Kubla Khan Analysis and Summary

Kubla Khan by Coleridge who was one of the forerunners of the Romantic movement of the 19th century is also a poem that serves as a vehicle to most of the features that exemplify the spirit of Romanticism. The very theme of the poem, romantic imagination and poetical creation is the root of the Romantic Movement and the series of sensuous images and supernatural elements that shrouds this theme strengthens Kubla Khan’s claim as a brilliant romantic poem.

Like other pieces of Romantic poetry, even Coleridge’s Kubla Khan is characterized by heightened imagination. The word-pictures of Kubla’s exotic pleasure resort and the locales of Xanadu painted in the poem through sensuous descriptions such as ‘gardens bright with sinuous rills’, incense-bearing trees and ancient forests enfolding ‘sunny spots of greenery”,  revives the marvel of medieval mysticism. Such vivid pictures are the true artistic product of Coleridge’s unparalleled imaginative forces.

This poem showcases Coleridge’s acute sensibility which enables him to add strangeness to beauty which is another trait of Romantic poetry. Thus the process of the bursting forth of a fountain from the womb of a chasm has been described in such astonishing details and with such beautiful poetic expressions such as ‘swift half-intermitted burst’, ‘rebounding hail’ and ‘chaffy grains beneath the thresher’s flail”, “dancing rocks” , that this wonderful emergence of the fountain becomes a strange and mesmerizing phenomena.

Such uninhibited flow of the fountain stands for the untamed condition of the poet’s thoughts as they have not been tinctured by the norms of classicism. This image is the symbol of the ‘spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions’ of Romantic poetry in the true sense.

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Romantic poets liked to enrich their works of art with vivid imagery and their subsequent symbolic ramifications which is present abundantly in Kubla Khan. The picture of the surreal chasm which symbolizes the mysterious country of the poet’s mind – “That deep romantic chasm which slanted down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover! is an important example along with the image of “ A sunny pleasure dome with caves of ice” which stands for the esemplastic powers of Romantic imagination. These images are indeed “a miracle of rare device” made possible by the romantic genius of Coleridge.

Another feature of Romantic poetry is the strong current of super-naturalism that flows through the poem and it reaches its peaks when Coleridge adds the presence of the “Woman wailing for her demon lover”, the Abyssinian maid playing dulcimer on Mount Abora and the shamanic dancer who is actually a poet locked in creational frenzy.

The hint of a Romantic revolt is also indicated through the “Ancient voices prophesying war” echoed by the sacred river of Romantic poetry in the poem. Besides, the message that the poem puts forth – “the birth of Romantic imagination and its astonishing powers of an esemplastic union and poetic creation” is a highly idealized one.

Like all Romantic poems, Kubla Khan has rich musical qualities. The subtleties of rhythm and rhyme of the poem cast a deep poetic impact on the readers.

Thus we see that Coleridge has endowed his master-piece Kubla Khan, with heightened imagination, sensitivity, extravagant imagery, symbolic ramifications, super-natural elements, idealistic message and musical qualities making it one of the most artistic fruits of the Romantic Movement.

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