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An post of the newspaper Romanticism on the Net 

Issue 5, February 1997, p. 0


"I cry "Come, phone call me how you live!" / and also thumped him on the head": Wordsworth, Carroll and also the "Aged, aged Man"

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"Kubla Khan" is now one that Coleridge"s finest known and most widely review poems, however it still presents twentieth-century scholars and also readers with countless of the same critical problems the confounded its modern-day reviewers. It"s textual history remains unclear, Coleridge"s prefatory explanation that the poem"s manufacturing is often taken into consideration dubious, and scholars just can"t agree ~ above what that "means" or if it way anything at all. Many readers analyze "Kubla Khan" together an allegory because that the an innovative process, relying greatly upon a perpetuated Romantic formulation of the redemptive imagination as explained separately by M. H. Abrams and Geoffrey Hartman. <1> Such doubters as Humphry House, Harold Bloom, and Kathleen Wheeler ignore the melancholia that the preface and the last stanza, and decide that the poem celebrates the an innovative imagination. <2> various other readers favor R. H. Fogle and Peter Huhn argue the Coleridge achieves thematic and also structural unit by reconciling the celebratory and also melancholic opposites evident in the poem. <3> Finally, reader such together Kenneth Burke, Paul Magnuson, and Anne Mellor indicate that Coleridge sustains a contradictory duality in which that bemoans the poet"s an imaginative limitations while simultaneously hailing the power of the imagination and also celebrating the process of life, for this reason expressing what Mellor phone call Romantic irony. <4>


While seemingly various in their final readings of the poem, these various an essential stances locate the redemptive power of the creative imagination in ~ the poet. Further, this readings execute not check out in any great detail the rhetorical relationship in between the preface and also the city proper and also the means in i m sorry this relationship educates Coleridge"s facility representation of the an innovative imagination and also the poet figure. If we analyze the subtitle and also preface as metalinguistic keys to the poem"s interpretive and also performative context, we will uncover that the city is not around imaginative redemption or Romantic irony. Rather, "Kubla Khan" supplies its reader a collection of false poetic figures, eventually demonstrating the the ideal (pro)creative and redemptive creative thinking lies beyond the understand of the mortal poet, continuing to be an external and also unobtainable other.

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The subtitle and preface to "Kubla Khan" are undoubtedly curious aesthetic and also thematic elements that elicit numerous interpretive responses, editorial practices, and an important perspectives. <5> among the most typical readings see the subtitle and the preface together rhetorical apologies added by Coleridge in an effort to assuage his guilt and/or to prevent harsh criticism. <6> together a analysis ascribes a biographical legitimacy come the introduce note, assuming the the speak is undoubtedly Coleridge. Together a result, the preface is elevated come the literal and also (mis)construed as an expository enhancement to the imaginative poem, a supplement that must be identified from the aesthetic endure of the poem itself. However what if us denature this (artificial) separation in between the prose preface and the imaginative poem and also thus incorporate it in the reading experience or, an ext accurately, in the power context that the poem? Indeed, doubters such as David Perkins, Fred Milne, Marjorie Levinson, and also Paul Magnuson have considered this question, evaluating the rhetorical size of the preface and also noting the ways in i beg your pardon it notifies the reader"s interpretive horizon. <7>


I am much indebted come these an essential perspectives, because that they indeed begin to answer mine question worrying the relationship in between the prose preface and also the imaginative poem. However, they limit their discussions come textual considerations. Top top the one hand, the preface and also the poem space obviously (printed) texts, and also it makes sense to deal with the interpretive relationship between these texts in terms of rhetorical theory. ~ above the other, however, the reading experience—that dialectic between the text and the leader which produce the aesthetic work—is likewise characterized through a power context. In other words, the dialectic constituting the reading experience is itself a (cognitive) performance space, and as such presupposes a power context. Knowledge the poem much more fully, then, entails a textual evaluation that is coupled with a examine of the poems performance contexts. I argue that the preface serves together a rhetorical monocle that allows us to glimpse the poem"s power context and also thus much better to understand Coleridge"s ambiguous poetic metaphysics. <8>


