Kubla Kahn by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Explication

Topics: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Kubla Khan, Kublai Khan Pages: 6 (2362 words) Published: December 17, 2012
Explication n°4 : “Kubla Khan »

Kubla Khan, one of the most famous poem of English literature, is written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1797 and was published in Christabel, Kubla Khan, and the Pains of Sleep in 1816. Kubla Khan is one of the most important poem of Coleridge and, according to the preface of the book, he wrote it during the time that he passed in a farm house between Porlock and Linton in England. Because of the opium that he had taken - prescribed to him to cure dysentery, Coleridge felt asleep when he was reading a story about Kubla Khan, which led to his dream and his poem. Coleridge said that, while he was asleep, “images rose up before him as things, with a parallel production of the correspondent expressions”. When he woke up, he kept the clear and accurate memories of what he had just seen in his dream and immediately started writing a poem from it. Unfortunately, he was interrupted by an inhabitant of the town, “A person from Porlock” who interfered with his process of writing. No one knows who he was or why he had disturbed Coleridge but the person from Porlock became an expression which is now used to refer to an unwanted person who interrupts the process of inspiration. Because of this visit, Coleridge forgot almost everything of the dream he had as the preface says “all the rest had passed away like the images on the surface of a stream into which a stone has been cast, but, alas! Without the after restoration of the latter”. At the first reading, we understand that the poem talks about the mongol emperor Kubilaï Khan, creator of the Yuan dynasty, and his summer palace in Shangdu - Coleridge calls it Xanadu. Then, we get the impression that the poem presents the theme of the powerless and fragility of writing. Through the dream, we notice the problem of imagination and the result on the paper, the problem of the gap between what he dreamed of and what he wrote. Coleridge, in this poem, exploits the theme of the fantastic, strange and romanticism. It is composed of four stanzas. The first, from l.1 to l.11 is a description of the setting, the landscape, the paradise created by Kubla Khan; the second, from l.12 to l.30, presents the powerful and magical part of the land; the third, from l.31 to l.36, appears as the climax of the poem, the end of the creation; and finally, the fourth focuses on the loss of inspiration and the desire of a revival of inspiration. Thus we can divide the poem into two parts : the first two stanzas where he compares his inspiration to a “sacred river” which creates an imaginary paradise and the last two stanzas where he explains his loss of inspiration and his desires to regain his creativity. Thus, we will explain how this poem presents the difficulty, the dilemma in the process of inspiration that leads to writing. Our analysis will first introduce the representation of nature throughout the poem. Then, we will tackle the representation of poetic inspiration. Our third part will focus on the ephemeral aspect of this inspiration.

First of all, throughout the poem, we perceive Xanadu as an imaginary “Paradise” (l.54). In the first stanza, the narrator presents the setting. He describes the landscape of Xanadu from the vision that he had. He presents Xanadu as a “Paradise” (l.54), an utopia such as the garden of Eden. Coleridge mentions the presence of “gardens” (l.8), “forests” (l.10) and “caverns” (l.27). In addition, the narrator precises that the landscape in Xanadu is very fertile and bountiful by using expressions such as “fertile ground” (l.6) and “gardens bright” (l.8). Coleridge also says that Kubla Khan wants to create through this world a “stately pleasure-dome” (l.2). Coleridge invents this world to picture a place of relaxation and peace where no one has responsibilities or preoccupations, thus like the garden of Eden. Still in the first stanza, “And here were gardens bright” (l.8) , “And here were forests ancient as the hills” (l.10) are...
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