Poetic Inspiration in Kubla Khan and Rime of the Ancient Mariner

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Poetic Inspiration in Kubla Khan and Rime of the Ancient Mariner

An examination of the characters that Coleridge presents in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and "Kubla Khan" and the situations in which they find themselves reveals interesting aspects of Coleridge's own character that are both similar to and different from the characters named in the titles of these poems. In particular, an examination of these characters with an eye toward Coleridge's conception of poetic inspiration and success can be fruitful.

In "Kubla Khan," Coleridge depicts a powerful character who "did ... a stately pleasure dome decree" ("Kubla Khan" lines 1-2). The fact that Kubla Khan is able merely to decree a pleasure-dome and know that his orders will be executed implies that he is a character of both strong will and great creative power. This faith in himself is not misplaced. The Khan decrees that a pleasure-dome be built and his order is immediately executed: "So twice five miles of fertile ground/ With walls and towers were girdled round" (6-7). Some aspects of the landscape and the dome echo the hardness implied by the chieftain's single-minded determination: the fountain "with ceaseless turmoil seething," the "dancing rocks" that are tossed into the air by the fountain, the "ancestral voices prophesying war," and the fact that the sacred river itself is "flung up momently" by the fountain (18, 23, 30, 24). As the Khan's creation, the dome can reasonably be expected to contain clues to his character, and the characterization of the Khan harmonizes well with these clues about his character given by the pleasure dome: the image of a Mongol chief is one associated with danger, war, and a large amount of strength.

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... of a broken and essentially conciliatory force. When seen in these terms, it seems that the mariner may be the image with which Coleridge most closely identified himself, but both are symbols of his creative process.

References

The Bible. Authorized (King James) Translation.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. "Kubla Khan" in Samuel Taylor Coleridge: A Critical Edition of the Major Works. Ed. H J. Jackson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. "The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere, in Seven Parts" (1798 text) in Romanticism: An Anthology, Second Edition. Ed. Duncan Wu. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1998.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. In Seven Parts" (1817 text) in Samuel Taylor Coleridge: A Critical Edition of the Major Works. Ed. H J. Jackson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.

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