Kubla Khan

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Kubla Khan
OR, A VISION IN A DREAM.
A FRAGMENT.
1 part: the description of the place
KublaKhan
Khan
In Xanadu did Kubla
A stately pleasure dome decree:
Where Alph
Alph, the sacred river, ran
caverns measureless
measureless to
to man
man
Through caverns
Down to a sunless
sunless sea..
sea.
hyperbole
This big, dramatic
riveroftakes
over most
of the first half of
First letter
the Greek
alphabet
They
areThis
the opposite
of time
the warm,
happy
palace. They
the
poem.
is the only
its name
is mentioned
according
to freezing,
mythology,
the beginning
of life
andItlanguage
are
dramatic,
and
represent
It casts
a shadow
overunderground,
these
first few
lines.
also
Kublai
Khan (1215-1294)
was
"theisfifth
ofWe
theget
Mongol
great khans,
everything
the
pleasure
dome
not.
a
sense
gives
usofathe
sense
of being
in an
imaginary
landscape,
Noticegrandson
how Coleridge
is already
stepping
away from
history:
he
isis
legendary
Mongol
conqueror
Genghis
Khan.
He
There's
certainly
no
river
in
Mongolia
by
this
name
Alpheus
= the classical
underground
river;
the sacred river.
that
thisthis
landscape
is could
both
huge
and
unknowable.
because
where
a and
sea
always
"sunless"
transforming
place,else
this
person,
this
storybeinto
his own
best known in the West as the Cublai Kaan of Marco Polo who
creation.
"Kubla
Khan"
isormain
definitely
journeys
of the
Xanadu,
and helped
to images
startathe
legend
of itsthe
magnificence
and
never
bright
cheerful
?poem
Itvisited
gives
us the
poem's
of
theabout
force
and
excitement
mindof
and
imagination.
thethe
natural
world. While other places may be quiet or safe or
calm, the river is noisy, active, and even a little dangerous.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls
walls and
and towers
towers were girdled round:
sinuous rills,
rills
And there were gardens bright with sinuous
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
The natural world outside is wild and strange, but within the
speaker
takes
us
away
those
gloomy,
TheThe
language
gets
fancy
here. from
Aand
"sinuous
rill“ is really
palace
walls
things
are
peaceful
protected.
justendless
a twistycaverns,
stream. and tells us a little bit about the
gardensoften
around
the
palace.language to illustrate simple
Coleridge
uses
beautiful
Everything about this place feels safe and
underlying
concepts.
happy.
"fertile,"
the gardens
arestrange
TheIt's
contrast
between
the scary,
"bright,"
smellfamiliar
good
cavernseven
andthe
thetrees
pleasant,
space around the palace is striking
chasm which slanted
But oh! that deep romantic chasm
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover !
A savage place ! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon lover!
Maybe a ghost, since she haunts the place. Maybe she has been
cursed, or has had a spell cast on her, and she has fallen in love
The
riverTypical
falls like
cascade
downliterature.
thechanges
side of and
Note
the
poet,
adding
theathe
word
"demon“,
with how
an evil
spirit.
of
Romantic
one
hill,
cutting
aAlph,
"deep
chasm,"
oracanyon,
Back
to the
riverwas
is for
beginning
deepens this
image.
If she
justwhich
wailing
plain to
old "lover,"
Thewould
speaker
isn't
saying
anysoofstrange
these
things
are there in the
through
it. not
seem
almost
likethat
a character
in this
that
be sad,
but
nearly
andpoem
exciting.
poem; he's saying that this is the kind of place where they would
be atspeaker
home. is very excited when he talks about the river as all
The
those exclamations points suggest.
The speaker is using them to let us know just
how romantic and spooky the chasm really is.
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
reboundinghail,
hail
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding
similes
Or chaffy
chaffy grain
grain beneath the thresher's flail:
And `mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
One reading of the poem:
river isdome=
not seen
as something
TheThe
pleasure
imagination
and poetry
but asnegative
something
that( is
created
Thecontinuous,
natural world=
reality
savage
place)
each moment.
in contrast
with the world produced by imagination
The mighty fountain= the poetic power
alliteration
Five m iles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
measureless to
to man,
man,
Then reached the caverns measureless
lifelessocean:
ocean
And sank in tumult to a lifeless
First we have an image of the river rushing down a deep canyon cut into a
Here we see the caverns again, described in exactly the same
woodedThe
hillside.
The water
is moving
fast
and reproduces
furious,
almost
like a
Different
words,
idea.
murmuring
sound
ofsame
these
words
the lazy,
way: "measureless
to man."
Thegloomy
repetition
of this phrase
waterfall;
the river then
flattens
outriver
andatturns
into
a proper
flowing
slow-moving
feeling
of the
this home
moment
in sense
theriver,
poem
emphasizes
their
importance
and drives
their
of
gently through Xanadu for five miles until it reaches some "caverns.”
mystery and depth.
The other settings in the poem tend to be active and alive. The
forest is took
sunny,
river
is noisy,
the he's
dometaking
is warm,
even again,
the caves
The speaker
us the
up to
peak,
and now
us down
circling
deep
and spooky
icy. Theimages
ocean,that
however
is the
justpoem.
an empty,
open reaches
space. now
backare
to the
quiet,
started
The river
It might
make
think
a little
bit of the
Underworld, a place where
the flat
plain of
the us
valley
where
Xanadu
is located.
things simply end.
