Critical Analysis of “Kubla Khan” + Summary | Poem by S. T. Coleridge

  • December 4, 2021
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Romantic poets are famous for talking about dreams. S. T. Coleridge is also a romantic poet. After careful critical analysis of “Kubla Khan” we find that the poet 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; 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 that 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 pleasure. Description of natural elements and keen critical analysis of dream make “Kubla Khan” one of the best poems S. T. Coleridge.

Critical Analysis of “Kubla Khan”

“Kubla Khan” is a dream. Coleridge confesses that he saw a dream under the impact of opium. He slept for a long time but his guests interrupted him. He forgot his half dream due to interruption of his guests. “Kubla Khan” creates an imaginary world. Poet lives like kings in this world. He captures clear picture of every wonderful object of nature like a true artist. However, he does 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 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.

Click to read “Kubla Khan” instead of its critical analysis.

Poem starts with wonderful description of a dome. It does not follow a story. It is just about the wish of Kubla Khan. The poet creates a world, free from harsh realities of life. Kubla Khan is a king and occupies resources to build a wonderful dome. He orders that a dome be build near a sacred river Alph. He chooses a place Xanadu for this purpose. A dark forest, full of trees and strange fragrance of different flowers, also exists there. Xanadu has also zigzag streams, sunny spots of greenery and ancient forests.

Starting lines of the poem describes natural objects. Romantic poetry is the poetry of nature. Every romantic poet remains close to nature. He never leaves any chance to illustrate natural imagery. These lines are evident that S. T. Coleridge loves nature and appreciates it. 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.

The poet diverts his attention towards green hill that lays across cavern of cedar trees. He exalts the beauty of the hill. Woman who misses her lover or girl who is deceived by her lover can sit there and bewail. It is a perfect place for this purpose. Poet further talks about fountain. It is looking very magnificent. He describes its beauty. Water is running through it and scattering like grains. Then he explains beauty of Alph river. It is the most wonderful entity in this place. Zigzag shape of river increases its beauty. It is situated into a beautiful valley.

S. T. Coleridge goes at the peak in appreciation of beauty. It seems that after a long pursuance he finds it. Previously, he was talking about motionless images of nature. He changes his style. He adds motion in his imagery. S. T. Coleridge’s imagination is praiseworthy. It seems that he is not only a poet but a painter. Readers feel beauty of the dream. Every word makes this dream and its imagery clear; 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 bewails for her love— all these things have been described splendidly. Undoubtedly, he has captured emotions in this scene. In fact, “Kubla Khan” and its critical analysis prove real power of poetry.

He also ads some music in this poem. Until now, we were seeing a mute panorama. The poet refers a maiden, who is singing. He values beauty of maiden’s voice. 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 remarkable. 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.

The poet calls this poem a fragment because he can’t sketch his complete dream. Even then the poem is wonderful piece of literature. Majority of critics do not think that the poem is a fragment. They declare it a complete poem. For instance, Humphrey House believes that the poem is perfect and complete. Similarly, George Saintsbury said:

“It is complete. It is pure poetry, it is perfect.”

George Saintsbury on critical analysis of “Kubla Khan”

“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 it. 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, he can read “Kubla Khan”.

Related Questions:

  • Write critical analysis of “Kubla Khan” by S. T. Coleridge.
  • “there is no coherence in the images” of “Kubla Khan”. Explain with critical analysis of “Kubla Khan” by S. T. Coleridge.
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