Romantic period analysis
The beauty of nature and its ability to set you free, the powers of imagination, individuality and a rebellion to tyranny are some of the ideas the romantic period brought to society’s attention. While rejecting neoclassical views of order, reason, tradition, society and formal diction. Romanticism allowed people to get away from the constrained rational views of life and concentrate on an emotional and sentimental side of humanity. The definition of poetry by William Wordsworth, (an important poet of the romantic period) exemplifies the importance of emotion and the individual, stating “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” It was the publication of a collection of poems by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge called lyrical ballads that pushed the Romantic period forward. One of Coleridge’s more popular poems called Kubla Khan represents the romantic period well, the name referring to the ancient Mongol emperor. The first half of the poem is a vivid description of a fantasy place in the fictional land of Xanadu. The pleasure-dome is what he referred to it as, “where ALPH, the sacred river, ran through caverns measureless to man down to a sunless sea.” (Coleridge 670) He then goes on to describe miles of fertile ground, gardens bright, and forests as ancient as the hills. Generally a very pleasant place, until he mentions a strange chasm on the side of a hill, surrounded by cedar trees. This chasm is a “savage” place, “as holy and enchanted” as any place that was ever “haunted by a woman wailing for her Demon Lover” (Coleridge 670). Within this haunted cavern, there are all kinds of turmoil– to illustrate; Coleridge compares this to if the Earth itself were heavily panting for breath. From this savage place in the hill, a geyser of some kind shoots up, things are so chaotic that the River Alph itself changes course and instead runs through the forests, but reaching the same destination in the end, the Lifeless Ocean in the measureless caverns.
Then the speaker says, “In a vision once I saw...” and begins to tell of an Abyssinian maid who played her dulcimer (a fretted, plucked musical instrument) and sang “of Mount Abora.” Unfortunately, he’s forgotten her song, he says that if he could revive “her symphony and song” within him, he would build the pleasure dome in the air. That is, he’d construct some kind of floating city or paradise, ice-caves and everything. This would be visible to everyone who heard the song, and all that audience would be so astounded by the sheer wonder of it all, they’d be downright terrified by it, thinking the narrator some kind of wizard or vampire or demon (Alexander). Coleridge had taken opium briefly before composing this poem; he said “all the images rose up before him as things, with a parallel production of the correspondent expressions, without any sensation or conscious effort.” (http://www.sparknotes.com/) People during the romantic period greatly emphasized the importance of nature and the primal feelings of awe, favoring unrestrained imagination and taking opium is a definite way to release ‘unrestrained imagination’. Kubla Khan is not a poem about Mongol emperors or man-made utopias, the entire first four verses are a very complicated illustrative device. The first three stanzas are products of pure imagination, thus the bulk of the poem only serves to emphasize and reemphasize just how incredible and unbelievable the vision was, and reiterate the beauty and feelings of awe he experienced from the idea of the ‘pleasure dome’ and nature itself. He means to escape in this way from reality and I think he touches on his view of reality when he says “then reached the caverns measureless to man, and sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean.” Expressing the idea that even though the river changes its course and floods the land, the water ends up in the same lifeless ocean.
The urge to escape...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document