KUBLA KHAN or A VISION IN A DREAM
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE - 1797/1798
This visionary poem is one of the most famous poems of the Romantic Period. A manuscript copy of COLERIDGE'S "fragmentary vision" is a permanent exhibit at the British Museum (London).
The poem contrasts a man-made, earthly paradise, which proves unable to resist demonic forces and is doomed to be annihilated, with a "true" form of Paradise.
This theme is connected with the themes of the "commanding genius" and the "absolute genius"[BEER, p. 165; see BIBLIOGRAPHY] Kubla aspires to break eternal rules by decreeing heaven on earth, whereas the reign of the dominating figure of the last part of the poem is a legitimate and lasting one and remains unchallenged by dark powers.
"How far drugs contributed to the calling up of dreamlike and nightmarish atmospheres" [BLAMIRES, p. 281] is a question frequently raised in connection with this poetic vision (cf modern "psychedelic art").
I hope the detailed analysis given below will appeal to lovers of esoteric literature and music, and will be of academic use for students & teachers of English, music and arts. Teachers may use this and my other material as a basis for interdisciplinary project work. When quoting from this page please make reference to it
Hans Juergen Matthias Schroeder, Duelmen, Germany, 2003-2004
> A MULTI-
lines of the
facts and tales
PART 1 comprises
a detailed analysis of
themes, motifs & words
within a paraphrase
of the original text
> PART 2
point of view
PART 1: THEMES, WORDS, MEANING
organisational structure / division of the poem
SECTION I paradise decreed
(1-5) an introduction - the ruler, the place, the decree
(6-11) fulfilment of the decree
SECTION II "the demonic re-asserts itself" [BEER, p. 165] (12-16) spot of mystery - the woman and the demon's rendezvous (17-24) eruption and (25-28) a flow of lava etc. - paradise lost (29-30) war prophecies
SECTION III considerations
(31-36) images of a waning paradise - evaluation
SECTION IV "vision of paradise regained" [BEER, p. 165]
(37- 43) a heavenly maid with a zither
(42-43) lingering impression
(44-54) a visionary concept of a "true" paradise
explanation of lexemes / paraphrase of the text
(1) Title: Kubla Khan is a man of great power, bearing the title of an Asian ruler (see background; also for information on the subtitle).
(1-5) Kubla's resides in Xanadu, a place, town, area, country, etc. of great natural beauty and of mystery (s.b). According to his decree (a sovereign's formal order) a pleasure dome is built, i.e. a large vaulting edifice providing room for all kinds of physical, mental etc. enjoyment (see background). Both the dome and the decree are stately (meanings: grand in size, style etc.; formal or ceremonious). The central element of an "underground scenery" is Alph (associations: Alpha = first letter of the Greek alphabet; according to mythological speculations, the beginning of life and language, "Eden", was located in Abyssinia; Alpheus = the classical underground river; [cf KERMODE et al, VOL. II, p. 256; cf BACKGROUND], the sacred river. The Latin origin of the word sacred has two meanings: sacer = 'holy' or 'connected with a god of the underworld', i.e. 'cursed'; the surroundings of the river perhaps suit the second meaning best: at least a considerable stretch of the river runs underground, through caverns (caves etc.) of measureless, "superhuman" dimensions, i.e. of expanses which man (human skill or the...
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