"Kubla Khan" exhibits metacommunicative devices that remind its audience lock are reading a fabricated narrative (the preface) and also verse (the poem proper) tale and that disclose a details understanding the this tale. The an extremely existence or, an ext properly, the coming into being that the preface suggests that the is chin a rhetorical machine that foregrounds the poem"s power context. Critics and also literary historians have generally debated the date of the poem"s composition, arguing dates that selection from as early as 1797 to together late together 1800. <9> The most convincing day of composition is fall (October or November) that 1797, for this is the date given in the Crew Manuscript endnote in which Coleridge writes, "This fragment with a good deal more, no recoverable, composed in a kind of Reverie carried on by two grains the Opium, take away to check a dysentery, in ~ a farm House in between Porlock and Linton, a quarter of a mile native Culbone Church, in the loss of the year, 1797." Furthermore, in a letter to john Thelwall dated 14 October 1797 Coleridge mentions a brief lack that probably coincides to his remain at Porlock whereby the poem was composed, and Coleridge go on to say, "My psychic feels together if the ached come behold & understand something great —something one & indivisible—and the is only in the faith of this that rocks or waterfalls, mountains or caverns provide me the feeling of sublimity or majesty!". <10> Here, Coleridge appears preoccupied v the sublime and very particular natural imagery that show up in "Kubla Khan", helping to confirm further that the poem or some variation of it to be most most likely composed in the loss of 1797. We cannot understand if the poem initially had actually textual supplements; but the 1810 autographed Crew Manuscript contains a short explanatory endnote, and the released 1816 manuscript starts with sophisticated preface. Why go Coleridge feel it necessary to supplement his later manuscripts v such addenda? One explanation comes to Coleridge"s role as orator and also his capacity to affect audiences deeply with verbal performance.


Coleridge was undoubtedly a powerful speaker, illustration crowds for his sermons and also lectures. William Hazlitt remembered being awe-struck through Coleridge"s preaching in January the 1798:

As he provided out this text, his voice "rose like a heavy steam of wealthy distilled perfumes", and also when he involved the two last words, which he pronounced loud, deep, and also distinct, it appeared to me, that was climate young, together if the sounds had actually echoed native the bottom that the human heart, and also as if that prayer could have floated in solemn silence v the universe. <11>

Coleridge also captivated his audiences with his poetic recitations, and "Kubla Khan" left a far-ranging impression on many of that is listeners. Because that example, Sir cutting board Noon Talfourd listed a certain occasion sometime in between 1815 and also 1817:

But an ext peculiar in that is beauty 보다 this , was his recitation the Kubla khan . As he repetitive the passage—


A damsel with a dulcimer

In a vision as soon as I saw:

It to be an Abyssinian maid,

And on she dulcimer she played,

Singing of mount Abora!


his voice seemed to mount, and also melt into air, as the images grew more visionary, and also the said associations more remote.

Armour, 351

And Leigh hunt recalled the time Coleridge recited this poem to Byron, an event instigating the poems eventual publication: "He recited his Kubla Khan one morning to lord Byron, in his lordship"s home in Piccadilly, as soon as I happened to be in another room. I remember the other"s coming far from him, very struck through his poem, and also saying exactly how wonderfully that talked. This to be the impression the everybody that heard him" (Armour, 269).


These accounts imply that Coleridge had actually a commanding presence and elicited intense reactions in his audiences. He was a grasp orator who performed his poetry effectively, and also a section of this poetic performance connected some sort of performative contextualization. For example, in 1811 john Payne Collier remembered engaging in a literary conversation of dreams with Coleridge and Charles Lamb, a conversation "having been presented by a recitation by Coleridge of some lines he had written countless years ago upon the building of a Dream-palace by Kubla-Khan: he had established it top top a i he had met with in an old publication of travels" (Armour 177). Even though Collier did no specifically cite a preface or endnote, he did note that Coleridge contextualized the poem for this audience by locating (as far as Collier remembers) its catalyst in "an old book of travels", a performative strategy anticipating the 1816 preface. The endnote that the Crew Manuscript, the information worrying the possible source the the poem that Coleridge common with Collier, and also the later an ext developed preface to the 1816 published text indicate that Coleridge feel it necessary to contextualize this poem. However, Coleridge is no apologizing for this poem; rather, his contextualization offers an intellectual and epistemological performance context v which Coleridge attempts come assert his poetic government (yet, as we will later on see, the ironically fails in this effort) and also with which Coleridge"s audience (auditors of his recitations or readers of his published text) can much better understand the poem.


