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Samuel Coleridge's Poem Kubla Khan

Samuel Coleridge's Poem Kubla Khan

In the poem Kubla Khan by Samuel Coleridge, language is used to convey images from Coleridge’s imagination. This is done with the use of vocabulary, imagery, structure, use of contrasts, rhythm and sound devices such as alliteration and assonance.

By conveying his imagination by using language, the vocabulary used by coleridge is of great importance. The five lines of the poem Kubla Khan sound like a chant or incantation, and help suggest mystery and supernatural themes of the poem. Another important theme of the poem is that of good versus evil. The vocabulary used throughout the poem helps convey these themes in images to the reader. In the first two lines, Coleridge describes the ‘pleasure dome’ in Xanadu.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan

a stately pleasure dome decree

Kubla Khan did not merely order, but decree that a ‘stately pleasure dome’ be built. This dome is evidence of how unnatural the place of Xanadu is, it has a ruler who ignores the unpleasantness that can be found in life.

The use of vocabulary challenges and teases the imagination into seeing what he, Coleridge saw in his dream. In Xanadu, there are not small streams, but ‘sinuous rills’ and wall and towers do not enclose the gardens but are ‘girdled round’. Coleridge’s use of language and vocabulary helps to convey the extent of his imagination.

In the poem Kubla Khan, imagery is also important for Coleridge to convey his imagination to the reader. There are images of paradise throughout the poem that are combined with references to darker, more evil places. On example of this is the ‘demon lover’ that has bewitched the woman. Coleridge’s image of the ‘dome of pleasure’ is mystical, contradicting the restrictions of realism. Xanadu is also a savage and ancient place where pure good and pure evil are much more apparent than in the monotony of everyday living. By using images, Coleridge conveys the extent of his imagination to readers.

The structure of Kubla Khan is really in two parts. The first, which contains three stanzas, describes Xanadu as if Coleridge is actually there, experiencing the place first hand. The second part of the poem is filled with longing to be in Xanadu, but Coleridge is unable to capture the experience again.

The first stanza has a definite rhythm and beat and describes the beauty and sacredness of Xanadu with rich,...

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...tant threat of destruction. ‘Ancestral voices prophesying war’ could be likened to God’s warning to go near the tree, as Eve fell for the snake’s treacherous charm.

Coleridge describes the river as ‘sacred’ on numerous occasions throughout the poem, and to Xanadu as ‘holy and enchanted’. This is yet another contrast, how can something holy be enchanted at the same time? Coleridge talks too of ‘miracles’ but mingled with the holiness, Coleridge refers to hell with his choice of language to depict what is outside the pleasure dome. The demons described are closely related to witchcraft and the closing lines of Kubla Khan describe pagan rituals that attempt to protect not only the reader, but also Coleridge himself from the forces of evil and the extent of his imagination.

Coleridge, having ‘drunk the milk of paradise’ desired and sought after the beautiful image of Xanadu and Utopia and his final stanza is his way to describe to the reader how badly he wants to go back there. By using his wide vocabulary to depict images and contrasts with the help of some literary techniques such as imagery and contrasts, Coleridge easily conveys to the reader the extent of his imagination.
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