BSc BA ADP English Notes Poem Kubla Khan (S. T. Coleridge) Important Questions
Questions No 1. Discuss the imagery of “Kubla Khan” by S. T. Coleridge. Or
“Coleridge succeeds in creating deep audio, visual and tactile impressions on the readers of his poem Kubla Khan” – Do you agree?
Ans. S. T. Coleridge’s Kubla Khan is a very extra-ordinary poem in many ways. One of the ways is the deep audio, visual and tactile images given in the poem. The poet has succeeded marvelously in creating an audio, visual and tactile imagery in the poem that leaves lasting impressions on the readers.
Actually, “Kubla Khan” is a poem written under the influence of opium which Coleridge had taken to relieve his neuralgia as there were no medicines discovered for that during his times. After taking the “drug”, he went to sleep. During this forced sleep, he saw a vision/dream. The first long stanza (lines 1-36) tells us about his dream and the second, comparatively smaller stanza (lines 37-54) tells us about the poet’s grief on (the point of) the loss of that vision. Both of the stanzas are full of audio, visual and tactile images.
The first image that we came across (though a little indirectly) in the poem is that of Kubla Khan, the Chinese Mongol ruler of the 13th century. We find him in the beginning of the poem as ordering that a palace should be built for him in Xanadu. The palace should be a “stately pleasure dome”. In the later part, we find him hearing “Ancestral voices prophesying war!” from a distant noisy sea.
Another image we get in the poem is that of the “Twice five miles of fertile ground” where we find a lot of sensual beauty lying naked under the sky for man. There are “caves” so deep that these are “measureless to man”. There are “green” “hills” and “cedarn covers” at the sides of the hills. There is the “sacred” river, Alph, going in a “meandering motion” through the “hills”, “valleys” and “caves”. Then there are the “dancing rocks” through which the “fountain” gushes forth with full force. There is the “deep chasm” which is also “romantic”. The “damsel” with a “dulcimer” is again a very forceful image.
An alluring image we find in lines 14-16:
“A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!”
Then there are many audio effects. The noisy upcoming of the geyser or spring is one such image. The “tumult” of the fountain is another in which Kubla heard “Ancestral voices prophesying war” [which is, again, a very great audio-image]. “Wailing” woman is, again, a sweet impression for the ears. “Half intermitted burst” is still another audio-image. “Beware! Beware!” – the words are actually heard by us!
“Rebounding hail”, “chaffy grain” and “shadow of the dome of pleasure” that “floated …. on the waves” are such images that seem to be tactile or “touchy”. “Weave a circle around him thrice” makes us touch the earth for weaving circles (in our imagination, of course).
The image of the poet himself in second stanza (lines 49-54) has all the three images: audio, visual and tactile:
…………….. Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
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.
So we are right in pointing out that “Kubla Khan” by S. T. Coleridge creates fine audio, visual and tactile impressions on us. It is really a wonderful poem and leaves an everlasting impression on us.
Question No 2. Bring out the qualities of Kubla Khan by S. T. Coleridge. Or Write Critical Appreciation of the Poem.
Ans. This is a very famous poem in English literature. The is an example of Coleridge’s conception of the fantastic and super-natural. The poet has brought all the elements of imagination and fantasy at work here. As a result, there moves around the poem an air of magic and dream. Actually the poet had seen a dream under the influence of a drink of opium, and he has tried to capture the dream in this poem. That is the reason of the presence of a trance-like atmosphere in the poem which makes it distinguished. The writer wishes to show his dream, or a part of his dream, to the readers.
The poem is actually a fantasy. The poet tells us about the accomplishment of an order of Kubla Khan, the Emperor of China, during thirteenth century. The Khan had ordered for building a palace and a very big and beautiful palace was built in Xanadu. Ten miles fertile land was encircled with towers and walls. The sacred river, Alph, also ran there. There was a large number of green sweet-smelling trees there. There was also a deep chasm out of which came a fountain. The palace had a sunlit dome of pleasure. Its shadows fell on the sacred river Alph. The hilly fountain threw water continuously with force and it created a great noise. In the middle of that noise Kubla Khan heard ancestral voices prophesying war.
