Coleridge's "Kubla Khan" can be taken at face value as a simple
string of imagery from a vivid dream however it is
also deceptively complex and meaningful. The themes, structure, contrasts,
rhythm and sound devices all fuse to suggest a deeper, subconscious
understanding. The five opening lines sound like a chant or
incantation and set a mysterious and supernatural tone from the
outset. It is also here that the reader is being made aware of a
hidden 'measureless' depth below the surface that is beyond man's
control or even understanding. Another important
theme throughout the poem is that of good versus evil.
Coleridge uses intense dream-like imagery to suggest a crucial
relationship between the two.
In the first two
lines, Coleridge describes the pleasure dome: 'In Xanadu did Kubla
Khan a stately pleasure dome decree.' Kubla Khan did not merely
order, but decrees that a 'stately pleasure dome' be built.
This implies how unnatural the place of Xanadu is. It is
ruled by a person choosing to ignore the unpleasantness found
in normal life. As an opium addict, Coleridge can identify because in a sense he is also
retreating into his own world.
The first stanza
exotic beauty, sacredness and perfection of the man-made dome but
with a subtle hint of interference by the river Alph running through it
and sinking to a dark depth. And there are images of a
paradise, bright blossoming gardens, followed by references to darker,
more evil places. For instance the wailing woman bewitched by her
'demon lover.' Ideally that should probably not be happening. We
see Xanadu is not just paradise but also a savage and ancient
where pure good and pure evil are brought to the fore-front.
Through Coleridge's images we see that the ideal paradise
is threatened by the darkness and disorder to which the river Alph
stanza goes further to depict the savage and untamed violence of life
outside of the pleasure dome; the river Alph leads to mighty bursting fountains and huge
dancing rocks. The chaos is personified by the lovers over-come by
uncontrollable urges. The disorder and primitive, tumultuous
cycles of nature are mixed with
implications of evil. For instance, although Kubla Khan is
striving for a peaceful perfection, he hears his ancestor's voices
calling for war. Xanadu is not ruled by what Kubla Khan or Coleridge
want, but rather by the raw, struggling corners of Coleridge's mind.
In the third
stanza, the 'pleasure dome' is shown to be a mystical,
'miracle of rare
divice' contradicting the
restrictions of realism. It is described as being made of sun and
ice. Here conflicting sources of heat and
cold are fused in perfect harmony. And either one can symbolize
good (miraculous icey pleasure dome, warmth and life giving sun) or death and
destroying the dome made of freezing, lethal ice). Here we
see that the opposing life forces are entwined together to prove
that beauty and danger cannot be separated from eachother despite what
Kubla Khan wants.
fusing opposites together through out his poem. Xanadu is
idyllic, but also 'savage.'
A peacful sacred river quickly turns
tumultous into violent disorder and the threat of war.
'Sunny spots of greenery' in a garden are juxtaposed with a
the bleak image of a haunted, waning moon. The two women in the poem are also a
direct contrast to each other. First the disturbing image
the woman wailing and bound to evil bringing the dark
side of the supposed paradise clearly to light. Then the
beautiful Abyssinian maid singing a delightful song.
Are they the same person at different times or from different
perspectives? The poem is a good example of appearances being
deceptive. The pleasure dome may be beautiful with its
bright sunny gardens and 'blossoming incense trees,' but it is
also the enchanted eye of a violent storm. The garden is
surrounded by savage destruction caused by 'ceaseless turmoil
the closing, the line 'Weave a circle round him thrice,' describes a pagan ritual for protection. Here
Coleridge attempts to warn and protect not only the reader,
but also himself from the forces of evil and the extent of his
imagination: 'Beware!...And close your eyes with holy dread...'
And in the final
stanza we see that Kubla Khan is a self-portrayal of Coleridge himself. After all, it is
he who is struggling to control Xanadu, his own
runaway imagination and subconsious mind. Having 'drunk the milk of paradise' Coleridge conveys how
much he longs to return to that dangerous, beautiful eden.
Basically Xanadu, to me, is that place within from where you can make your
dreams come true. We are the creators of our own reality, our own destiny, in
large part by the choices we make, and if we are in touch with our inner selves
enough, we can find that power to create what we want and make our dreams come
true. Beyond even our wildest imagination.
We each have the ability to achieve this, I believe. It comes from
knowing ourselves and finding our power in the world, honing our inner skills
and being aware of our choices, following our intuition, and it is born of the
Oneness of everything. That is my belief.
I am wishing you to find your own "Xanadu," and may all your wishes and
dreams come true.
"As the World Falls Down"