Kubla Khan"Kubla Khan", whose complete title is "Kubla Khan, or a Vision in a Dream is a poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It is a poem ofexpression and helps suggest mystery, supernatural, and mystical themes.Samuel Taylor Coleridge, author of the poem KublaKhan , was born on October 21, 1772 in the town of Ottery St Mary, Devonshire.Coleridge was a English poet, critic, and philosopher. He, as well as his friend William Wordsworth, were of the founders of the RomanticMovement in England.Coleridge, considered the greatest of Shakespearean critic, used langueage to express the images and pictures that were in hisimagination in the poem Kubla Khan.Coleridge claimed that it was written in the autumn of 1797 at a farmhouse near Exmoor, but it may have been composed on one of anumber of other visits to the farm. It may also have been revised a number of times before it was first published in 1816.Coleridge claimed that the poem was inspired by a dream but the composition or the person from Porlock interrupted the composition, orpiece. He said he was interrupted by this visitor from Porlock (a town in the South West of England, near) while in the process of writing it.Kubla Khan is only 54 lines long and was never completed. Also, a quote from William Bartram is believed to have been a source of thepoem. There is a huge speculation on the poems meaning, some suggesting the author is just portraying his vision while others thinkthere is a theme or purpose. Others believe it is a poem stressing the beauty of creation. The lines of the poem Kubla Khan sound like achant, and help suggest mystery, supernatural, and mystical themes of the poem. In the first two lines, Coleridge describes the "pleasuredome" in Xanadu. In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree Kubla Khan did not merely order, but decree that a "statelypleasure dome" be built. This dome is evidence of how unnatural or unreal the place of Xanadu is it has a ruler who ignores theunpleasantness that can be found in life.He uses his vocabulary to challenge and tease the imagination into seeing what he saw in his dream. In Xanadu, there are not smallstreams, but "sinuous rills" and wall and towers do not enclose the gardens but are ‘girdled round. Coleridges use of language helps toconvey and interrupt the extent of his imagination. The poem is most famous for its closing lines 53– where Coleridge is likely referring 54,to himself reaching paradise through his poem. "For he on honey-dew hath fed,And drunk the milk of Paradise."In the poem Kubla Khan, imagery is also important for Coleridge to show his imagination to the reader. There are images of paradisethroughout the poem that are combined with references to darker, more evil places such as hell. On example of this is the "demon lover"that has bewitched the woman. Coleridges image of the "dome of pleasure" is mystical, contradicting the restrictions of realism. Thestructure of Kubla Khan is really in two parts. The first, describes Xanadu as if Coleridge is actually there, experiencing the place firsthand. The second part of the poem is filled with longing and a strong want to be in Xanadu, but Coleridge is unable to capture theexperience again. It begins with a definite rhythm and beat and describes the beauty of Xanadu with rich and strong images. The secondpart is that it depicts the violence of life outside of the pleasure dome and even mentions the threat of war. It is proven that beauty anddanger cannot be separated from each other, despite what the ruler Kubla Khan wants.Kubla Khan is a self-portrayal by Coleridge who believes that it is he who controls the land of Xanadu. A sunny pleasure dome with cavesof ice. The dome itself is a contrast with sun and ice, the sun symbolizing all things good and the ice symbolizing death and destruction.The fourth stanza is when the poem no longer describes Xanadu, but Coleridges desire for control over his imagination, to be able torecall the feelings and ideas of Xanadu. This shows that even the ruler cannot have control over the forces of nature, and the writer overhis imagination. Both parts of the poem deal with the attempt to create. Kubla Khan has built a pleasure dome and Coleridge is trying touse language to recreate the perfection of his dream with words.Coleridge was a very religious man and the poem is filled with references to God and other related ideas. Xanadu symbolizes the Gardenof Eden, and how it is beautiful and innocent, surrounded by evil and the constant threat of destruction. "Ancestral voices prophesyingwar" could be Gods warning to not go near the tree, as Eve fell for the snakes charm and persuasion. Coleridge describes the river as"sacred" many times throughout the poem, and to Xanadu