The first sentence of the preface is significantly collection off from the rest as its very own paragraph, implying the it stop a singular prominence for our expertise of the preface and also for the way we place ourselves in relation to the poem. ~ above the surface, this very first statement is simply an authorial disclaimer, through which the speaker discounts his very own poem together a "fragment", a "psychological curiosity" that caught the interest of some other poet (Lord Byron). <12> One might read this disclaimer quite literally, as do plenty of critics, and also thus conclude that undoubtedly Coleridge is dismissing his own occupational as a only triviality or curiosity in an effort to protect against charges the blasphemy (Mellor, 157-58) or poetic and also artistic ineptitude (McFarland, 225) contrasting his effort to controversy for an imaginative individuality in the preface to "Christabel". <13> However, if we check out the preface come "Kubla Khan" as a key to performance, climate an various other reading gift itself, leading to a more rich and complicated understanding that the poem and Coleridge"s poetic project.


Kathleen Wheeler gives one feasible alternative reading, saying that the opening sentence of the preface is an advertising for the city that encourages the leader to technique the poem specifically as a "psychological curiosity" and as a fragment. <14> However, this reading concentrates on the interaction in between printed text and also reader there is no sufficiently trying out the poem"s performative dimensions. Numerous storytelling performances space initiated by the novelist disclaiming his or she tale, attributing the source to some other storyteller or discrediting his or her storytelling ability. Such a strategy problems listeners to the storytelling act and implies that what they are around to listen will undoubtedly be one interesting and also well-told story. The disclaimer is a authorize of a an excellent storyteller. Therefore, through subtitling his poem "A Vision in a Dream. A Fragment" and classifying it as a "psychological curiosity", Coleridge actually encourages his audience to take into consideration the city as an ext than a meaningless dream. Also, by deferring his own poetic government to the of the commemorated Byron, Coleridge provides an ext authority come his poem 보다 if he to be to assert himself—as if boasting—that he has produced a poetic masterpiece.


Interestingly, this performative disclaimer differs from the classic storytelling disclaimer in the Coleridge create a speaker that presents himself as an editor of the published text (or the orator the a poem he did not necessarily write) that is plainly separate indigenous the author figure. That is, this speaker is no reciting his own poem yet that that some various other poetic agent, and this rhetorical move identifies a poetic paper definition in which the power itself pertains specifically to poets and also poetry. Furthermore, through imposing an artificial tension between psychological curiosity and also aesthetic poetry, Coleridge impacts the opposite: that conflates psychology v aesthetics, at some point demonstrating the the workings of the (poetic) mental is indeed ideal material to constitute a poetics. In effect, readers room not come dismiss the poem as a "psychological curiosity" yet to look for methods in i beg your pardon Coleridge create a poetics worrying the faculty that poetic imagination. Coleridge"s disclaiming the city as a just vision or reverie makes the psychology the poetic development the topic of his poem.


The remainder of the preface rigid outlines and also foreshadows the methods in which the poet"s mind becomes the subject of the poem, therefore rhetorically schematizing the reader"s horizon that interpretive expectation. By developing a stare of fail poetic activity, the second section the the preface establishes the poem suitable as an allegory that imaginative failure. In the preface narrative, readers encounter a clearly mortal and also ill poet figure who possesses limited creative abilities. This number is no the image of a divine an innovative entity; ~ above the contrary, he is a frustrated poet that is contrasted later to the supremely an effective Kubla Khan and also the demonic poet/seer in the last section of the city proper. This comparison is foreshadowed and, simultaneously, concretized at the moment in his dream once the poet number encounters his very own subconscious double. He sees the imaginative other who he himself is no (and have the right to never be). <15> The Khan figure of the poet"s dream whom the poet tries to render (and, thus, poetically and imaginatively resurrect) in his city is the mirror image of the poet"s an innovative desire (a mirroring the is thematically reinforced by the reflection image in the quotation indigenous "The Picture") a desire that have the right to never it is in satisfied but, instead, have the right to only remain as one eternal process of becoming. As the poet do the efforts to achieve his desire in the type of the poem, as he tries come contain this an individual objet petite a , it becomes a Lacanian gift of merde—a fragmented, shed vision. And it is this very narration of desire—coming come terms through poetic failure and coping with the longing to become a supremely powerful decreer of divine grandeur and also splendor—that becomes the thematic paper definition of the city proper.


