Kubla Khan's queer, almost stream-of-consciousness style is best understood when illuminated by the poem's strange background. It is said that Coleridge, after indulging in Opium and reading Purchas, His Pilgramage by Samuel Purchas, drifted into a hallucinatory, drug-induced vision in which he dreamt of the infamous Mongol leader, Kublai Khan, and "could not have composed less than from two to three hundred lines of poetry". The first few lines of Coleridge's poem (" In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/ A stately pelasure-dome decree") almost directly mimick an excerpt of Purchas, His Pilgramage ( "Here the Khan Kubla commanded a palace to be built, and a stately garden thereunto.") as it is easy to see from where Coleridge drew his inspiration. As he awoke, Coleridge eagerly began to write down his fresh poem, but was interupted when a "person on business from Porlock" took him away from his work. Upon his return, Coleridge attempted to finish writing down his poem, but was sadly unable to recall the remainder(Coleridge 156).
Kubla Khan's history is vital to understanding the meaning of the work as a ...
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...he lifeless ocean. This phrase has been deemed by some critics as useless and irrelevant to the rest of the poem and deserving of being overlooked, however, some meaning can be drawn from its usage ( insert). A possible meaning of this vague line may lie in the imagery preceeding it. Throughout Kubla Khan, the River Alph, a symbol of unbridled creative inspiration, is constantly contained by caverns portrayed in the poem as dark, deep, and measureless. The “tumult” heard by Khan could be the struggle between the energy of the river: artistic creation, and the cold, confining nature of the caverns: stark rationality, the enemy, yet equal, of art (insert). This confrontation between two opposing forces can be described as nothing less than a battle, and the “ancestral voices” are of those great creators who have and witnessed the ongoing and inevitable war.(insert)
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