Critical Analysis of “Kubla Khan” by S. T. Coleridge
Romantic poets are famous for talking about dreams. S. T. Coleridge is also a romantic poet. In “Kubla Khan”, he creates a natural world of romance. He is famous for his description of supernatural elements but this poem is entirely different from other poems so far as supernatural elements are concerned. It is one the three best poems of S. T. Coleridge; the other two are “The Rime of Ancient Mariner” and “Christabel”. The poet creates a strange and mysterious world in this poem. Instead of getting help from supernatural elements, he remains true to nature and illustrates real and natural objects. Most important thing of this poem, which impresses the readers and forces them to read the whole poem with greater interest, is its imagery. When the poet talks about landscapes, rivers and domes, it gives a pleasure to the senses, therefore, the main point, due to which “Kubla Khan” has become famous, is the description of natural elements.
“Kubla Khan” actually is a dream, seen by the poet, in which he creates an imaginary world, where he lives the life of kings. Like a true artist, he captures clear picture of every wonderful object of nature. The poet confesses that he sees a dream under the impact of opium. He has slept for a long time but interrupted by his guest, who keeps him busy for a while, due to which the poet forgets his half dream. It is much difficult to remember dreams; the poet also could not remember the whole dream but a part of it, therefore, he did not consider “Kubla Khan” a complete poem but a fragment. Source of the poem is “Purcha’s Pilgrimage”. The poet was reading this poem when he fell asleep. Kubla Khan is actually the character of that book, who builds a separate place for him in order to enjoy the luxuries of life. The poem was published in year 1816.
The poem starts with wonderful description of a dome. It does not follow a story. In fact, it is just about the wish of Kubla Khan. The poet creates a world, which is free from hard realities of life. Kubla Khan, who is a king and have resources to build a wonderful dome for him, orders that a dome be build on a sacred river Alph. The poet chooses a fancy place called Xanadu. A dark forest also exists there, which is full of trees and flowers; there is also a strange fragrance of different flowers. Xanadu place has also zigzag streams, sunny spots of greenery and ancient forests. Indeed, these lines are actually the description of natural objects. As mentioned supra, romantic poets are closely related to nature. They do not leave any chance to illustrate natural images. These lines are evident that S. T. Coleridge has availed a chance to appreciate nature. Explanation of streams, rivers, forests, flowers and dome is extraordinary. Poet’s artistic talent and the power of romantic poetry can be witnessed in these lines. It is, therefore, S. T. Coleridge is added in the list of romantic poets. It is also necessary to mention that the poet has called this poem a fragment because he could not remember his whole dream even then the creation of poet is outstanding. However, due to the extraordinary description of natural objects, critics do not feel that the poem is a fragment. They consider it complete from every angle. For instance, Humphrey House believes that the poem is perfect and complete. Similarly, George Saintsbury says “it is complete. It is pure poetry, it is perfect.”
The poet diverts his attention towards green hill that lays across cavern of cedar trees. He adds imagery of a woman through which he creates a motional scene. While exalting the beauty of the hill, he says that a woman, who is missing her lover or has been deceived by him, can sit there and bewail. He, then, moves his thoughts towards the fountain, which is looking very magnificent. The poet talks about its beauty; water is running through it and scattering like grains. Then he explains the beauty of Alph river; it is the most wonderful entity in this place; zigzag shape of the river increases its beauty; after five feet, the river enters into a beautiful valley. Poet further tells us that Kubla Khan hears his ancestors prophesying war. In these lines, S. T. Coleridge has gone at the peak in appreciation of beauty. It seems that after a long pursuance, he has found it. In previous lines, the poet was talking just about motionless images of nature but now he has added motion in them. We cannot deny the imaginative power of S. T. Coleridge. From these lines, it seems that S. T. Coleridge is not just a poet but a painter. Such impressive imaginative pictures, which have been created by the poet, cannot even be created by painters. When readers read this poem, it seems that instead of poet they are in a dream. The measureless caverns, the painting earth, the dancing rocks, sunless and lifeless sea, the tumult of the mighty waves as they rush into the silent ocean, the scene where a woman wails for her demon love— all these things have been described splendidly. Undoubtedly, he has captured emotions in this scene. In fact, he has shown us the real power of poetry.
In next lines, the poet put some music in the scene. Until now, we were seeing a mute panorama. Now the poet refers a maiden, who is singing. The poet values the beauty of maiden. Due to music, the place has become harmonious. Music, which is being produced by musical instrument, can be heard in imagination. Here, description of stunning eyes of the maiden is praiseworthy. The poet has astonishing quality of putting things in front of readers with exact same taste as he felt them. In short, in ending lines of the poem, the poet has created an imaginary paradise.
“Kubla Khan” is no more than a series of pictures but these pictures are enough for the poet to enjoy the world of imagination. Although there is no coherence in the images yet every object of nature has been minutely crafted. There is a strange mystery in the poem. Especially, the moonlight scene is extraordinarily painted. The poet has referred far-off places. Whole poem seems a utopian world; a world where there are no worries; it is for those people who are lovers of nature. Maidens, music and singing make this poem an entirely romantic piece of literature. It is not wrong to say that if one wants to differentiate romantic poetry from realistic poetry, he can read “Kubla Khan”.