In other words, the preface gives a context through which to interpret the poem ideal as an imaginative representation of failed poetic figures. It can be argued that the headnote (a fragment itself) abstracted native "The Picture" posits a hopefulness that the vision might return. However, because this moment of re-vision, as the preface notes, "is yet to come" (p. 297) this hopefulness is indeed ironic, thus saying that "Kubla Khan" is not around poetic rediscovery but, instead, poetic failure. Xanadu—the terrific realm where the cannes decrees his stately pleasure dome, wherein the sacred river Alph meanders under to depthless caverns, and also where a constructive/destructive fractional breaks v the rocky surface—represents the an imaginative cognition and the phenomenal mind. In this an imaginative realm there room three an essential agents: the Khan, the spiritual river Alph, and the fountain. In regards to the Coleridgean best imagination, these 3 agents correspond to the 3 faculties constituting Coleridge"s phenomenological model—the fancy, the primary imagination, and also the second imagination respectively. Coleridge had actually not however outlined his phenomenological model when he an initial composed "Kubla Khan" in 1797, and readers prefer Paul Magnuson (viii) uncover it also reductive to imply that the poems exemplify Coleridge"s later metaphysics. Wheeler answers this charge by deciding that in the an extremely least, this phenomenal design is latent in the city (Creative Mind , 33). But we can safely say the Coleridge"s metaphysics is more than just implicit in his poetry; for while his poetry might not have been composed to exemplify his prose metaphysics, his research studies in philosophy and also metaphysics without doubt informs his poetic musing. We know that Coleridge was versed in German and also familiar through German ideology as early as 1796-97 (before and during the an innovative process generating "Kubla Khan") due to the fact that in may of 1796 Coleridge created Thomas Poole the he was currently studying German and planning to examine German metaphysics (CL , I: 209). Through December 1796 he had already begun to read Kant, introduce to the German metaphysician together "the many unintelligible Emanuel Kant" in a letter to man Thelwall dated December 17, 1796 (CL , I: 283-84). Furthermore, by 1796 Coleridge had end up being disillusioned through "Mechanic Philosophy" and converted to "Constructive Philosophy" i m sorry conceives the mind together a more active (as protest to passive) player in the development of knowledge and the structuring that perception. Also though Coleridge"s certain position top top the creative imagination is not formally released until 1817 in Biographia Literaria , he had been struggling through these various formulations that the imagination, and also his continual work with theories that the mind, passive versus energetic imagination, and conceptions the the will certainly (dating earlier as beforehand as 1796) educates the thematics and aesthetics the his early on poetry.


In relation to the city proper, these philosophic theories and also models the the an innovative imagination take the kind of lot of poetic figures or an innovative agents. The first an innovative figure or certified dealer in this phenomenal kingdom of Xanadu that us encounter is the Khan, a figure identified instantly with the an imaginative process: "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/ A stately pleasure dome decree" (ll. 1-2). The Khan shows up to it is in the ultimate poet/creator, because that his utterances shape his material reality. His energetic will forms not simply a poetic text but an aesthetic masterpiece of staggering proportions. The cannes produces an enchanting paradise:


So twice 5 miles of fertile ground

With walls and also towers were girdled round:

And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,

Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;

And below were forests ancient as the hills,

Enfolding clear spots of greenery.