as "holy and enchanted." This is another contrast to how something holy beenchanted at the same time. Coleridge talks too of "miracles." Coleridge refers to hell, which depicts what is outside the pleasure dome.The demons described are closely related to witchcraft and the closing lines of Kubla Khan describe pagan rituals. Those rituals try toprotect not only the reader, but also Coleridge himself from the forces of evil and the extent of his imagination. Coleridge, having "drunkthe milk of Paradise" wanted the image of Xanadu and Utopia and his final stanza is his way to describe to the reader how badly he wantsto go back there.I personally feel and think that his use of language makes strong images form in the readers minds. I also think this shows us the extentof Coleridges imagination. I think it shows us that he was very creative.This poem is significant and important because it helps others understand the power of words as well and how passionate and realdreams can be. It helps others see how Coleridge views heaven, and hell and how he refers and relates to each. It shows the reader howpassionate he is.In conclusion, Kubla Khan is a self-portrayal by Coleridge who believes that it is he who controls the land of Xanadu. I think that the entirepoem is based on how he has a huge desire for power, however does have to face evil and dome.Miracle of Rare Device:S.T. Coleridges "Kubla Khan"
In his preface to "Kubla Khan," Samuel Taylor Coleridge makes the claim that his poem is a virtual recording of something given to him ina drug-induced reverie, "if that indeed can be called composition in which all the images rose up before him as things . . . without anysensation or consciousness of effort." As spontaneous and as much a product of the unconscious or dreaming world as the poem mightseem on first reading, however, it is also a finely structured, well wrought device that suggests the careful manipulation by the consciousmind.The first verse paragraph of Coleridges "Kubla Khan" is the most ornately patterned part of the poem. Coleridge gives us end-rhymesthat are repetitive and yet slightly "off": "Khan" is not an exact match with "man" or "ran." End-rhymes will be carried throughout the poem,but within these lines, we discover similar sounds, the "Xan-" and "Khan," again; the "Xan-" and "a" sound of "Alph" get picked up again in"sacred" and "cav-," before being played out, finally, in "ran" and "man." The intricacy of sounds being repeated and modulated andrepeated again creates the poems energy, playful here, but also exceedingly musical and incantatory.The paradise that Kubla Khan creates is a delightful playscape. At first, it seems a bit compulsively arranged, a bit overly luxurious, a bittoo Disney. The "sinuous rills" adds a slightly ominous element to the Edenic paradise, a hint of whats to come. Already, though, there isa distinction implied between what is natural -- the "sinuous rills" and the "forests ancient as the hills" -- and what is clearly man-made,nature bent to mankinds service: the enfolded "sunny spots of greenery," the various gardens and perhaps even the incense-bearingtrees (that seem somehow unnatural here, compared to the forests). The whole thing is "girdled round," with the walls and towers of KublaKhans fancy. Nature is controlled, set apart; pattern and order have been asserted and established as supreme.The first line of the second stanza -- "But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted" -- carries an extra half-beat; the easy rhythms andorder of the first paragraph are upset as we move into "A savage place" or begin to recognize the place for what it really is, beneath thesurface. We become more and more aware of contradictions being held together: the contrasting ideas of nature and artifice of the firststanza, the holy and enchanted (the sacred and the pagan). The sacred river, Alph, takes on its own voice in the following lines:And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,A mighty fountain momently was forced:Amid whose swift half-intermitted burstHuge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail.The production of sounds has become difficult, forced, like giving birth to something: "forced" and "burst." The last line of this sentencebegins with a spondee "HUGE FRAGments," two hard stresses, and the line breaks down in harsh, diphthong sounds: "vaulted likerebounding hail."The rivers rapids create the "dancing rocks," as we see in another contrast of elements -- moving water and rocky earth -- the contrastagain of art (in the dance) and nature (in the violent splashing of water). This is the paradox of the river, that in its eternal movement itcreates the artistic moment: perpetual energy frozen perpetually in time.
