Essay on Samuel Coleridge's Kubla Khan and the Unconscious

Essay on Samuel Coleridge's Kubla Khan and the Unconscious

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Samuel Coleridge's Kubla Khan and the Unconscious

Samuel Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan is a metaphorical journey through a complex labyrinth of symbols and images that represent the unconscious and seemingly troubled mind. It is a voyage that continually spirals downward toward uncharted depths, while illustrating the unpredictable battle between the conscious and the unconscious that exists inside every individual. Moreover, the poem appears to follow a dreamlike sequence past numerous, vivid images that are mainly artificial recreations of the narrator’s (most likely Coleridge’s) previous thoughts and experiences.

Kubla Khan, however, is predominantly a mosaic of fragments of thoughts and incomplete themes. Most likely, the reader observes that poetic material perpetually escapes Coleridge’s full attention, while the poem simultaneously contains profound gushes of documented creativity. One is led to believe that this continual tension between recorded and unrecorded poetic thought creates the unique narrative sequence and the mysterious, disturbing quality that embodies Coleridge’s story of Kubla Khan.

Moreover, these various fragments all combine to instill a sense of ambiguity throughout the poem. In a sense, as the poem progresses, the audience discovers further and more troublesome questions regarding its message and its implications. The audience, perhaps, even begins to wonder if there are indeed absolute answers or whether Coleridge consciously intended to create an unresolved poem. Amid this unsettling tumult of questions, one is left to dedicatedly follow Coleridge’s journey in a sequential manner in an attempt to consider and ponder these ambiguities as they arise. Inevitably, however, lingering questions will ...


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...urmoil that boils within every man’s unconscious as a result of this Original Sin?

Kubla Khan, however, offers no firm conclusion to the many universal questions that its narrator plants and cultivates within his audience. The audience is left to turn away from the poem frightened – frightened by the poem’s promise that man can control neither the progression of the “sacred river” that is his own mind nor the horrific explosions of his own ‘icy caves’ of unconscious being. The symbolic images of Kubla Khan, therefore, appear truthful and relevant and frightening. Moreover, the audience is never truly able to escape these images and symbols, for the poem itself provides no firm or reassuring conclusion. Perhaps the ambiguous ending of Kubla Khan will serve as a firm beginning for another poet’s unconscious journey, much as Purchas’s Pilgrimage did so for Coleridge.

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