Critical Analysis of Kubla Khan by S.T. Coleridge

Topics: Kubla Khan, Kublai Khan, Samuel Taylor Coleridge Pages: 5 (1616 words) Published: September 14, 2004
In the poem Kubla Khan by Samuel Coleridge, language is used to convey images from Coleridge's imagination. This is done with the use of vocabulary, imagery, structure, use of contrasts, rhythm and sound devices such as alliteration and assonance.

By conveying his imagination by using language, the vocabulary used by Coleridge is of great importance. The five lines of the poem Kubla Khan sound like a chant or incantation, and help suggest mystery and supernatural themes of the poem. Another important theme of the poem is that of good versus evil. The vocabulary used throughout the poem helps convey these themes in images to the reader. In the first two lines, Coleridge describes the 'pleasure dome' in Xanadu. In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree Kubla Khan did not merely order, but decree that a 'stately pleasure dome' be built. This dome is evidence of how unnatural the place of Xanadu is, it has a ruler who ignores the unpleasantness that can be found in life.

The use of vocabulary challenges and teases the imagination into seeing what he, Coleridge saw in his dream. In Xanadu, there are not small streams, but 'sinuous rills' and wall and towers do not enclose the gardens but are 'girdled round'. Coleridge's use of language and vocabulary helps to convey the extent of his imagination.

In the poem Kubla Khan, imagery is also important for Coleridge to convey his imagination to the reader. There are images of paradise throughout the poem that are combined with references to darker, more evil places. On example of this is the 'demon lover' that has bewitched the woman. Coleridge's image of the 'dome of pleasure' is mystical, contradicting the restrictions of realism. Xanadu is also a savage and ancient place where pure good and pure evil are much more apparent than in the monotony of everyday living. By using images, Coleridge conveys the extent of his imagination to readers.

The structure of Kubla Khan is really in two parts. The first, which contains three stanzas, describes Xanadu as if Coleridge is actually there, experiencing the place first hand. The second part of the poem is filled with longing to be in Xanadu, but Coleridge is unable to capture the experience again.

The first stanza has a definite rhythm and beat and describes the beauty and sacredness of Xanadu with rich, sensual and exotic images. The second stanza depicts the savage and untamed violence of life outside of the pleasure dome. The disorder and primitive cycles of nature are mixed with images of evil and the threat of war is also introduced in the second stanza. In the third stanza, the life forces are entwined together to prove that beauty and danger cannot be separated from each other, despite what the ruler Kubla Khan wants. Kubla Khan is a self-portrayal by Coleridge who believes that it is he who controls the land of Xanadu. A sunny pleasure dome with caves of ice.

The dome itself is a contrast with sun and ice, the sun symbolising all things good and the ice symbolising death and destruction.

There is a definite change of tone between the third and fourth stanzas. The fourth stanza no longer describes Xanadu, but Coleridge's desire for control over his imagination, to be able to re-conjure the feelings and ideas of Xanadu. The two parts may initially seem unconnected, but the ideas in both parts of the poem link these sections together by showing that even the ruler cannot have control over the forces of nature, and the writer over his imagination.

Both parts of the poem deal with the attempt to create: Kubla Khan has built a pleasure dome and Coleridge is trying to use language to recreate the perfection of his dream with words. The poem is conveyed to the reader with the use of language and the structuring of the poem plays an important part in this.

In the poem Kubla Khan, Coleridge uses contrasts in the images he presents to his audience. Xanadu is idyllic, but also 'savage'. This "savage place"...
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