Kubla Khan

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Kubla Khan

The poem begins with a fanciful description of Kublai Khan's capital Xanadu, which Coleridge places near the river Alph, which passes through caverns before reaching a dark or dead sea. Although the land is one of man-made "pleasure", there is a natural, "sacred" river that runs past it. The lines describing the river have a markedly different rhythm from the rest of the passage:[29] In Xanadu did Kubla Khan

A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea. (lines 1–5)
The land is constructed as a paradisical garden, but like Eden after Man's fall, Xanadu is isolated by walls. The finite properties of the constructed walls of Xanadu are contrasted with the infinite properties of the natural caves through which the river runs. So twice five miles of fertile ground

With walls and towers were girdled round:
And here were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery. (lines 6–11)
The poem expands on the gothic hints of the first stanza as the narrator explores the dark chasm in the midst of Xanadu's gardens, and describes the surrounding area as both "savage" and "holy". Yarlott interprets this chasm as symbolic of the poet struggling with decadence that ignores nature.[52] It may also represent the dark side of the soul, the dehumanizing effect of power and dominion. 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! (lines 12–16)
From the dark chasm a fountain violently erupts, then forms the meandering river Alph, which runs to the sea described in the first stanza. Fountains are often symbolic...
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