Once the poet had seen a negro maiden singing and playing music in his dream. Her song was very delightful and pleasing. If he would be able to remember the song of the negro lady, he would be able to build the dome of Kubla Khan’s palace in his imagination and then show it to the people who would be surprised to see the sunny dome and caves of ice at one and the same place. People would then be afraid of him and take him for some super-natural being.
We meet such type of super-natural atmosphere in some of the other poems of Coleridge, too, as Christabel and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The Eve of St. Angnes and Lamia of Keats also have such an atmosphere. Here in Kubla Khan we have the “willing suspension of disbelief” which according to Coleridge is the essential quality of a super-natural piece of poetry/literature.
The poet has used apt imagery for creating such a desirable effect. Words and statements used by him are evocative and full of sentiments. Coleridge has used the words and images with ingenuity and cleverness. He proves himself to be the master of audio-visual imagery. Words like “Stately pleasure dome”, “cedarn covers”, “dancing rocks”. “deep chasm”, “sunless sea”, and specially:
“A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By women wailing for her demon lover!
create exact images before our very eyes. Then there is a very wonderful and pretty, magical, image:
“A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!” (line 36)
The poet’s image of himself in lines 50 to 54 (last line) of the poem is remarkable and memorable!
The poem is a good mixture of fancy, romance and imagination. It does not have a set meter. Anyhow, two parts of the poems have two distinctly separate meters. The first part (lines 1-36) very between 6 to 11 syllables whereas the second part (lines 37-54) vary between 6 to 9 syllables. The second part seems to have iambic tetrameter as the basic meter with a little variation in lines 18, 42, 46 and 51. The first part does not seem to have any set meter, yet it starts with iambic tetrameter and moves on to more number of feet. Still the lines are often melodiously rhymed among them. There is a lot of alliteration in the poem. Here are some of them that are conspicuous:
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan (line 1)
A stately pleasure-dome of decree (line 2)
With walls and towers were girdled round (line 7)
By woman wailing for demon lover (line 16)
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion (line 25)
Where was heard the mingled measure (line 33)
For he on honey dew hath fed (line 53)
The vocabulary of the poem is the very forceful and high-sounding and it fulfills the purpose of the poet very successfully. The tone is intimate, the diction and rhythm, appropriate for creating the desired effect. The poem stands divided into two gigantic stanzas, each having its own magically colored audio-visual picture! It is a masterpiece of English literature.
Question No 3. Pick out all the alliterations in the poem.
Ans. Here are all the alliterations as we find them in the poem:
1. In Xanadu did Kubla Khan (n d, k).
2. A stately pleasure dome decree (l, d, r)
3. Where Alph the sacred river ran (r)
4. Through caverns and measureless to man (r, m)
5. Down to a sunless sea (s)
6. With walls and towers were girdled round (w, d)
7. And there were gardens with bright sinuous fills (r)
8. Enfolding sunny spots of greenery (n, s)
9. Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover (n, r)
10. As e’er beneath a waning was haunted (n)
11. By woman wailing for her demon lover (w, n)
12. And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething (s, m)
13. A mighty fountain momently was forced (m, n, f)
14. Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail (th)
15. Five miles meandering with a mazy motion (m. n)
16. Through wood and dale the sacred river an (d, r)
17. Ancestral voices prophesying war (s)
18. Where was heard the mingled measure (w, m)
19. It was a miracle of rare device (r)
20. A sunny pleasure dome with caves of ice (s)
21. A damsel with a dulcimer (d, s, m)
22. Her symphony and song (s)
23. To such a deep delight ‘t would win me (d, w)
24. And all who heard should see them there (h, th)
25. For he on honey-dew hath fed (h, d)
Question No 4. What purpose do these serve in the poem?
Ans. These number less alliterations in the poem serve three following purposes:
1. These give us pleasure, specially to our ears.
2. These make lines memorable very easy.
3. These give a strange air to the poem that helps in creating a super-natural tone.
Question No 5. Write a paragraph comparing Tartary and Xanadu.
Ans. Tartary and Xanadu are both imaginary and unreal places, one invented by Walter de la Mare, the other, by S. T. Coleridge. Both are very beautifully drawn. Both are very green. Both have enough of flowers and greenery. Both have valleys, hills, dales, streams. But then, Tartary is a land of peace and quietness – a natural beautiful place, whereas Xanadu has some noise and seems to be a place rather supernatural. Otherwise both the lands are rich, fertile and alluring.