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Marcovitz, E. (1964). Bemoaning the Lost Dream: Coleridge's 'Kubla Khan' and Addiction. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 45:411-425.

(1964). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 45:411-425

Bemoaning the Lost Dream: Coleridge's 'Kubla Khan' and Addiction

Eli Marcovitz

Coleridge's 'Kubla Khan' has been acclaimed by poets and critics as one of the greatest artistic achievements in all poetry. On the other hand its meaning has been pronounced obscure and its structure unorganized. I believe that we can treat this poem as we would a dream, trying to understand its significance in the context of the poet's personality, his life history, and his current situation, particularly the relationship of the poem to his addiction and to the psychology of addiction in general. In so doing perhaps we can also add to the awareness of the sources of the poem, both literary and personal. We are well aware that all critics and commentators reflect their own experience and bias, and this is true for this presentation also.

My interest in 'Kubla Khan' grew out of observations which I reported of 35 marijuana addicts in an Air Force Hospital in World War II (Marcovitz and Myers, 1944).

Some years later, I happened to re-read Coleridge's 'Kubla Khan'. I knew that he had been an opium addict and that he had said that the poem was dreamed during an opium sleep. That fact was thought to account for its beauty and for its lack of logical meaning. On re-reading the poem, it suddenly appeared to me as a dream epitomizing the psychology of addiction.

Then I came across The Road to Xanadu(Lowes, 1927). In a most exhaustive piece of research the author traced the words, phrases, and images of Coleridge's 'The Ancient Mariner' and 'Kubla Khan' to their literary sources in books that Coleridge had read.

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