Magazine article Word Ways

Did XANADU Derive from XAMDU or XAINDU?

Magazine article Word Ways

Did XANADU Derive from XAMDU or XAINDU?

Article excerpt

   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's nonce-spelling XANNADU appears in the Crewe manuscript for "Kubla Khan, or a Fragment in a Dream" (T.C. Skeat, British Museum Quarterly 26 (1963), pp 77-83). Corrected or respelled XANADU in the printed version in 1816, this deserves a bit more etymological, linguistic consideration. The initial question is this: did it derive from Purchas His Pilgrimage alone, Coleridge having admitted the influence of this 1613-14 travel book, or from Purchas in combination with Milton's Paradise Lost ("Cambalu, seat of Cathaian Can ..." [XI. 388]), as J.B. Beer has claimed in Coleridge the Visionary (London 1959) I, 216? If the latter, was the word in Purchas XAMDU as Beer proposes, or rather XAINDU as in the first and second editions of the Pilgrimage, the leading source?

Although the Purchas-Milton combination would appeal (Coleridge being indebted enough here to the Miltonic epic, as is well recognized now), the spelling in the earlier editions does seem more relevant. For the poet's usage of Purchas would involve little more than simple juxtaposition at the time that this name was finally transformed and turned into XANADU. …

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