Coleridge, Kubla Kan, Analysis

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COLERIDGE: Kubla Khan

Coleridge worked out an own theory of imagination, which can be divided into a Primary one, in other words the faculty by which we perceive the external world, and a Secondary one, which regards the faculty that a poet has to idealize. Fancy is instead inferior to it, because it’s just a logical faculty which enables the poet to associate metaphors or other poetical devices. In fact it’s the imagination that allows the poet to transcend the data of experience and, in this way, to create. All this is well expressed in Kubla Khan. Its genesis, if what is written in its preface is true, is in itself weird, as when he wrote it he was reading a passage about Kublai Khan under the effects of opium, prescribed to him as a medical treatment. But even if this weren’t true, this preface still remains important since it can be read as a manifesto on the working of the poetic mind, and gives us the idea of the suspension of disbelief for the moment, which, according to Coleridge, is the only way to enjoy his poetry. The plot of these 54 lines is the construction, ordered by Kubla Khan, of an impressive palace, to be built where the holy river Alph runs. From a fountain, under the hill, the sacred river breaks to the surface, and in the tumult Kubla hears ancestral voices that prophesise war. The vision of the perfect balance of the palace is that of a sunny pleasure-dome, with the music of a dulcimer played by a damsel, the poet would be able to build that dome in air, while the multitude would be fascinated at the thought that he has eaten honey-dew and drunk the milk of Paradise. The poem can be divided into two parts: the first one describes the palace and the ground around it, while the second one portraits about an Abyssinian girl playing a dulcimer. The result is that the first lines convey to an impression of freshness and pleasure, as well as those of the last part, while the central lines, convey a sense of anguish and...
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