• Full title:   Purchas his Pilgrimage; or, Relations of the World and the Religions observed in all ages
  • Published:   1613 , London
  • Formats:  Book
  • Creator:   Samuel Purchas
  • Usage terms Public Domain
  • Held by  British Library
  • Shelfmark:   G.6843.

Description

The source for the beginning of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem ‘Kubla Khan’ came to him through Samuel Purchas’s book Purchas his Pilgrimage. He wrote in the preface to Sybilline Leaves (1816) that he was reading it when he fell asleep. The words ‘In Xamdu did Cublai Can build a stately palace …’ stayed in his head. However, Coleridge noted this several years after the poem’s composition, and there are considerable doubts that his dating of the composition (1797) is correct. 

Coleridge also knew Purchas’s Pilgrimes (1625), which mentions Cublai Can and his palace at Xandu. This text has a more extensive description of the site. It is described (p. 80) as:

A marvellous and artificial Palace of Marble and other stones … He included sixteen miles within the circuit of the wall … In this inclosure or Parke are goodly Meadowes, springs, rivers, red and fallow Deere, Fawnes carried thither for the Hawkes … In the middest in a faire Wood hee hath built a royall House on pillars gilded and varnished, on every of which is a Dragon all gilt, which windeth his tayle about the pillar, with his head bearing up the loft, as also with his wings displayed on both sides; the cover also is of Reeds gilt and varnished … The house itself may be sundred, and taken downe like a Tent and erected again. For it is sustained, when it is set up, with two hundred silken cords. 

The description of the palace is vivid, and provides a visual context for how Coleridge imagines the palace of Xanadu.

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