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.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote this in 1797 – he didn’t think much of it. He only published it in 1816 at the urging of his friends. It was unenthusiastically received by the poetry reading public – they didn’t think much of it, either.
He wasn’t a well man, and in those far off days, medications were few and far between. As part of his writing process, he often took long country walks. On this occassion, he had taken two grains of opium – the recommended pain medication of the period. Passing an old farmhouse he lay down to wait for the drugs to take effect – and fell asleep.
When he awoke his head was full of strange images, intrigued he took out paper and pencil and wrote as the pictures came to him.
Halfway through, someone came and interrupted him. He dealt with that, and then tried to go back to the dream. But the spell was broken.
Read the whole poem, the strange images it conjures up make you realise just how irritated he must have been with the person who broke his train of thought.