With the soft, mellifluous "m" sounds of "five miles meandering with a mazy motion" (which will be picked up later on in "mingledmeasure"), we return to the easy movement of the poems beginning. In the midst of Kubla Khans peaceful vision, though, he alwayshears the tumult of the river sinking toward the sea (which lives at the base of everything), and in that tumult "Kubla Khan heard from far /Ancestral voices prophesying war!" Kubla Khan has walled himself off in his self-created Eden, yet the friction between what is natural andwhat is art creates a sound (the rivers roar) that speaks to him of what is outside his little heaven: mans primordial urges toward war, thedestructive element. Again, we see the principle of order versus disorder: the peace within Khans paradise and the vision of horroroutside.The paradox of Khans creation is finally characterized in this middle stanza as a "miracle of rare device / A sunny pleasure-dome withcaves of ice!" There is the ultimate paradox and oxymoron. The "sunny pleasure-dome," made according to Khans masterplan (the "raredevice"), seems like a toy on the mere surface of things; beneath it, within it, are the realities, the deep "caves of ice." Khans creation thuscontains opposite, disparate energies: what man can control and what he cant, the product of his conscious mind and conniving on onehand and the subconscious urges buried within the imagination (uncovered, perhaps, by opium-induced reverie?) on the other.The narrator of the piece is introduced at the beginning of the final stanza as the speaker describes a vision "once I saw." The feminineartist, the "damsel with a dulcimer" contains both the primal energies of the "woman wailing for her demon-lover" mentioned before andthe control of art, the "dulcimer." She sings of Mount Abora, which is where Milton located his paradise: the poem is, again, about creation,the birthing place. The narrator longs for the sound that he had heard once "in a vision" (but which is closed off to him now?). The verbs ofthis sentence are conditional: "Could I revive within me / Her symphony and song, / To such a deep delight twould win me," for this iswishful thinking at this point. Again there are contrasts within the narrators wishing: the "symphony" suggests majesty, order, harmonyamong parts; the "song" suggests something unto itself, the solitary "Abyssinian maid" singing for her own delight simply because shelikes the sound of it. Also the joy he would feel would be "a deep delight": "delight" is the surface element, the "pleasure dome"; the "deep"is the caverns, the caves of ice.The speaker of the poem proclaims that if he could only hear this maids song, he would build "that pleasure dome" -- which is, at once,the creation of Kubla Kahn and the poem that is in the process of being built, and he would build it "with music loud and long." (Note howthe long vowels suggest the kind of music he has in mind and how the pronouns create a sense of insistence and specificity -- "thatdome," "those sunny caves.") The sunny dome is a creation of the poems breath, the "dome in air," holding the twin opposites of beingtogether: "That sunny dome! those caves of ice!" The speaker becomes the artist, the architect-genie of Kubla Kahn, and the beholders(readers) of the genius and poet-speaker see him as both madman and prophet:And all should cry, Beware! Beware!His flashing eyes, his floating hair!Weave a circle round him thrice,And close your eyes with holy dread,For he on honey-dew hath fed,And drunk the milk of Paradise.
The vision of the poet is not just a private matter: "all who heard" and "all should cry." It is a collective enchantment with the poet at thecenter of it. The magic of the final spellbinding lines -- beyond explication -- is based partly on abracadabra incantation ("Weave a circleround him thrice") and our corporate recollections of holy visionaries. The poet compels the vision of the public, but at the same time he isan outcast among them -- untouchable and even cursed ("his flashing eyes, his floating hair!") by his gift. The lines become completelysuggestive in their wild blend of holiness, sensuality, prophecy, and danger. The poet and poem have have become their own "miracle ofrare device," and the reader has borne witness to the creative miracle.