And `mid this tumult KubIa heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
This is Genghis Khan's grandson, after all, so he probably
spent aThis
lot of
time
thinking
warfrom
or….the river, and
new
image
takesabout
us away
into the even wilder second half of the poem.
......the ancestral voices symbolize the voice from the rational
world,a menace against the miracle of art ,that is the peaceful
world created by Kubla Khan.
The “walls and towers” built by Kubla Khan could not
even protect himself from the outer world, suggesting
that imagination is only a temporary relief from reality.
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
ice!
A sunny pleasure dome with caves of ice!
There's a whole world of contrasts between the dome and the
caverns: Natural vs. man-made, symmetrical and irregular, sunny
The reflection of the dome on the water might allude
and frozen.
to thegives
Platonic
conception
material
realityclashing
as
This is what
the poem
a lot ofof
itsthe
energy:
opposites
by light
fromkind
the world
of Ideas (see
togethershadows
and thencast
making
a weird
of harmony.
Plato's cavern). In this way Kubla's dome would be the
Kubla Khan's
pleasure-dome
is the
central
structure
thesea
poem.
perfect
idea of poetic
creation
projected
oninthe
of With
its combination
of sacred and profane, of natural and artificial elements,
appearances.
it represents first of all that reconciliation of opposites, of the many into
one, which Coleridge considered the task of poetic imagination. The
poet's energy should therefore be directed to the creation of the "dome"
like Kubla's
2 part: Oniric vision of the poet
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
For example,
where and
what
is Mt.
Abora?
Without
any warning,
the
speaker
changes
subject.
sudden
change
from
3°the
to 1°
person He starts to
Some people
think
theIspeaker
is referring
describe
another
vision
that
had. to a real place in Ethiopia,
=the he
poetonce
some
biblical
reference,
andthree
others
tie itabout
to a place
that
Milton
In
thisthink
visionit's
heasees
a girl.
He tells us
things
her, in
three
mentions in Paradise Lost.
lines:
YouShe
could
ask
the same questions
theofother
parts
of this vision.
1)
was
Abyssinian
(that's an about
old way
saying
Ethiopian).
WhyShe
is she
Ethiopia,
what (an
doesinstrument
the dulcimer
symbolize?
2)
wasfrom
playing
a dulcimer
with
strings).
In one
all dreams
anda visions
are private,
and(a
they
can't
be
3)
Shesense
was singing
about
place called
Mt. Abora
name
that
completely
explained.
That sense of mystery is part of what makes this
Coleridge
made up).
poem beautiful.
How can we interpret these lines?
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight `twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
If he could revive that music then he would be able to create the
perfect work of art: the pleasure-dome that Kubla had ordered
Nowbethe
speaker
lookstoback
on the
the spiritual
powerfulquality
music he
heard
would
built
"in air",
signify
of the
poetic
in that unifying
vision. the opposites — "That sunny dome! those
creation,
He of
can
describe
us, but he can't
get back
to
caves
ice!"
— inita to
harmonious
wholereally
in natural
adherence
to
that intense
theexperiencing
music from which
it tookfeeling
its origin.
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave
Weaveaacircle
circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honeydew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
The figure represented is characterised by flashing eyes which might
have
a blinding
effect
on
humans
, floating
hair, isand
finally,
by the
The poet
portrayed
by
the
last
lines
of
the
poem
the
prophet-bard,
The
second
act is
to close
your
eyes
The speaker
demands
of the
reader
or listener
to with
perform
acts
of
assumption
that
he
on
honey-dew
[has]
fed
And
drunk
the milk
ofthe
who was to become
popular
in
the
Romantic
Age,
different
from
holy
i.e. with
fear
towards
afirst act,
great reverence
ordread,
fear entitled
towards
this
figure:
the
Paradise;
thus
he
has
been
to
share
the
privileges
of which
gods
(for
the
common human beings
for
his
prophetic
qualities,
feared
by
them
superhuman
being.
reminds
of
symbolic
gestures
performed
during a religious or magic
ancient
gods'
consuming
ambrosia
and nectar).
his insight into the divine.
conjuration or incantation, is to weave a circle round him thrice.
A person from Porlock
?
Improbabilities in Coleridge's story
1934
a manuscript was discovered with significant variants
?
Coleridge spent a good deal of time revising it before publication
Purchas. His pilgrimage (1613) a rare and very large volume
?
he could hardly have taken with him to a lonely farmhouse
Why did he invent this story?
1
Coleridge seems to have had an intense desire to be seen as
an instinctive, spontaneous poet, who composed without
difficulty;
In fact, he took enormous pains over his poems, and wrote so little,
according to Wordsworth, because of the labour that writing cost him.
2
Another possibility is that he was aware that his
contemporaries would find the poem meaningless — it
tells no story, and consists only of a series of exotic and
apparently unrelated images.
Thus he invented the story of unconscious composition as a defence
against the charge of writing non-sense
What does it mean then?
It is unknown whether the poem was meant to have a particular meaning.
1
It is possible that Coleridge wanted the individual reader to use
his/her own imagination to reach an interpretation of it.
2
The poem could be about language:
"Alph, the sacred river" is the river of language . This river springs from
underground, from the unconscious, and the magical pleasure dome built
where the river runs represents poetry.
3
The poem could be about the two different kinds of
imagination that Coleridge distinguished in his criticism.
Kubla's palace is the product of the decorative 'fancy', whereas the river, which
bursts irresistibly from underground represents the true poetic imagination, an
irresistible, even dangerous force.
Thank you
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