ll. 6-11

This satisfied dome is plainly an Edenic realm infused through (masculine) virility ("walls and towers") and also seething v sensuality (blossoming incense-bearing trees and soft hills enfolding spots of greenery) and also sexual potential ("fertile ground" with which run "sinuous rills"). It is thus understandable that so numerous readers associate the Khan with the an innovative imagination. <16> However, if we examine this khan figure an ext closely, us will see that he is not an agent of the pure creative thinking but, instead, the what Coleridge referred to as the fancy. While the Khan, as the thing of the Author"s desire, appears to be the have fun of what the poet can not be, he at some point embodies the very same poetic failure represented by the writer figure in the preface. That is, in state of creative ability these numbers are opposites, however in terms of Coleridge"s version of the creative thinking they space the same—failed poets that the fancy who execute not achieve the Coleridgean ideal. In thing XIII of Biographia Literaria , Coleridge describes the fancy as a non-creative faculty the is more empirical than the imagination. The is a reduced cognitive faculty associated to and also influenced through the will, but not dependent ~ above the will certainly for its operation: "Fancy . . . Has actually no other counters to play with, but fixities and also definites. The an intricate is undoubtedly no various other than a mode of memory emancipated from the stimulate of time and space; and blended with, and also modified by the empirical phenomenon of the will . . . ". <17> that may appear as though the fertile gardens of the Khan"s creation conforms to Coleridge"s essential aestheticism; however, the Khan"s kingdom—with the symmetric dome and rigid towers and confining walls—is an ext akin come a material, ordered realm of "fixities and also definites" that is controlled and mastered through the Khan. <18> it is not an imaginative, ideal realm in i m sorry the individual have the right to unite with the infinite. The Khan, rather than being associated with the strength of the pure imagination, is portrayed as a poet that the fancy.


As a poet that the fancy, the khan is hence a failed poet who is can not to attain the Coleridgean ideal. Khan"s kingdom, through its caves the ice and sunny domes, is an oxymoronic realm occupied only by the cannes himself. There is no mention of any other person being (the mrs wailing for her demon lover is no a literal meaning inhabitant of the pleasure dome, yet a an allegory reinforcing the heterosexist view of the creative process). Instead of establishing self-unity with community, the Khan"s an imaginative act properly isolates him from external human contact, like the old Mariner that becomes lost on the cold, vast sea and also like Christabel who is be separated from she dead mother and also becomes estranged not just from her lover Geraldine but likewise her father. This communal estrangement is paralleled in the final section of the preface, where the Author, simply on the brink the poetic genius, is interrupted by a member that his surrounding community and also ironically loses the imaginative image. This ns is ironic because imaginative creation, in German and also Romantic Idealism, represents an attempt to restore a fractured, disunified self. Because the ar is an symbol for society unity, it is ironic that an agent from the poet"s community—an agent who attempts come conduct organization and, thus, to include the poet in the (commercial) workings of the community—effects disunity that the poet"s consciousness, resulting in more isolation from the community.


In enhancement to isolating him from human being contact, the Khan"s creative acts carry out not elevate him to prophetic heights together is expected by the Coleridgean ideal. Instead of actually prophesying the coming of war (a battle that signifies more the destruction of the Khan"s realm and a rejection of imaginative creation) the Khan just hears it amid the tumult the the surging and plunging river Alph. Lot like the author figure the the preface (and the crazed poet in the critical stanza) the cannes receives the prophecy, via inspiration, rather of originating that as would the true prophetic poet the the pure imagination. The is also important to keep in mind that the Khan never ever becomes united v these eternal ancestral voices: he continues to be finitely different from the infinite. The Khan"s eternal separation indigenous the limitless is reinforced through his oppositional relationship to nature. His stately pleasure dome is interrupted and shaken—much like the vision the fades indigenous the author figure"s mind in the preface after being interrupted through the business man indigenous Porlock—by the upheaval the the seething fountain and the tumultuous flow Alph initiate. As Regina Hewitt notes, "the Khan"s technique results in an illusory order, a shaky framework on the brink of fall by the aspects it can momentarily ignore yet not permanently exclude". <19> The Khan, as a false poet, creates a phantasmagoric kingdom that eventually drifts away from him and also fades right into the prophetic genealogical voices, therefore signifying and also sealing his eternal isolation and separation native Coleridge"s ideal "infinite ns Am".


