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By: Samuel T. Coleridge Lecture 5

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1 By: Samuel T. Coleridge Lecture 5
Kubla khan By: Samuel T. Coleridge Lecture 5

2 About Coleridge A critic, philosopher and a poet.
Chief characteristics of his poetry are: supernaturalism, element of mystery, fertile imagination, dream quality, medievalism, love of Nature, and narrative skill. He takes us to strange territories of strange birds, phantom ships, Arctic seas, caverns, sounds of unearthly instruments and haunted figures. His imaginary world is beyond the control of reason and logic.

3 The poem was written in the fall of 1797, but was not published until Coleridge read it to Lord Byron in 1816, who insisted on publishing it. Coleridge wrote about the poem in the prefatory note published with the poem: ‘the following fragment is here published at the request of a poet of great and deserved celebrity (Lord Byron)and, as far as the Author’s own opinions are concerned, rather as a psychological curiosity, than on the ground of any supposed poetic merits.’

4 It is considered as a fragment, but offers a complete definition of Coleridge’s fertile imagination.
It was composed one morning after he had a dream under the effect of opium. He could write only fifty-four lines when he was interrupted by a visitor and never finished the poem. Coleridge had gone to sleep while reading about Kubla Khan in the book Purchas’s Pilgrimage. The sentence read: ‘here the Kubla Khan commanded a palace to be built, and a stately garden there unto. And thus ten miles of fertile ground were enclosed with a wall.’

5 The first stanza describes the summer palace built by Kubla Khan, the grandson of the Mongol warrior Genghis Khan and the founder of the Yuan Dynasty of Chinese Emperors in the 13th century, at Xanadu Xanadu was in north of China and part of Mongolia. Was visited by Marco Polo in 1275, who described the splendour and opulence of the courts of Kubla Khan. The army of Genghis Khan known to Europeans as Tartars.

6 Coleridge and Imagination
In Biographia Literaria, Coleridge defined imagination as: Primary Imagination: power of receiving impressions of external world through senses; it is ‘living power’ and ‘prime agent’ and is universal i.e. possessed by all. Secondary imagination: act of conscious will that is peculiar to artists; an act of creation or the ‘magical, synthetic power’ supplied by primary imagination.

7 Also distinguishes between imagination and fancy:
Fancy is not creative power, only combines beautiful shapes but doesn’t fuse and unify. Compares to compound (an act of creation) and mixture (bringing together of a number of separate elements). poem is highly imaginary and is connected to Coleridge’s belief in secondary imagination.

8 Kubla Khan or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment.
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. Xanadu: summer palace in Mongolia Alph: Greek myth – river Alpheus connected to worship of sun, also compare to river in Eden granting Immortality Caverns: caves, huge landscape - unknowable

9 So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round; Girdled round: surrounded

10 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. Sinuous rills: twisting streams Incense bearing: sweet smelling

11 But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover! River Alph cuts deep chasm in the hill Athwart a cedarn cover: covered with cedarn trees

12 A savage place! as holy and enchanted As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted By woman wailing for her demon-lover! A violent and uncontrollable place. Waning moon: decreasing moon Wailing: crying loudly

13 And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething, As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing, A mighty fountain momently was forced: Ceaseless turmoil: never stopping and violent Poetic device: similie, earth like a breathing animal

14 Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail, Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail: Amid: in the middle of At intervals, water bounced off the rocks like hail or grain

15 And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever It flung up momently the sacred river.

16 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; Mazy motion: river slows down, calmness and peace dale: valley

17 And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war! The shadow of the dome of pleasure Floated midway on the waves;

18 Where was heard the mingled measure From the fountain and the caves
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! Opposites clashing together Sunny dome: symbol of immoral life, of sensuality and pleasure Ice caves: savage brutality of Tartars, cold – bloodedness

19 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. Dulcimer: a plucked musical instrument Abyssinian maid: Ethiopian Mount Abora: Mount Amara, in Abyssinia, at the source of Nile.

20 Could I revive within me Her symphony and song, To such a deep delight ’twould win me, Wants to revive the power of song and music.

21 That with music loud and long, I would build that dome in air, That sunny dome! those caves of ice! Again obsession with contrasts. Tartars worshipped sun because it reminds them of Paradise, and they wanted to build gardens to recreate paradise on earth.

22 And all who heard should see them there, And all should cry, Beware
And all who heard should see them there, And all should cry, Beware! Beware! His flashing eyes, his floating hair! The mighty Kubla Khan is described.

23 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. Kubla Khan is immortal.

24 THEMES The poem is an example of extreme fantasy
A superb example of Coleridge’s fertile imagination Role of imagination as a creative power Synthesis of contrast throughout the poem Exotic and destructive power of Nature Poet as supreme creator

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