Kubla Khan Essay, Research Paper
Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge is a poem about the creative powers of the poetic mind. Through the use of vivid imagery Coleridge reproduces a paradise-like vision of the landscape and kingdom created by Kubla Khan. The poem changes to the 1st person narrative and the speaker then attempts to recreate a vision he saw. Through the description of the visions of Kubla Khan s palace and the speaker s visions the poem tells of the creation of an enchanting beautiful world as the result of power of human imagination. The second part of the poem reveals that although the mind has the ability to create this paradise-like world it is tragically unable to sustain this world.
It is believed that Kubla Khan was created by Coleridge when he was in a deep sleep that was induced by the use of opiates which were prescribed for dysentery. He fell asleep while reading Purcha s Pilgrimage about building of Kubla Khan s palace and garden. When he woke up from experiencing the dream in which he created the poem he began writing it down. He was part way through writing the poem and was interrupted by a person from the nearby town of Porlock. After this interruption he was unable to complete the poem because his access to the dream was lost. The unfinished work was not published for three decades. Much mystery has enshrouded Kubla Khan and it s meaning due to the circumstances of it s creation. The poem itself is as mystical and interesting as the story behind its creation.
The poem begins with a mythical tone, In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/ A stately pleasure dome decree. The poem does not give specifics to nature of the construction of the palace. It just states that Khan decreed the palace be built and then begins describing the palace. The poem s method of creating a vision of the pleasure dome is similar to the biblical tale of the creation of the garden of Eden. As Eden was created by the word of God, the pleasure dome created was by the power of Kubla Khan s decree . The use of the word decree implies that it was Khan s will that created the pleasure dome.
The wonderful kingdom of the ancient Kubla Khan and the setting that surrounds it is described with heavenly, dreamlike vividness. The kingdom that Kubla Khan creates is described as stately pleasure dome. The word dome is symbolic of completion, wholeness and unity. This dome is stately or ordered. The image of a dome is like the hemisphere of the sky or a world. By describing the dome as a pleasure dome the poet presents Khan s kingdom as paradise-like. This paradise-kingdom consists of ten miles of fertile ground surrounded securely by walls that are girdled around. Its gardens are bright, and blossoming with many an incense bearing tree and are watered by wandering streams.
The location of the palace is important, it is built where Alph, the sacred river, ran. The name Alph is an allusion to the mythical Greek river that flows under ground and rises in fountains. The river is described as sacred because it brings life through it s sinuous rills in the garden of the pleasure dome. With out the existence of the river the pleasure dome could not exist. The river, the sacred thing that gives life to Khan s creation runs through caverns measureless to man/down to a sunless sea . The destination of the sacred river of the pleasure dome is measureless or inconceivable to man. The river metaphorically represents nature as the source of life of all mans creation. As men cannot measure these caverns, the poet can not completely comprehend the power and dimension of natures influence on poetry but is dependant on it.
In the second stanza the poem shifts focus from the perfect pleasure dome created by Kubla Khan to the tumultuous landscape that surrounds it. The sunny spots of greenery in Khan s realm in the first stanza are interrupted with the exclamation of But Oh! and the reader is exposed to a vision of a deep romantic chasm . This landscape is described with extremely contrasting adjectives. It is savage , but it is holy and enchanted . The enchantment is compared to that of a woman wailing for her demon lover. This sexual image gives an impression of the earth as mourning for the fulfillment of an evil urge. This chasm below the paradise of Kubla s pleasure dome is plagued with ceaseless turmoil or chaos. The result of this turmoil upon the earth is further personified as the earth breathing in fast pants . The earth breaks though it s constraints and creates a mighty eruption. The power of this eruption sends fragments of rocks dancing and causes the sacred river to be flung up. The same sacred river that sustained the life of the pleasure dome rushes uncontrollably through the land. Accompanying the noises of this chaos are Ancestral voices prophesying war. These voices of war are a reminder that the paradise created by Khan is earthly and mortal. As the stanza concludes, all that is left of the vision of Khan s paradise is the shadow of dome of pleasure/… floating midway on the waves . It is surrounded by the mingled music of the fountain and the caves. The poem states that the pleasure dome was a miracle of rare device . The pleasure dome was a miracle because of it s heavenly perfection.
The third stanza changes to perspective of the first person narrative. The speaker is meditating upon a damsel with a dulcimer in a vision he saw. In this vision he once saw but can see no longer, the woman was singing of Mount Abora. Mount Abora is from Milton s Paradise lost and is a mythical heaven. This woman is described as Abyssinian. Abyssinian literally refers to the inhabitants of a place in Northern Africa, but use of word Abyssinian also implies the word abyss . The speaker must revive the heavenly song, sung by the maid, inside himself to build that dome in the air. Just as the sacred river from the abyss makes possible of the creation of Kubla, the heavenly song of the Abyssinian makes possible the creation of the speaker s pleasure dome . The speaker then speculates on reaction of people over his creation. He states that all should cry, Beware, Beware!/ His flashing eyes his floating hair/Weave a Circle round him thrice/ And close your eyes with holy dread, . The reaction of awe and terror that people have to the speaker s heavenly vision demonstrates the power that the speaker feels is contained in that vision.
Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge reveals the awesome power of the imaginative poetic mind. This poetic mind has the ability to create kingdoms, paradise, immortality, and the sacred. This poem reveals the terrifying magnificence of the visions of imagination and the impact of these visions amongst humanity.