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The Struggle of Art in Kubla Khan

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 01:03 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 52.1 
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Samuel Coleridge’s Kubla Khan, one of his most famous works, has suffered a notoriety that has cast it as an opium-driven fantasy, and more so, has been thought of as incomplete, a fragment of something greater. But the sheer depth of the poem extends its significance far beyond that of a drug-induced musing, and the poem itself has a sense of finality that extra words would only detract from. Contained in the poem is a vast array of lush imagery for our consideration, and a pattern emerges throughout that seemingly unifies the distinct concepts of nature, sexuality, and divinity into one, co-dependent conception. All three are popular subjects which artists of all creative categories focus on, and by combining them, Coleridge creates, if you will, an artistic trinity of subject matter. This paper will argue that the trinity which Coleridge creates is his conception of artistic inspiration, a well-spring from which all creativity gushes from.

Our first glimpse at the emerging pattern of imagery comes when the speaker describes “gardens bright with sinuous rills/ Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;” gardens produce lush and natural imagery of plants and flowers, and “sinuous rills” seems almost seductive, hypnotizing the reader down its winding path (v.8-9). We can also see the garden as Edenic imagery if we visualize the winding shape of the rills as resembling a snake, such as the one found in the Garden of Eden. The snake imagery can symbolize the temptation of Eve, and can also be seen as a phallic image - both interpretations reinforcing the sexuality of the “sinuous rills,” and the Edenic imagery bringing in the idea of divinity (v.8). It also seems odd that the poet would choose “incense-bearing” as a description of a tree, but it is another example of him combining the seductive qualities of incense with the naturalness of a tree (v.8).

The pattern of imagery becomes much more flagrant in the next stanza. We get a juxtaposition of...


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