Explain the Imagery in ‘Kubla Khan’

| March 18, 2014

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Explain the Imagery in ‘Kubla Khan’
One literary device Coleridge uses a lot in Kubla Khan is imagery. Coleridge uses imagery to build up the readers understanding of his dream. It is important to use imagery in Kubla Khan because it is a very imaginative and unusual dream hence without it Coleridge would have trouble conveying its richness and originality.
The Sacred River
The first type of imagery used is personification with the introduction of Alph, the sacred river. It is referred to by name, called sacred and given a character. Coleridge uses Alph to guide the reader through his dream. A sacred river runs through caverns that are so deep that no man can measure them, plunging down below the earth, filling a sea below ground, where the sun cannot get through.
The Palace
Coleridge uses the metaphor of the palace as a natural imagery to give the feeling that this palace is like a beautiful woman. According to Coleridge & Hay (2004) the author introduces the topic “building the pleasure dome” where a great head of state, or Khan, issues a decree, ordering a pleasure dome to be built. Ten miles of walls and towers surround gardens, odoriferous trees with blossoms, ancient forests, hills and sunny spots for greenery. Since he introduces the palaces as a pleasure dome, the tone of the poem is therefore marked to be about pleasure and sensuality. Also in describing the palace he uses language that is suggestive of a woman and fertility. With the caverns and fertile ground seemingly representing a womb, while the following line represent a beautiful body, “the words paint a picture of a womanly image” (Coleridge & Hay 2004). This shows the parallel desire for the pleasure dome as the desire of a man for a beautiful and fertile woman. He explores the pleasure dome, romancing the woman and experiencing the sensation of foreplay, intercourse and eventually the moments that follow thereafter. He describes this using nature by showing the great contrast between peacefulness and climax. At first he describes her body or palace as holy and enchanted and in contrast the purity of this image. He describes the woman as wailing for her demon lover. He uses this image to describe how pleasure dome looks like in the moon.
Sound Imagery
Coleridge uses sound imagery to facilitate the reader’s vision of his dream. For instance he uses enjambment to accentuate the flowing quality of the river. He Gives Kubla Khan a very strange rhythmic pattern, which excludes some words and involves both couplets and alternate rhyme. The first stanza has a definite rhythm and beat, which helps the reader, get a feel for the exotic and sacredness of the place, but the actual rhythmic pattern is jumbled so the reader might wonder whether he thought about it at all. Sibilance is also used lightly in places such as sunny spots and sunless sea which makes the words sound longer and alliteration is used in a similar way but more frequently.
Lastly, he also uses onomatopoeias to help the reader hear and see his dream. He uses many exclamation marks for instance in the second stanza to add drama when the passage is read out loud (Coleridge & Hay 2004). Coleridge also uses vocabulary to create a pace and mood. He uses monosyllables for example, thick fast pants to slow the pace of the poem down, with many short syllable words the reader has to slow his reading down to take in every word. This phrase also has an onomatopoeic effect, as it sounds like out of breath panting, when said out loud. Also, Coleridge uses Polysyllables, for instance blossomed and rebounding, because these sound energetic and speed up the poem.
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