If the very first stanza to represent the khan as the failure poet that the fancy, then the second stanza—clearly marked as a comparison to the preceding stanza (of the fancy) by the textual break and also the dramatic "But oh!" (l. 12)—allegorizes the pure imagination. Because that Coleridge, the pure creative thinking exists together a procreative duality consist of of the primary and an additional imagination. These two faculties room not personal distinct; rather, they are dialectically distinguishable. In other words, they are separate just insofar as they serve vaguely different functions. Yet at the exact same time this faculties are interrelated and dependent ~ above each other for their individual functioning and for the procedure of the imagination. Again in thing XIII the Biographia Literaria , Coleridge explains the primary creative thinking as that an imaginative power which links the individual with the eternal creative force of the "infinite i Am" or the transcendental whole (Biographia 1: 304).


In "Kubla Khan", this faculty is ideal represented by the spiritual river Alph(a)—the beginning, the signifier the original and also eternal creativity, "the unifying first principle the all mental activity" (Milne, 21)—that produces and releases the prophetic genealogical voices. The river Alph is the resource of the poet"s prophetic powers that are achievable only by the primary imagination which hold together the limited poet with the "infinite i Am". If the flow Alph is the primary imagination, climate the fountain, as the "echo" that the river, represents the an additional imagination. Follow to Coleridge, the an additional imagination is a reflection of the primary an imaginative force, a preliminary sensory processor the attempts to unify apparent perceptual disunities into understandable perceptions before presenting them to the primary imagination (Biographia 1: 304). Arden Reed explains that "the secondary imagination is obliged come "dissolve, diffuse, dissipate" original perceptions before "recreating" them, in a method that "idealizes and also unifies". <20> The fountain, v its heaving rocks and also seething pants clearly represents this preliminary faculty that dissolves, diffuses, and dissipates phenomenal impressions, unifying them with the primary creative thinking or, in the context of the poem, the flow Alph:


And native this chasm, through ceaseless chaos seething,

As if this planet in rapid thick trousers were breathing,

A mighty spring momently was forced:

Amid who swift half-intermitted burst

Huge fragments vaulted favor rebounding hail,

Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher"s flail:

And "mid these dancing rocks at once and ever

It flung increase momently the sacred river.


ll. 17-24

The fountain and also the river are dynamically related, for out of the sexually destructive/constructive fountain bursts the prophetic, eternal flow Alph, hence allegorizing the method in which the primary and second imaginations room dialectically interrelated.


Finally, Coleridge explains the primary and second imaginations together dynamic and also vital, difference them come the fixed and also dead nature that objects together objects. In various other words, objects in themselves are fixed, dead, indeterminate material, yet the powers of the creativity are life-giving in the feeling that they change the indeterminacy of objects in themselves into discernible meaning. We know objects just as phenomena, and it is the dialectic that the creative thinking that intuits (in the Kantian sense) or gives meaning to or represents (darstellen ) the thing in our minds and also assigns one idea or photo to the object. That the elements in "Kubla Khan", the flow Alph and the fountain plainly represent an essential agents, always in sensual motion and also disruptive (yet constructive) turmoil. The Khan"s pleasure dome is but a fixed structure enclosing the pulsing fountain and the meandering river, two agents that damage in order come construct and also to unify. This unifying process is that a sublime order that provides access to the "infinite ns Am" together signified by the ancestral voices. That is clear the the cannes is a fail poet that the an intricate who attempts to contain the primary and an additional imaginative faculties, as his wall surfaces attempt come enclose the river, only to it is in left eternally isolated native his genealogical spirits and also human community and also from the creative thinking that makes such connections possible.


This middle stanza representing the combined workings of the major and second imaginations is interrupted by a last stanza that completes the structure of the preface: the author figure is abruptly reintroduced, properly jolting the reader earlier into the awareness of the failed poet. <21> The major and an additional imaginations, in the paper definition of this poem, room purely cool (that is, commodities of the Author"s fancy) and also remain eternally illusive. As the writer breaks native his vision and also bemoans that is loss, the fixates not on the flow Alph or the fountain yet on the aesthetically tangible caves the ice and also pleasure dome: "It to be a wonder of rarely device,/ A clear pleasure dome through caves of ice!" (ll. 35-36). Rather of recalling the sublime flow Alph or the fountain (images that would be much more attractive to the poet of the imagination) the speak attempts come revive the photo of the Khan, to end up being a poetic certified dealer akin not to the imaginative river Alph yet to the fanciful Khan. He wishes to be inspired by the Abyssinian maid and also to develop his own dome and caves that ice, oxymoronic frameworks that would separate him native imaginative redemption; because that to construct this dome and also caves the ice would certainly necessitate a poetic possession, a succumbing come an exterior inspirational force.


