Imagination in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner versus Kubla Khan

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To the Romantics, the imagination was important. It was the core and foundation of everything they thought about, believed in, and even they way they perceived God itself. The leaders of the Romantic Movement were undoubtedly Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his close friend, William Wordsworth. Both were poets, and both wrote about the imagination. Wordsworth usually wrote about those close to nature, and therefore, in the minds of the Romantics, deeper into the imagination than the ordinary man. Coleridge, however, was to write about the supernatural, how nature extended past the depth of the rational mind.

In two works by Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan, both works regard the imagination as vitally important. In the Ancient Mariner, the imagination (or rather, the lack of it) condemns the Mariner to a kind of hell, with the fiends of sterility, solitude, and loneliness: “’God save thee, Ancient Mariner, from the fiends that plague thee thus! Why look’st thou so?’ ‘With my crossbow I shot the Albatross’”. In Kubla Khan, the imagination of an external being, the narrator that Coleridge created, the ideal critic, can create a masterpiece that far outstrips the meager piece of work that even the emperor of a huge, rich civilization can produce: “I would build that dome in air, a sunny dome! Those caves of ice! And all who heard should see them there, and all should cry, Beware! Beware!” In Kubla Khan, the imagination can even make people fear an otherwise inconsequential event, sequence, or organism.

However, in the two works by Coleridge, the imagination takes on different roles in each world. In the Ancient Mariner, the imagination is the substance that holds all life together, much like how the millio...

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...ubla Khan, the imagination is more of a physical, creative force, with more raw power than finesse. With it, works such as a pleasure-dome full of physical paradoxes can be inspired, created, and described, far better than with the words of a critic alone “A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!”. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner has it that the imagination is more of an intangible force, subtle yet with as much power as the imagination in Kubla Khan. It connects the huge array of creatures on the Earth together, and without the imagination, they would, die in the end, one by one.

However, in both works, there is a mutual consent that the imagination allows the imaginer to gain insight into many wondrous, spectacular, and otherwise incomprehensible feats and workings of nature, things that cannot be explained by the mere application of reason and mathematics alone.

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