Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Do you sense a trend? Poem's title=header.


  1. "Kublah Khan"

    In this poem, Coleridge describes a "sunny pleasure dome with caves of ice"--a symbolic building, idealized to the highest level of imagination, that offers a complete spectrum of human sensual pleasure. The "sun" and the "ice" represent the extremes. The dome is representative of almost a bohemian lifestyle, or is a symbol of Mt. Olympus--the residence of the Greek gods. The last echoes the influence Ancient Greek culture had on Europe during the Renaissance. The Romanticism movement embraces many of the concepts and ideals developed during that period of artistic revival. The beauty of Kubla Khan's dome and the chaotic nature, represented by the spontaneously erupting fountain, qualify this poem as a work from the Romanticism movement.

    If the historical figure of Kublai Khan is considered, then the poem may be referencing the "cult of the Noble Savage." Kublai Khan was the Mongol horde ruler who established the Yuan dynasty in China in the 13th century. His affiliation with the infamous Horde may justify the ascription of the epithet "savage" to him by the West, yet his decision to abandon the raiding and pillaging that once were the sustenance of the horde and to settle down and create an artistic wonder such as the fictional dome may make him "noble" in the eyes of the Romanticists and the whole contemporary West. The poem's diction and syntax resonated with me, because they accurately captured the utopian feel of the pleasure dome.

  2. "Kubla Khan"

    Often, when one encounters a particularly random and chaotic poem, one idly wonders if the poet was, perhaps, intoxicated or high when they set pen to paper. At least, that was my first reaction to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan.” I had been excited by its title, which implied something related to Asians. I expected narrative about Mongol warriors sweeping through the steppes on their horses and invading everyone else’s territory. What I got was “A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice” (36) and various other random happenstances to do with spouting water and demon-lovers. Whatever the purpose of the poem, it has nothing to do with the Age of Reason –caves of ice on the steppes and in Imperial China? Not going to happen.
    A little search on the Internet confirmed (for the first and last time) my initial gut reaction. Apparently, when Coleridge wrote “Kubla Khan,” he was in fact, high off of opium. Also not earning him points with the Age of Reason – but hallucinations in poem form embodies the power of imagination and spontaneous thought valued in the Romantic period. The fact that the poem got written and published in such a matter indicates the beliefs of the time.

    Coleridge’s Kubla Khan shared only a name and an occupation with the historical figure: the rest is the hallucinogens in the poet’s system doing their job. Kubla’s story has many Romantic elements. A deep chasm near ‘Xanadu’ is called “romantic” (12) and “holy and enchanted” (14). The deep, “savage” (13) chasm is part of the poem’s wild, Mongol-appropriate scenery. Water bursts out of this chasm, and “’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far/ Ancestral voices prophesying war!” (29-30). Nature spouts violent tumultuous waters while an enemy host assembles for battle with an exclamation point for dramatic effect. The idea of religion based on Nature is also present, as Kubla hears his warnings in the happening of the natural world. Once one gets past the chaos, Coleridge’s hallucinations are rather Romantic and full of movement and energy. Kubla Khan is a warlord, with “flashing eyes” and “floating hair” (50). I have to admire Coleridge’s imagination for the landscape and happenings of a distant culture.

    While it seemed to have worked with Coleridge, especially after multiple readings, I will not be following his example with my Romantic-style

    Victoria Cui

  3. Dejection: An Ode

    This poem engages the imagination right from the start and precedes to take the reader on a wild ride through a multitude of emotions. I love the mysterious nature that encompasses this poem and greatly admire the poet for his skill at expressing his thoughts through words. The sheer force of the raw emotion catches the reader off guard, especially when other poems they have read have been simply mind-numbing. This poem paints a picture of life such that it seems both desirable and undesirable in unison. Many references are made to natural phenomenon’s, geological structures, and animals so as to further qualify as a Romantic poem. This is a beautiful journey though the mind of Coleridge that, although I honestly do not understand parts of, I feel will impact the way I think about poetry forever.

  4. Dejection: An Ode

    "Dejection: A Ode" is an example of Romantic poetry because of the way that it ties human emotion (in this case, dejection) to Nature. Coleridge compares "Life, and Life's effluence" (66) to "cloud at once and shower" (66). The poet equates the things with each other. He also then makes the same kind of comparison for Joy: "Joy is the sweet voice, Joy the luminous cloud--" (71). These two examples show how, for Coleridge, the Nature surrounding him mirrors his mental state, and how pure emotion can be found in Nature only.

  5. Dejection: An Ode

    This poem is about another poem, or rather is inspired by “The Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens.” The speaker talks of the poem as something powerful enough to cause a storm on par with the one within itself. Coleridge has a “wan and heartless mood,” caused by his lessening creativity. Although, the poet is in a bad mood he still finds himself thinking of a woman, who is referred to as “lady.” The poet writes with a thick coat of anguish and despair, recalling a time when he was once a happy man:

    “Whence Fancy made me dreams of happiness:
    For hope grew round me, like the twining vine,
    And fruits, and foliage, not my own, seemed mine.
    But now afflictions bow me down to earth”.

