Calls of Romance in Coleridge’s Kubla Khan

kublakhanST Coleridge is one of the few poets who I admire most – not because of his a couple of poems but because of his life-like dedication to create a whole new romantic world in each poem. More than anything else, it is a recurring motif throughout Coleridge’s poetry that underlines the power of dreams and of the imagination, such as in “Frost at Midnight,” “Dejection: An Ode,” and “Christabel.” In “Discovery and the Domestic Affections in Coleridge and Shelley,” Michelle Levy explains that Coleridge’s “fascination with the unknown reflects a larger cultural obsession of the Romantic period” (694).

But Coleridge’s ‘Kubla Khan’ is one of most elusive poems I’ve ever read. The poem casts the spell on the reader through the magical imagery whose craftsman was Coleridge’s mind. He created the most fantastical world which none of his romantic counterparts could. According to information available, Coleridge wrote the poem following an opium-influenced dream. Through this poem, Coleridge explores the depths of dreams and creates landscapes that do not exist in reality. The “sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice” illustrates the extreme fantasy of the world in which Kubla Khan lives. Without further ado, it is time to revisit the best romantic poem:

Kubla Khan
BY SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE

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.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there 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.

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!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean;
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

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