Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Coleridge is a Romantic visionary poet, similar to Blake, a critic and a philosopher. He starts from the ideal to produce a sense of truth. The main form of inspiration of Romanticism is mythology, mysterious histories, the Bible, legends…
The poetry of Coleridge communicates a sense of the mysterious; it focuses on the supernatural world. Coleridge and Wordsworth shared the fundamental aim of bringing poetry to the rhythms of everyday language. At Wordsworth’s suggestion Coleridge wrote the most famous of his works: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798), an allegoric and symbolic poem which explorers the theme of guilt. He also composed Kubla Khan, a poem set in a magical exotic landscape. It was a fragment of a powerful vision. Coleridge wished to extend his senses and inductions as far as possible.
Kubla KhanKubla Khan is a symbolic poem, in facts there are a lot of symbols. Kubla Khan, which is the name of an ancient Chinese emperor, suggests an idea of an exotic place/atmosphere, a legendary time and something mysterious.
The first two lines of the poem reproduce exactly the first lines of the book that Coleridge was reading when he was travelling, called “Pilgrimage”.
The first part (first two stanzas) describes the setting of the place where Kubla Khan ordered to build the pleasure-dome/ the pleasure-dome and the area around it. This area is circle and 5 miles of fertile ground. There are also gardens, forests, incense trees, so luxurious vegetation. The sacred river and huge rocks emerge from the fountain of the chasm.
Ancestral voices prophesying war echo lines 3 to 5. The poet uses the word “decreeto underline the power of Kubla Khan. The decree was availed in fact there is a very detailed description.
In the poem lots of exotic words are used to describe a sort of mysterious and unreal place. The River Alph (sacred river) of the poem takes inspiration to mythology, as the caverns which take inspiration to Plato. Plato is the philosopher whose ideas influenced the main ideas of Romanticism: what you see is only the shadow of the reality, you must go beyond the sensorial experience to get in touch with the truth. Coleridge in this poem is using these ideas.
River Alph goes down to the sunless sea.
Opposites coexist: light- darkness, sacred-profane, natural-artificial.
• Fountain/river = poet’s inspiration (powerful but irregular).
• Chasm= deep recesses of human mind / subconscious
From the chasm emerge the river: all the poem is a metaphor of the CREATIVE POWER Imagination
• Pleasure-dome = reconciliation of opposites.
Ideal /perfect/ sacred place, created by following imagination.
Round = perfect
The dome is built on air, it is a spiritual creation.
The second part of the poem insists on the vision (prophet’s bard) that the poet had when he was dreaming, then he was interrupted because someone knocked the door. The poem is a fragment of a vision.
The music reminds Wordsworth’s working making precepts! with the music the poet would be able to create a work of art, something important and original, having the same characteristics of the dome. = individualism (expression of his own emotions and feelings)
Through imagination the poet goes beyond reality and gets in touch with the divine (last lines).
The result of the vision is the creation of a work of art, similar to the pleasure-dome. People can see what he has created which is extraordinary and consider the poet as a divine /frightening/ mysterious creature. He has seen a vision of heaven ad described it/ brought it back to earth.
In the second part of the poem the poet is speaking and he remembers the vision of an abyssal girl playing a dulcimer and singing. Thought this vision the poet wants to create a sense of peace, harmony and perfection.
The poet and Kubla Khan are similar because of their power.