Sometimes, a poem is celebrated not for the story it tells, but for how it is told. Some poems are famous simply because of the way they are told: the elaborate, vivid language used to describe places and sights. “Kubla Khan or A Vision in a Dream” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge is one such poem. Written in 1798, it is a poem that uses intricate language to portray a vision or dream that Coleridge had. Coleridge claimed that the poem was written in an opium-induced haze, which is something that can be implied by the poem’s subtitle, A Vision in a Dream.
This poem is essentially about nothing; it is enthralling due to its language and feeling rather than any specific message. The lines of the poem Kubla Khan sound like a chant and helps suggest mystery, supernatural, and mystical themes. The language used is expressive enough that you can yourself envision the place Coldridge dreamed of. It is a lyrical poem in four stanzas, told in iambic pentameter. In the first two lines, Coleridge describes the “pleasure dome” in Xanadu. In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree Kubla Khan did not merely order, but decree that a “stately pleasure dome” be built.
This dome is evidence of how unnatural or unreal the place of Xanadu is it has a ruler who ignores the unpleasantness that can be found in life. He uses his vocabulary to challenge and tease the imagination into seeing what he saw in his dream. In Xanadu, there are not small streams, but “sinuous rills” and wall and towers do not enclose the gardens but are girdled round’. Coleridge’s use of language helps to convey and interrupt the extent of his imagination. In the poem Kubla Khan, imagery is also important for Coleridge to show his imagination to the reader.
There are images of paradise throughout the poem that are combined with references to darker, more evil places such as hell. On example of this is the “demon lover” that has bewitched the woman. Coleridge’s image of the “dome of pleasure” is mystical, contradicting the restrictions of realism. The structure of Kubla Khan is really in two parts. The first, describes Xanadu as if Coleridge is actually there, experiencing the place first hand. The second part of the poem is filled with longing and a strong want to be in Xanadu, but Coleridge is unable to capture the experience again.
It begins with a definite rhythm and beat and describes the beauty of Xanadu with rich and strong images. The second part is that it depicts the violence of life outside of the pleasure dome and even mentions the threat of war. It is proven that beauty and danger cannot be separated from each other, despite what the ruler Kubla Khan wants. The fourth stanza is when the poem no longer describes Xanadu, but Coleridge’s desire for control over his imagination, to be able to recall the feelings and ideas of Xanadu. This shows that even the ruler cannot have control over the forces of nature, and the writer over his imagination.
Both parts of the poem deal with the attempt to create. Kubla Khan has built a pleasure dome and Coleridge is trying to use language to recreate the perfection of his dream with words. Coleridge was a very religious man and the poem is filled with references to God and other related ideas. Xanadu symbolizes the Garden of Eden, and how it is beautiful and innocent, surrounded by evil and the constant threat of destruction. Coleridge describes the river as “sacred” many times throughout the poem, and to Xanadu as “holy and enchanted. The demons described are closely related to witchcraft and the closing lines of Kubla Khan describe pagan rituals. Those rituals try to protect not only the reader, but also Coleridge himself from the forces of evil and the extent of his imagination. On the whole the poem presents a conjunction of pleasure and sacredness. At the end of the poem the poet is himself regarded as a holy and sacred person, a seer acquainted with the mystery of life, with his flashing eyes and waving hair, he is considered fed of the dew and honey and is believed to drink the milk of paradise.
In the light of the above we can safely say that the poem is replete with all the qualities of Coleridge’s poetry and is a living embodiment of supernaturalism, element of mystery, fertile imagination, dream quality, medievalism, love of Nature, meditative note, music and narrative skill which distinguish Coleridge’s poetry as the most complete representative of the English Romantic poetry of the early nineteenth century and makes ‘Kubla Khan’ a great poem and make it equal to his other two great poems, ‘The Ancient Mariner’, and ‘Christable’.