“Stranger,
here you will do well to linger; here our highest good is pleasure”
Epicurus

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July 16, 2020

The sudden arrival of unannounced guests on one’s doorstep is enough to bring most Britons out in a cold sweat.

But in the case of poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge an unexpected visitor one day in 1797 was less of an awkward British nuisance and more of a catastrophic source of writer’s block.

As it was, Coleridge was already feeling rather clammy having just woken up from the most intense dream of his life; inadvertently induced by a dose of opium tincture which he’d taken for pain relief.
109234451_2949802611814731_1050404382126605744_n.jpg The drug-fuelled visions gave him an epiphany for what might have been the greatest poem of all time, comprising easily 200 lines of vivid text about Kubla Khan and the wonderous sights of his opulent pleasure dome in ancient Xanadu.

He immediately set to work scrawling his masterpiece down but having scribed barely a few dozen lines there was a knock at the door from a person from the neighbouring village of Porlock.

Coleridge felt obliged to accept the guest in for an hour of convivial conversation but by the time he managed to bid him ‘good day’, the dream’s revelations had subsided, the apparitions were forgotten and the poem was left eternally unfinished.
Unknown_20-07-16_Broken_Clock_Lingering_Vodka_Poppy.jpg Opium – derived from attractive poppies like this one – became both an effective medicine and an addictive recreational drug during the Georgian era and despite taking opium for ‘relaxation’ for much of his life, Coleridge never did witness Xanadu’s splendours again.

Despite this, the curtailed 54 lines of Kubla Khan remain one of his most celebrated poems and the expression ‘a person from Porlock’ became synonymous in Britain with unwelcome intrusions.