This prostrate place relative come an outside force is rhetorically paralleled through the writer in the preface who is overtaken by an minus trip and thus receive (instead the creating) the image of the Khan. A poetic procedure based ~ above inspiration, together Ken Frieden explains, is one unconscious process and, together such, a passive cognitive mechanism. <22> As beforehand as 1796 Coleridge had actually rejected "Mechanic Philosophy" that casts the psychic in a passive role, and also by the time he posting Biographia Literaria , the mind come Coleridge is a dynamic and also willful agent, divided into the more active main and an additional imaginations and the an ext passive fancy. The writer figure plainly rejects the faculties that the energetic primary and an additional imaginations in favor of an unconscious, passive procedure that is antithetical come Coleridge"s appropriate poetic process. Furthermore, this catalyst invokes fear in his community:


And all that heard should see lock there,

And all should cry, Beware! Beware!

His flashing eyes, his floating hair!

Weave a circle round him thrice,

And close her eyes with divine dread,

For the on honeydew had fed,

And drunk the milk of Paradise.


ll. 48-54

The poet provided in to inspiration becomes an ostracized individual, akin come the Khan number who is diverted in his pleasure dome and also caves the ice and also possessing a hypnotic gaze no unlike that of the old Mariner or Geraldine in "Christabel". This crazed poet is a demonic number who i do not care inscribed and (textually) enclosed within a mystical circle noting him as an oddity. This poet/seer whom the author holds as an exemplary an innovative figure is actually a consisted of failed poet choose the Khan that is girdled with walls and also towers. In the end, this author is doubly failed: first, he does not situate himself v the proper imaginative faculty represented in the poem, choosing instead to determine with the cannes figure and thus lacking the real vision in his dream—the nature that the pure imagination; and second, his desire to it is in a (false) poet secures his eternal isolation from human being community. At an initial glance the Khan and poet/seer figures that the writer longs to emulate appear to stand for the poetic ideal—an appropriate the speaker fear he might never have the ability to achieve. Actually, they reflect the Author"s own poetic failure. That is, together he attempts to internalize the miscellaneous poet numbers into a combined vision the himself together poet, he at some point denies self true identification through the (Coleridgean) poetic ideal, because that what he desire is nothing however a projection of his own imaginative inadequacies.


"Kubla Khan" is indeed a "psychological curiosity" in the sense that that establishes and foregrounds one aesthetics that the imagination. Much more specifically, the poem aesthetically represents Coleridge"s formulation that the imaginative process that he started formulating as beforehand as 1796 and that i do not care most plainly articulated in his Biographia Literaria . However, in this poetic representation, the creative thinking is elevated to a naturalistic kingdom forever out of with of the human poet, hence disillusioning every Romantic expect of imaginative redemption through imaginative creativity. This Romantic disillusionment is contextualized by Coleridge"s preface, because that without the preface come the poem, it would be impossible not to identify Khan and the poet/seer in ~ the end of the city as best agents of the imagination. However, as soon as read indigenous the paper definition of disillusionment, we see that Coleridge actually represents this poetic figures as failure poets. Rather of simply apologizing because that his poem via the preface and also the subtitle, Coleridge to be trying to create a power context (as he did as soon as he recited this poem in person) in an attempt to foreground his aesthetic and philosophic insecurities and skepticism. Together Hewitt concludes, "the stress in "Kubla Khan" may be viewed as a tension in between the extant theory of poetic creation—represented by the false poets—which Coleridge rejects and also the brand-new theory that imaginative creation that Coleridge embraces yet cannot quite totally work out" (54). And H. R. Rookmaaker argues that, in the paper definition of Coleridge"s writings, "Kubla Khan" allegorizes the metaphysical and also aesthetic struggles through which Coleridge was attempting come work. <23> While ns agree because that the most component with this conclusions worrying imaginative failure, i am suggesting that the poem foregrounds no a tension so lot as a melancholic recognition and subsequent re-vision or relocation the vision.


