Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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“Kubla Khan” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“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...

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...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.

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