In “Kubla Khan,” Coleridge imagines a land where sensuality, sexuality, and fertility abound and share inextricable links. Any threats to the fecundity of the land exist outside of its magnificent walls. Coleridge uses this image of an impenetrable fortress of sexual creativity in considering his own mind, desiring the same productivity in his poetic imagination. By creating this connection, Coleridge finds both a source of inspiration and blurs the lines between the poet and the poem.
Coleridge describes Xanadu as a land where pleasure is a virtue, by both direct statement and appealing to the senses. The most direct insight into the luxury of Xanadu is given in Coleridge’s description of the land as a “pleasure dome” (2, 36). Besides stating it outright, Coleridge emphasizes the hedonistic nature of the land by appealing to the senses. A description of the hills mentions their “enfolding sunny spots of greenery” (11). These sunny patches both illuminate the vision of flourishing vegetation, while giving a tangible warmth in the same breath. Nearby, a garden is filled with “many an incense-bearing tree” (9), perfuming the air of the dome.
In his consideration of the Abyssinian maid, Coleridge continues his representation of sensual pleasure. Although unable to remember “her symphony and
song” (43), Coleridge knows that any recollection “to such a deep delight ‘twould win me” (44). This later recollection demonstrates that Coleridge’s vision includes the
pleasure of sound, as well as the presence of sights and sounds. Coleridge continues to emphasize the hedonism of this vision, as he purposefully equips the musical maid with a dulcimer. The Oxford...
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...nd overflowing with life: the product of sensuality and sexuality. Coleridge emphasizes the interconnection of these elements by weaving them seamlessly into the same lines. In a metaphor in which he consumes the fruit of this flourishing land, Coleridge can internalize the fertility of this land and utilize it for his poetic imagination. Just as Xanadu remains safely distanced from threats against its proliferation, near the end of his poem Coleridge draws a metaphorical line around himself to discourage creative invasions. The supposed history of the poem’s composition lends some irony to this suggestion, as Coleridge claims to have ceased his transcription to answer the door.
Abrams, M. H, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York, NY. Norton and Company, 2000.
The Oxford English Dictionary Online. 27 February 2008.
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