Kubla Khan – Samuel Tylor Coleridge
Summary of Kubla Khan
This analysis/summary/mcq of Kubla Khan is to help the readers to understand the poem better. You can also download the poem Kubla Khan in PDF from here. Coleridge’s poem ‘Kubla Khan’ is believed to be influenced from one of his dreams. The poem is an attempt of the poet to describe the beautiful setting that he witnessed in his dream. In the poem, he mentions how Kubla Khan ordered a pleasure dome to be built in Xanadu. The dome has been described as a mesmerizing piece of architecture and beauty. While describing Xanadu, the poet mentions the area developed as per Kubla Khan’s plan on the one hand and the wild nature surrounding the dome on the other. He mentions beautiful gardens present there as also the caverns whose depth is ‘measureless to man’.
There is something very unique regarding the description of beauty of this place. The natural beauty of this place has been described so as to make the reader feel fascinated about its beauty. It is not the usual beauty but is full of strangeness and mystery. The poet also mentions the effect of ‘woman wailing for her lover’ on the place that is, otherwise, marked by a ‘romantic chasm’.
The poet also describes the efforts undertaken to prepare the dome ordered by Kubla Khan. Huge tumult was caused by the natural activities taking place and the efforts to prepare the tomb. Amid this tumult, Kubla Khan could feel the presence of his ancestors. However, he heard his ancestors prophesying war.
The dome was unique having caves of ice as its part despite being located in a sunny area. The poet also mentions a song he heard from a lady. He states that the song was exceptionally pleasant. The effect of the song could carry the poet to a dream and enable him to build such a dome in air.
The poem is based on Colridge’s dream about the same structure whose construction and beauty has been mentioned in this poem. Although the poet has described the dome and its surroundings quite clear, he seems to have deliberately maintained a dream like environment in the poem. The description of nature in this poem is not the typical beautiful description of nature by a romantic poet. The description gives a sense of obscurity.
The poet has made use of such diction that matches the intentions of the poet. He is not describing the beauty of the dome merely to romanticize the place. He is pointing towards a sense of mystery and supernatural in the setting of the poem. So, the mention of things like ‘sacred river’, ‘caverns measureless’, ‘sunless sea’, ‘forests ancient’ help the poet in giving rise to the environment according to his idea. Since the poem got inspired by a dream, the description of the beauty of the landscape also gives a dreamlike sense.
The use of words like ‘mighty’, ‘huge’, ‘sacred’, tumult’, etc. point towards the grandness of the tomb ordered by Kubla Khan, the intensity of the efforts required to build the tomb as well as the natural significance of the place where this tomb was prepared.
The poet uses ordered structure while mentioning the well ordered structures built under Kubla Khan’s orders. To describe the world outside that ordered dome, he uses abrupt changes in meter.
The contrast between the organized structures under Kubla Khan’s control and the nature that is out of his control has been presented in different ways. At the beginning of the poem, it seems that the contrast adds to the beauty of the dome. However, in the second half of the poem, the natural bodies seem to be creating a sort of disturbance for Kubla Khan. They seem to be acting against the peace that surrounds Kubla Khan’s creation.
The poem was published in 1816.
Coleridge is believed to have written the lines of the poems as visualized by him in his dream. Further, the poem is believed to be incomplete. Coleridge had planned a much longer poem but he forgot the rest of the poem conceived in his dream due to an interruption while writing the poem when he was writing it just after getting up from the concerned dream.