What do you find most striking about the poem Kubla Khan?”Works of imagination should be written in very plain language; the more purely imaginative they are the more necessary it is to be plain.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
In this essay I am going to discuss one of the most famous and very striking poem Kubla Khan which was written by Coleridge.
The poem is about the nature of creativity. Coleridge describes the dome of pleasure which he sees in his dream while he is opium- induced. While he was sick, doctor prescribed a drug that made him drowsy. He could remember only couple of images, which he later developed into a beautiful poem. During his sleep knocking on the door interrupted him, and he could never recapture the dream because he lost the inspiration. This poem is considered to be a fragment but it seems that Kubla Khan is carefully worked using illusions from the works Coleridge was reading at the time.
Kubla Khan has slow plodding metre, which is achieved using iambic tetrameter that consists of 8 syllables. This is where the musicality comes from. The poet uses this in order that we could imagine more clearly the pleasure dome in the dream like surrounding. Each stanza differs a little bit in rhyme scheme. First stanza is written in iambic tetrameter with a rhyme scheme of ABAABCCDEDE, whereas second stanza follows the rhyming pattern, which is expanded ABAABCCDDFFGGHIIHJJ. The third stanza has shorter rhyme scheme of ABABCC. The fourth stanza continues the tetrameter of the third stanza and rhymes ABCCBDEDEFGFFFGHHG. This kind of rhyme scheme represents the flow of river ‘Alph’ which symbolises Colereidges imagination.
The poem Kubla Khan starts with first five lines that sound like chant. The quote: caverns measureless to man suggest that the place is very supernatural and mysterious. In this line Coleridge tells us that imagination has no restrictions. Coleridge describes not only mental part of the creativity but also physical one: And there were gardens brights with sinious rills, /Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree . These two lines show us that senses such as smell are awakened by the imagination. Coleridge also uses colours to give increased impact: Down the green hill athwart a cendarn cover!, these lines help us see very strikingly vivid image.
However the peacefulness changes in the second stanza, which creates an atmosphere of good versus evil. In the first stanza Coleridge describes, pleasure dome in Xanadu, where we see more positive vocabulary gardens brightspots of greenery, whereas second stanza contain more dark vocabulary A savage placemoon was haunteddemon lover. Coleridge uses images of paradise in the second stanza, which is considered to be more evil. An example of this is the demon lover that has bewitched the woman. The second stanza tends to be more magical than the first one: use of words holy and enchanted associates with dome being haunted by mystical powers. When Coleridge describes the women wailing using onomatopoeia, it awakens the sense of hearing, making the process more physical.
As the poem progresses so does the amount of intensity and activity. And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,/As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,/A mighty fountain momently was forced:. The level of excitement increases dramatically, by involving more and more emotions such as confusion and anger. Coleridge introduces personification when describing earth which tell us that not only the poet is affected by intensity but also elements around him. When poem reaches climax which in this poem appears to be fountain, Coleridge spills all of his feeling and thoughts to the surface. To make the image more clear the climax is prolonged: Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,/Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher s flail:And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever/ It flung up momently the sacred river. Coleridge explains how the imagination made rock, fragments and grain active. Huge boulders being moved by a river seems to be very light or even weightless. This makes us to be aware that the imagination of poet is uncontrollable.
When the poem is saturated with climax, the excitement and enthusiasm decreases. Five miles meandering with a mazy motion/Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,/Then reached the caverns measureless to man,/And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean: The tempo decreases, and the mood changes as-well. Coleridge carefully chooses words: meandering, mazy and sank that makes the rhythm slower losing its life and recreation. This happens because before and during climax poet got very tired because his imagination was physically and mentally demanding. Therefore, the second part of the poem represents exhausted behavior of Coleridge. The clause: prophesying war shows the negative side of the poem, where pleasure dome may be affected by war. Coleridge again describes the pleasure dome but in negative way: A sunny pleasure dome with caves of ice connoting that its magicality is tarnished and no-one can see and feel that place like him.
The fourth stanza is dream like but very inspiring describing heavenly maid sitar – dulcimer playing damsel about Mount Abora, the mountain of Gods. The damsel acts like a muse for Coleridge: Could I revive with me/ Her symphony and song,/ To such delight t would win me. Poet cannot pass even the most inspiring image to us the way he could feel himself so he tries to explain how he felt about it saying: I would build that dome in air,/ That sunny dome! Those caves of ice!. Even the caves have been negative aspect of the poem, Coleridge still tries to make us undergo the same experience even if it is negative.
The last part of the poem is very magnificent and awe inspiring. The poem end with poets predication of destiny: All shouldholy dread. Coleridge thinks that his powerful imagination may be not understood and fully appreciated. The last few lines are very pleasant and nice: For he on..paradise. Romantics in the past were viewed as very peculiar human being because they could get in touch with their emotions very closely.
Kubla Khan describes process of creativity which Coleridge inspires though his imagination. The process is very powerful mentally and physically. Poet uses very clever techniques such onomatopoeia, metaphors, alliteration to emphasize the process of creativity. The first stanza is and introduction to whole vision of Coleridge and second one develops into mysterious atmosphere reaching climax. The third and fourth stanza slows down in tempo but has some very inspiring imagery, which Coleridge finds hard to pass to us. The whole poem may be considered as a metaphor because poem contains many wild and supernatural dream like images that we may not be able to comprehend in real life.