stanzas of the poem (it goes on for quite a bit longer...)
Kubla Kahn Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1772 – 1834
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.
So twice five miles of fertile ground With walls and towers were girdled round: And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills, Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree; And here were forests ancient as the hills, Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.