That is, poetic vision is situated not in ~ the individual poet but, rather, in an exterior other. The city depicts not what poetic creative thinking is but, instead, what that is not and cannot be. In this sense, the poem is negatively purposive, for it does not effect a celebration event of the poet"s divine capability to create sublime aesthetic moment that attach the poet to the universal whole (the "Infinite i Am") for this reason achieving imaginative redemption. ~ above the contrary, "Kubla Khan" underscores a disillusionment result from the recognition of the poet"s imaginative lack, namely the inability to attain redemption and unity of me through divine acts the poetic creation. This absence or failure on the part of the various poet numbers directs the audience come the moment in the vision the the author misses, namely that the flow Alph and also the fountain signify the ideal imaginative faculty or, in ~ least, the nature of the an imaginative process and also the rewards it bring in regards to a reunification v the community of the past and also the future. "Kubla Khan", then, is a poem about poetic failure, wherein agents of the pure imagination are represented not by human personae who room to be emulated but, rather, aspects of a sublime herbal realm that remain outside to the individual and, thus, an always already unobtainable other. Any kind of attempt come colonize this other, come girdle it with walls and also towers—to satisfy the desire to become perfect poet of the imagination—is properly to ruin this other, come nullify the desire. Ending up being the poet of the creative thinking for Coleridge is a desire always in process that can not be obtained. For to obtain (and, thus, contain) this various other is come render it as the self and, thus, to disable or ruin it. The creativity as aesthetically stood for in "Kubla Khan" is a herbal other that cannot it is in obtained, contained, or harnessed by the poet.


Furthermore, "Kubla Khan" underscores much more specifically Coleridge"s personal poetic disillusionment resulting from the recognition of his very own imaginative lack, namely his i can not qualify to attain redemption and unity of me through magnificent acts the poetic creation. As David Riede clues out, Coleridge lost confidence in his very own poetic faculties, viewing himself together "diseased in will nearly to the suggest of madness". <24> Ironically, also though Coleridge bemoans his imaginative lack in this and other the his poems ("The Eolian Harp", "Dejection: an Ode", and, to some extent, The Rime of the ancient Mariner ) his power abilities suggest that he to be a poet of an excellent imagination and authorial command. However the literary reviews of "Kubla Khan" show that he failed in the eye of most of his contemporaries, countless of who ignored this poem, cast it in the critical shadow that "Christabel", or merely dismissed it together a confused and also disappointing effort, a fragment generated from his opium-induced sleep that need to never have been printed. <25> In the end, the city not only depicts and also explores poetic failure, yet its nineteenth-century agree mirrors and reinforces this failure in Coleridge"s self-imaging. The goal of ending up being the sublime imaginative poet because that Coleridge to be a desire he might not fulfill; for even as plenty of of the reviews of his previously poetic functions praised his genius and poetic promise, <26> his later poems frequently confounded and frustrated most reviewers that felt his german aesthetics to be childish, ineffective, and/or overdone. <27> therefore he focused his attentions top top proclaiming the imaginative authority of together poets together Milton, Shakespeare, and also Wordsworth and establishing his own pundit authority as literary critic, metaphysician, and theologian.

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Cite this article

MLA Hogsette, David S. "Eclipsed through the pleasure Dome: Poetic failure in Coleridge"s "Kubla Khan"." Romanticism ~ above the Net, number 5, february 1997, p.0–0. Https://doi.org/10.7202/005737ar APA Hogsette, D. S. (1997). Overshadowed by the satisfied Dome: Poetic failure in Coleridge"s "Kubla Khan". Romanticism on the Net, (5), 0–0. Https://doi.org/10.7202/005737ar Chicago Hogsette, David S. "Eclipsed through the satisfied Dome: Poetic fail in Coleridge"s "Kubla Khan"". Romanticism ~ above the Net no. 5 (1997): 0–0. Https://doi.org/10.7202/005737ar

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