Kubla Khan Analysis

1070 words - 4 pages

Samuel Coleridge's poem Kubla Khan is a supremely beautiful example of the Romantic belief regarding creative thought and the creative process. It is a whimsical peek at the nature of the unconsicious and at the art of inspiration and holding on to imagination that has captivated many for its musical and lyrical nature. Although deemed largely unfinished and incomplete by some scholars and by the author himself, Kubla Khan has held its ground as a literary masterpiece of its time for its impeccable structure, vivid imagery, unquestionable style, and most of all, the lasting impression of both confusion and awe it leaves on its audience.
Kubla Khan's queer, almost stream-of-consciousness style is best understood when illuminated by the poem's strange background. It is said that Coleridge, after indulging in Opium and reading Purchas, His Pilgramage by Samuel Purchas, drifted into a hallucinatory, drug-induced vision in which he dreamt of the infamous Mongol leader, Kublai Khan, and "could not have composed less than from two to three hundred lines of poetry". The first few lines of Coleridge's poem (" In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/ A stately pelasure-dome decree") almost directly mimick an excerpt of Purchas, His Pilgramage ( "Here the Khan Kubla commanded a palace to be built, and a stately garden thereunto.") as it is easy to see from where Coleridge drew his inspiration. As he awoke, Coleridge eagerly began to write down his fresh poem, but was interupted when a "person on business from Porlock" took him away from his work. Upon his return, Coleridge attempted to finish writing down his poem, but was sadly unable to recall the remainder(Coleridge 156).
Kubla Khan's history is vital to understanding the meaning of the work as a whole. Like anyone who has struggled to retain the images of a fantastic dream, many critics contest that Coleridge, in writing the poem, found a purpose in tracing the journey of the human imagination through hardships and pleasure, from "caverns measureless to man" to Paradise. The poem begins with an enchanting description of Khan's pleasure-dome. Coleridge fashions Xanadu out of many vivid, luxurious images, and with the repetition of sounds. Each line in the opening sentence of Kubla Khan (lines 1-5) contains an alliteration, for example "Kubla Khan", "dome decree", "river,ran", making the poem seem almost to be chant-like and precise. The first stanza, primarily written in iambic tetrameter, has a meter that is similar to the timed, even beating of drums, providing the reader with a sense of whimsy and mysticism to follow its theme. But slowly as the poem progresses, the meter becomes very inconsistent- sporatically jumping from measured to disjointed in the second stanza. This most likely represents the slow engulfment of the writer from his immediate reading of Pilgramage, the source of the first lines, to his vision, with the break occuring in line five's "drop" (Down to a sunless sea)-- an afterthought...

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