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.
(Kubla Khan, Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
I've been reading about Marco Polo, Venice, the Silk Road, and the court of Kublai Khan in Alan Armstrong's middle grade novel Looking for Marco Polo (Random House, 2009). Coleridge's poem isn't there, but I couldn't resist posting it in advance of Valentine's Day.
I first read the opening lines of Kubla Khan a long time ago, in another middle grade novel, Next Door to Xanadu by Doris Orgel (1969). That book has nothing to do with thirteenth century explorers or emperors--it's about two ten-year-old girls who live in an apartment building in Brooklyn, actually--but I still remember the way the poem threaded itself throught the final chapters of the book, and I've always wondered what went on in that pleasure dome. N.b. that is not the focus of my current research.
Happy Valentine's Day!