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Wild Imagination of Nature in Samuel Coleridge’s Kubla Khan

The primary aim of this paper is to translate and discuss Kubla Khan's poem. The speaker's imagination of nature and its wildness was central to the poem. The literary instruments simile and metaphor were used in every line of the poem to illustrate the speaker's obsession with nature. Furthermore, the aim of this paper is to bring to light the other side of nature, which includes a sense of risk.
Nature and Imagination
Samuel Coleridge wrote Kubla Khan after taking the opioid morphine and falling into a deep sleep (Mahar 2). In this poem, Coleridge’s dreams were highlighted and since he was under the influence of opium, he was able to imagine certain scenarios that were quite unrealistic or non-existent. Somehow Coleridge’s wild imagination was exemplified in the identity of Kubla Khan.

Kubla Khan’s fantasy-filled world was depicted in the following phrases of Coleridge’s poem,

“A stately pleasure-dome decree, Where Alph, the sacred river, ran through caverns measureless to man.” (Lines 2-4)

The speaker’s fascination with regard to nature and its wonders were profoundly described in Kubla Khan. Nevertheless, what appears to be different with the description of nature in this poem is how the speaker was able to describe it in a manner that entails danger and wildness. Such aspects were depicted in the following lines:

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted

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!

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

Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,

Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:

And ‘mid these dancing rocks at once and ever

It flung up momently the sacred river (12-24).

It is apparent that the first half of Kubla Khan was written from a feministic point of view as depicted also in line 16, and it somehow was interrupted in line 24 with the mention of a “sacred river”. The opposing male and female forces in this poem are somewhat similar to the description of nature in another viewpoint. People are used to the idea of nature’s beauty, tranquility and nurturing power, yet in Kubla Khan it was presented in a different manner. Nature as depicted in the second half of the poem, displays a sense of wildness and risk, and the strength of Kubla Khan as an explorer puts nature back to its characteristic calmness.

Nevertheless, there is a sudden change from the third person to the first person point of view toward the last few lines of the poem. Somehow, it can be deduced that the speaker has already waken up from his dream and at some point, regrets that he was not able to remember some parts of it. This can be depicted in the following lines,

 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.   Could I revive within me    Her symphony and song,    To such a deep delight ’twould win me (37-44)

At this point, it can be deduced that Kubla Khan partly revolved on the dream and eventually on the speaker’s realization with regard to the disappearance of certain scenes from his dream.

Conclusion

Despite the fact that Coleridge himself was under the influence of opium, his wild sense of imagination through his dreams led to the creation of Kubla Khan as one of his most popular literary works. Toward the last lines of the poem, it was evident that the use of Kubla Khan as a mythical figure contributed to the manner in which the speaker was able to convey his thoughts about the wonders and dangers of nature.

Works Cited

Coleridge, Samuel. Kubla Khan. New York: Bedford St. Martins. 2013, selections from pp. 484-485, “Literature: A Portable Anthology”

Mahar, Karen. Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan”: Creation of Genius or Addiction? Lethbridge

Undergraduate Research Journal. 2007, pp. 1-7

September 11, 2021

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