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Kubla Khan
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

A FRIEND TO GREGORY LEADBETTER

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Kubla Khan by ColeridgeA Friend to Gregory Leadbetter
00:00 / 34:20

In this episode, poet Gregory Leadbetter talks with us about the poem that has been a friend to him – 'Kubla Khan' by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Gregory Leadbetter is a poet and critic. He is the author of two poetry collections, Maskwork (2020) and The Fetch (2016), both with Nine Arches Press, as well as the pamphlet The Body in the Well (HappenStance Press, 2007), and (with photographs by Phil Thomson) Balanuve (Broken Sleep, 2021).

His book Coleridge and the Daemonic Imagination (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) won the University English Book Prize 2012.


Greg joined The Poetry Exchange at the Birmingham & Midland Institute, in one of our first in-person Exchanges since the pandemic. He is in conversation with Poetry Exchange team members, Fiona Bennett and Roy McFarlane.

Kubla Khan is read by Roy McFarlane.

Kubla Khan

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment.

 

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.

 

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted

Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!

A savage place! as holy and enchanted

As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted

By woman wailing for her demon-lover!

And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,

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,

Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:

And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever

It flung up momently the sacred river.

Five miles meandering with a mazy motion

Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,

Then reached the caverns measureless to man,

And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean;

And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far

Ancestral voices prophesying war!

   The shadow of the dome of pleasure

   Floated midway on the waves;

   Where was heard the mingled measure

   From the fountain and the caves.

It was a miracle of rare device,

A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

 

   A damsel with a dulcimer

   In a vision once I saw:

   It was an Abyssinian maid

   And on her dulcimer she played,

   Singing of Mount Abora.

   Could I revive within me

   Her symphony and song,

   To such a deep delight ’twould win me,

That with music loud and long,

I would build that dome in air,

That sunny dome! those caves of ice!

And all who heard should see them there,

And all should cry, Beware! Beware!

His flashing eyes, his floating hair!

Weave a circle round him thrice,

And close your eyes with holy dread

For he on honey-dew hath fed,

And drunk the milk of Paradise.

ABOUT THE POETRY EXCHANGE

We talk to people about the poem that has been a friend to them.

In exchange we create a gift for them, a bespoke reading of their chosen poem inspired by the conversation. Our award-winning podcast shares these unique and powerful stories of connection with people across the world. 

 

We set up an intimate environment for these conversations at festivals, in arts, cultural and public spaces across the country. We also hold exchanges ‘long distance’. Our visitors come from all walks of life and we also feature well-known personalities such as Andrew Scott, Maxine Peake, Roy McFarlane and Paterson Joseph.