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Kubla Khan

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S.T.COLERIDGE KUBLA KHAN "Kubla Khan is a voice and a vision, an everlasting tune in our mouths, a dream...revived and re-inspired...a piece of the invisible world made visible by a sun at midnight and sliding before our eyes." (Leigh Hunt, "sketches of living poets) Born in 1772 in Ottery. St., T.S.Coleridge lead a very disquiet life in his early childhood. After his father's death he was sent to the Christ's hospital school. There he had felt a great emotional vacuum, which was the beginning of his continuos ill health. Charles Lamb, his schoolmate, gave us an account of this period affirming that Coleridge was highly imaginative, who sought refuge in reading old romantic tales as well as Homer, Virgil, and Shakespeare. Perhaps the most influential period in Coleridge's life was the period when he met Wordsworth in 1795, after he had left Cambridge. It seemed that in the company of Wordsworth, Coleridge found the mental peace, security, and environmental harmony. This had resulted in the sudden flowering of his genius, a sudden release of his creative impulses, and he wrote "The Ancient Mariner", "The Christable", and "Kubla Khan". Much about the composition and subject matter of "Kubla Khan" can be detected from Coleridge's Preface to that poem: " This fragment with a good deal more, not recoverable, composed, in a sort of reverie brought on by two grains of opium taken to check a dysentery..." ...read more.


Perhaps that's why we find it a fragmentary work, filled with strange, unusual imagery, and lacking a rational structure; its rhythms suggest a mind vacillating between conscious and unconscious modes of being. Matter of fact "Kubla Khan" is reliable to different levels of interpretation. First, the poem could be approached as a descriptive poem that shares the common beautiful characteristics and techniques of most romantic poets, especially when describing natural elements. Still Coleridge described the world of "Kubla Khan" in terms of the ancient Platonic idea of "Dualism"; where the world of material existence is described as the world of shadows, and the world of Ideals as the elevated one. Accordingly, "Kubla Khan" could be regarded as a beautiful expression of the poet's longing for some ultimate beauty combining the work of man with those of nature and those of pure imagination; to resurrect lost archetypal worlds within the imagination. In this way the "pleasure dome" that has been established in fulfillment of the orders of the Tartar Prince can be regarded as an attempt to reach such an ideal world. That's why the first stanza opens with a carefully constructed image of a walled garden containing "incense bearing trees" and forests enclosing "sunny spots of greenery"; a description that adds a paradisal spirit into the place Kubla has created. ...read more.


With the beginning of the third stanza the poem seems to take a new tern of thought. Now it gives us a vivid picture of a poet caught in a spell of poetic inspiration, who, once in a vision, saw an abyssinian maid playing on her dulcimer and singing of the wild splendor of mount Abora. At this point the poem becomes reliable to another level of interpretation. It is a poem about poetic creation. With this consideration in mind Kubla Khan, who caused a pleasure-dome and elaborated gardens to be constructed in Xanadu, is a type of the artist whose glorious creation becomes a balanced reconciliation of the natural and artificial. Similarly the poet enters the poem- using first person pronoun- in an attempt to establish his own dome. If only, Coleridge laments, he could "revive within" him the maid's lost "symphony and song", if only he could recapture the whole original vision instead of just a portion of it, then he would be able to establish "that dome in air" so that his witnesses would declare him to be divinely inspired and form a circle of worship around him. Being filled with "holy dread" they would cry: ... Beware! Beware! His flashing eyes, his floating hair! Now he is marked out as fearful and dangerous for he has fed on honey-dew "and drank the milk of paradise". ...read more.

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