Kubla Khan- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
|'The Source of the Sacred River' by Albert Goodwin|
Kubla Khan or A Vision in a Dream was written in 1798. It is a poem that uses intricate language to portray a vision or dream that Coleridge had. Coleridge claimed that the poem was written in an opium-induced haze. While Coleridge slept, he had fantastic vision and composed it instantly after he awoke from his sleep.
Kubla Khan is a man of great power; bearing the title of an Asian ruler. Kubla lives in a place called Xandu. Xanadu is a synonym for "paradise" or "utopia". The land is described with lush fields, gardens and forests. Kubla Khan wants to build a place of freedom and relaxation called the "stately pleasure-dome." The landscape surrounding Kubla's domain is wild and untamed, covered by forests and cut by sacred Alphs River. Coleridge then describes a deep crack in the earth, hidden under a grove of dense trees. Here the poem shifts from balance and tranquility to disturbance.
The next part shows the savage and violence of life outside of the “pleasure dome.” It describes nature and images of evil and war mixed together. Coleridge gives description of a violent eruption. Coleridge uses images such as the palace was haunted by a woman wailing for her demon lover. This image of a woman bound to evil brings out the dark side of light with only the “waning moon” to hear her cry.
Coleridge then changes the topic and tells us about a vision or dream he once had. In this vision or dream, he saw a maiden playing a dulcimer (a stringed instrument) singing about a mountain. Coleridge has become so moved by the music that he wished he could revive it. He imagines that his vision has become so real that it can actually scare people, and make them cry out “Beware, Beware!” There are images of two women in the poem and they are a direct contrast to each other, one representing evil, and the Abyssinian maid exotic and beautiful.
Xanadu symbolizes the Garden of Eden; it is lovely and innocent, surrounded by evil and the constant threat of destruction. Coleridge, having “drank the milk of Paradise” depicts how badly he wants to return to the utopia. Kubla Khan is one of the oddest poems I have read by far. I enjoyed the intense image and mysterious descriptions of Coleridge writing style.