    Coleridge talks of “viper thoughts”, “reality’s dark dream”, and “a scream/ of agony” from the lute. With all of the pain and darkness around him, he does not give up on others. The speaker still hopes for his “friend [the lady] devoutest of my choice,/ thus mayst thou ever, ever more rejoice.” Hope is still prevalent in this poet’s mind while he writes his work of art.

    A reason why this poem is labeled as “Romanticism,” is the explosion of emotions that occurs inside of it. Coleridge is afraid of losing the creativity he was born with, but hope still shines through the darkness whenever his female friend is mentioned. Another reason why this ode can be lumped together with the other poems at this time is the message deeply embedded within. During the Enlightenment knowledge was becoming necessary and ones imagination was being put aside, but the poet expresses the pain he suffers due to the waning of his expressiveness.

  6. Coleridge's "Dejection: An Ode" clearly points out a parallelism between nature, and the speaker's thoughts. The "viper thoughts" of the speaker's mind are placed before mention of the gathering wind in the storm, placing the similar images of swirling wind and swirling vipers together. Coleridge creates similar situations throughout the poem. His "hope" and "dreams of happiness" are placed line and line with budding fruits, and blooming foliage. Coleridge creates these situations to show a classic romantic link between the states of humans and the state of nature.

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  8. "Kubla Khan"

    Much of the brilliance of Coleridge's "Kubla Khan" can be found in his seamless melding of two romantic ideals- the imaginative power of man and reverence for nature. Indeed, within the poem, he seems to view them as complimentary forces as opposed to their often antagonistic relationship in modern society. The essence of this dichotomy can be found within the first few lines of the poem, where it is written that "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." On the one hand, the reader is presented with the image of Kubla Khan, master off most of Asia, ordering the construction of this sumptuous palace, while on the other is presented the grandeur and power of nature. This works because the stanza, and the entire poem itself, seems to respect man and nature as two equally powerful and destructive forces as shown by the image of an all powerful khan and caves beyond numeration by man.

    The effect is further heightened in the second stanza because there the forces are no longer merely complimentary, but work together in perfect harmony. To accomplish this, Coleridge shows an immense city, "twice five miles of fertile ground/ With walls and towers were girdled round", made beautiful by the inclusion of "gardens bright with sinuous rills" and "many an incense-bearing tree".

  9. "Kubla Khan"

    Coleridge claimed this poem to have been based on a drug-induced experience, which contributes to its imaginative aspects. The poem highlights the power of unbridled imagination in several ways -- Coleridge first invites the reader of the poem to imagine Khan's pleasure dome in its grandeur, and describes in an extremely detailed manner several attributes of the dome (its "gardens bright with sinuous rills,/ Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree," and how "twice five miles of fertile ground/ with walls and towers were girdled 'round"), thus allowing the reader to imagine vividly the look and feel of the pleasure-dome. Secondly, Coleridge demonstrates the power of imaginative creativity as the source of the pleasure-dome. Kubla Khan was the mastermind behind the creation of this magnificent place, and his imagination allowed it to achieve such a level of splendor. Of course, there is also much emphasis on the incorporation of nature into the pleasure-dome, as the poem mentions "forests ancient as the hills,/ Enfolding sunny spots of greenery." This incorporation of natural elements contributes to the romantic character of the poem, but it also "softens" the raw power with which Kubla Khan is free to create and decree. By this I mean that, when Coleridge naturalizes Khan's power, he helps relate it more to human individuals in general, rather than a cold, unnatural sort of power, more characteristic of someone like Ozymandias. Khan's achievement is not supposed to rival the natural world, but rather it is a part of it. The poem is inspiring and invigorating, full of vivacity and imagination.


    Coleridge's poem "Kubla Khan" is wistful in the sense that it describes a land of beauty far out of the modern man's reach. Xanadu is described as a place where "the sacred river, ran/ Through caverns measureless to man/ Down to a sunless sea" (3-5). This first description serves as a dramatic opening to a poem that clearly muses on the past, primitive, nature of mankind. Coleridge seems to find a great deal of beauty in this awe inspiring, archaic land called Xanadu. This idea of becoming in touch with the origins of human nature, the most primitive aspects of human beings in an ancient, natural, world is a key element of romantic literature. Coleridge's poem goes beyond simply admiring the flora and fauna and provides the link between mankind and nature. He gives reason through the vivid descriptions of a thriving, natural world, "As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing", for the wild, barbaric, true nature of human kind when he concludes with, "And all should cry, Beware! Beware!/ His flashing eyes, his floating hair!/ ...For he on honey-dew hath fed/ And drunk the milk of Paradise". The final lines of Kubla Khan are a powerful revelation for those living in a world so driven by the idea of modernizing, always striving to progress forward.