“Kubla Khan”SummaryThe speaker describes the “stately pleasure-dome” built in Xanadu according to the decree of Kubla Khan, in the place where Alph, thesacred river, ran “through caverns measureless to man / Down to a sunless sea.” Walls and towers were raised around “twice five miles offertile ground,” filled with beautiful gardens and forests. A “deep romantic chasm” slanted down a green hill, occasionally spewing forth aviolent and powerful burst of water, so great that it flung boulders up with it “like rebounding hail.” The river ran five miles through thewoods, finally sinking “in tumult to a lifeless ocean.” Amid that tumult, in the place “as holy and enchanted / Ase’er beneath a waning moonwas haunted / By woman wailing to her demon-lover,” Kubla heard “ancestral voices” bringing prophesies of war. The pleasure-dome’sshadow floated on the waves, where the mingled sounds of the fountain and the caves could be heard. “It was a miracle of rare device,”the speaker says, “A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!”The speaker says that he once saw a “damsel with a dulcimer,” an Abyssinian maid who played her dulcimer and sang “of Mount Abora.”He says that if he could revive “her symphony and song” within him, he would rebuild the pleasure-dome out of music, and all who heardhim would cry “Beware!” of “His flashing eyes, his floating hair!” The hearers would circle him thrice and close their eyes with “holy dread,”knowing that he had tasted honeydew, “and drunk the milk of Paradise.”FormThe chant-like, musical incantations of “Kubla Khan” result from Coleridge’s masterful use of iambic tetrameter and alternating rhymeschemes. The first stanza is written in tetrameter with a rhyme scheme of ABAABCCDEDE, alternating between staggered rhymes andcouplets. The second stanza expands into tetrameter and follows roughly the same rhyming pattern, also expanded—ABAABCCDDFFGGHIIHJJ. The third stanza tightens into tetrameter and rhymes ABABCC. The fourth stanza continues the tetrameter ofthe third and rhymes ABCCBDEDEFGFFFGHHG.CommentaryAlong with “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” “Kubla Khan” is one of Coleridge’s most famous and enduring poems. The story of itscomposition is also one of the most famous in the history of English poetry. As the poet explains in the short preface to this poem, he hadfallen asleep after taking “an anodyne” prescribed “in consequence of a slight disposition” (this is a euphemism for opium, to whichColeridge was known to be addicted). Before falling asleep, he had been reading a story in which Kubla Khan commanded the building ofa new palace; Coleridge claims that while he slept, he had a fantastic vision and composed simultaneously—while sleeping—some two orthree hundred lines of poetry, “if that indeed can be called composition in which all the images rose up before him as things, with a parallelproduction of the correspondent expressions, without any sensation or conscious effort.”Waking after about three hours, the poet seized a pen and began writing furiously; however, after copying down the first three stanzas ofhis dreamt poem—the first three stanzas of the current poem as we know it—he was interrupted by a “person on business from Porlock,”who detained him for an hour. After this interruption, he was unable to recall the rest of the vision or the poetry he had composed in hisopium dream. It is thought that the final stanza of the poem, thematizing the idea of the lost vision through the figure of the “damsel with adulcimer” and the milk of Paradise, was written post-interruption. The mysterious person from Porlock is one of the most notorious andenigmatic figures in Coleridge’s biography; no one knows who he was or why he disturbed the poet or what he wanted or, indeed, whetherany of Coleridge’s story is actually true. But the person from Porlock has become a metaphor for the malicious interruptions the worldthrows in the way of inspiration and genius, and “Kubla Khan,” strange and ambiguous as it is, has become what is perhaps the definitivestatement on the obstruction and thwarting of the visionary genius.Regrettably, the story of the poem’s composition, while thematically rich in and of itself, often overshadows the poem proper, which is oneof Coleridge’s most haunting and beautiful. The first three stanzas are products of pure imagination: The pleasure-dome of Kubla Khan isnot a useful metaphor for anything in particular (though in the context of the poem’s history, it becomes a metaphor for the unbuiltmonument of imagination); however, it is a fantastically prodigious descriptive act. The poem becomes especially evocative when, afterthe second stanza, the meter suddenly tightens; the resulting lines are terse and solid, almost beating out the sound of the war drums(“The shadow of the dome of pleasure / Floated midway on the waves...”).The fourth stanza states the theme of the poem as a whole (though “Kubla Khan” is almost impossible to consider as a unified whole, asits parts are so sharply divided). The speaker says that he once had a vision of the damsel singing of Mount Abora; this vision becomes ametaphor for Coleridge’s vision of the 300-hundred-line masterpiece he never completed. The speaker insists that if he could only “revive”
within him “her symphony and song,” he would recreate the pleasure-dome out of music and words, and take on the persona of themagician or visionary. His hearers would recognize the dangerous power of the vision, which would manifest itself in his “flashing eyes”and “floating hair.” But, awestruck, they would nonetheless dutifully take part in the ritual, recognizing that “he on honey-dew hath fed, /And drunk the milk of Paradise.”