Dr. Morillo

English 207Q

Writing Practice: Your Examples


I . Titles:  Build a Significant Title Out of a Key Term from Your Argument

1) Kubla Khan / Samuel Taylor Coleridge 

2) First Paper: Kubla Khan

3) “Kubla Khan” Interpretation

4) Kubla Colerdige: Coleridge’s Metapoetic Writing of Kubla Khan


Points = Blue

II Introductions:

1) Divided Thesis, but Placed Well


            The poem “Kubla Khan” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge is immediately striking in its subject matter, vivid depictions of man and nature, and carefully planned cadence and rhythm. It is clear that Coleridge feels awed by Xanadu and Kubla Khan, and this sense of awe helps to carry the poem through shifts of focus between geography and people. However, the meaning of the poem, if Coleridge is attempting to convey an explicit meaning, is rather ambiguous on a surface level. There is no point at which he gives an obvious clue to the reader of what the poem is all about. Nevertheless, it is in this sense of awe that one can read the poem as a kind of epic or romantic journey through history. Through his beautifully detailed descriptions and enthralled tone, Coleridge composes a mysterious yet exciting flow of words which are accentuated by a skilled iambic rhythmic structure.


2) Unified, Well-Placed Thesis

   We have all heard songs about writing songs, read books about reading or writing books, and even listened to speakers talk about public speaking. In our time, we may also have encountered poetry written about poetry. A classic example of such poetry would be Archibald MacLeish’s poem titled Ars Poetica in which he artfully describes what a poem should be. MacLeish’s poem, however, is most obviously metapoetic for each stanza begins with the phrase, “A poem is,” followed by the author’s thoughts. Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan is not as obviously metapoetic as MacLeish’s; some may argue that it is not metapoetic at all. With thoughtful analysis, however, that integrates both Coleridge’s poem itself and when and how it was supposedly written, one will notice that Kubla Khan is in fact a metaphor of the way in which the poem itself was constructed: a dream, dreamt by Coleridge while sedated by opium.        


1) Consistent Sequence of Point-First Body Paragraphs

In the beginning of the poem an elegant scene is being painted, which gave me the impression of a utopia or fantasy land.  It was obvious picking out this subject of the poem as the author gave an elaborate description of the land.  As I read the poem I began to visualize the stately pleasure-dome of Xanadu, “Kubla Khan”.  The description words that were used added an intricate level of detail such as: the sacred river, caverns measureless to man, forest ancient as the hills, a deep romantic chasm, and a mighty fountain that flung huge fragments that were described as dancing rocks, and so on.   

            This poem also seems to point towards a gateway between two different worlds that could be heaven and hell or even heaven and earth.  A deep romantic chasm is described in the poem and is called a savage place, and as I pictured this in my head I saw a black hole (or a portal) between a place described as pleasurable with sacred surroundings and a savage place.  It also gives me the sense of heaven and hell or heaven and earth as a woman is “wailing for her demon-lover”, using this chasm as a means of expressing this grief.  The reason that I think that it is either a gateway between heaven and hell or heaven and earth simply because compared to heaven; earth could be considered a hell or at least land influenced by hell.    

            The end of the Kubla Khan was especially interesting to me because as I read it multiple times I instantly connected a few lines to the story of the first humans on earth, Adam and Eve.  The lines that led me to this bizarre conclusion are as follows: “And all should cry, Beware! Beware!  His flashing eyes, his floating hair… And close your eyes with holy dread, for he on honey-dew hath fed, and drunk the milk of paradise”.  His flashing eyes and his floating hair gave me the impression of Satan (although he took the form of a serpent in the garden) because not only has he been depicted in many forms over time but it said beware.  Beware of him and his flashing eyes and floating hair who has led Adam and Eve to the fruit of knowledge.  The honey-dew which he feeds upon could represent this very fruit since no one knows what that fruit was, and thus tasting this fruit he has drunk the milk of paradise.  When it said “drunk the milk of paradise”, I immediately assumed he was talking about man losing his privileges in the Garden of Eden. 


2) A Single Point-First Paragraph, with Longer Point


Coleridge is very meticulous about the symbolism in his poetry. All of the names in Kubla Khan are almost names of real places and people, but they're not. Coleridge has purposefully misspelled the names in his poem to forgo the literal meaning of his images' real world counterparts, but to leave the imagery they invoke intact. It's as if he's taken things in our world and stripped them of their significance to use at his discretion in his fantasy, without the bother of worrying about the natural hindrance of consistency that results from using real life symbolism. For example, Kubilai Khan was a Mongolian emperor and the grandson of Genghis Khan. Coleridge cleverly took this name and stripped it down to Kubla Khan in order to create a fictional character that would have the same connotations as it's real world counterpart. Since Coleridge does this on multiple  occasions, there must be a reason for him doing so. It's as if he is more concerned about the image, about the connotations, than about the actual characters.


3) A Long Paragraph with Multiple Points

            Kubla Khan is in Xanadu for the duration of the poem.  The mind of Kubla Khan is represented by “a stately pleasure-dome.”  In his mind roams “the sacred river” called “Alph” which represents Kubla Khan’s search for inner peace.  The river “ran/ Through caverns measureless to man/ Down to a sunless sea.”  Kubla Khan was diving through the depths of his mind, the “sunless sea”, and the caverns of imagination “measureless to man” trying to find peace.  Inside his own mind, Kubla Khan sees walls and towers that represent the confines of his mind or places he cannot go or understand.  He also finds “forests ancient as the hills.”  Since the hills are the base of his mind and what came first, the forests represent his earliest memories.  Inside his mind he finds “gardens bright with sinuous rills/ Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree” representing the fond memories of his past.  Mixed in with all these fond memories, Kubla Khan finds “that deep romantic chasm” where his love should be but he finds only lust.  He calls it a “savage place” but also “holy and enchanted.”  In his past, there is a “woman wailing for her demon-lover,” a woman in his past that desires pleasure and in which he finds no love but in whom all his lust takes hold.  When he comes across this memory, the chasm bursts forth and conflict between his search for peace and his lustful desires.  The bursting forth of the chasm “flung up the sacred river,” stopping Kubla Khan in his search for peace.  “A might fountain momently forced” from the chasm chasing back the river through the sunless sea and caverns measureless to man, disrupting Kubla Khan’s mind.  Past experiences or “ancestral voices prophesying war” warned Kubla Khan that his previous empty and lustful relationship could happen again.  However, “it was a miracle of rare device,” a woman whom he could love and not lust for, “a sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!”  Caves of ice represent the beauty and stillness of his current state of mind, instead of the restless roaming river that meandered about previously.  At this point in the poem, the speaker claims that if he could remember the “symphony and song” of the damsel, it would bring him great delight, showing that the girl was artistic and pure.  Rather in the darkness of the sunless sea, Kubla Khan finds himself in “that sunny dome!”  The girl brought to light and peace, the dark, roaming spirit that was Kubla Khan.  Kubla Khan was at complete peace, and the speaker was in awe of that, and tried to protect his peace and revel in it.


4) Variable Point Placement in Two Body Paragraphs; Evidence vs. Claims


In the middle of the poem, Coleridge describes the forest outside the city walls as being "a savage place! As holy and enchanted as e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted by woman wailing for her demon-lover!"  In other words, about as holy as a dancing witch.  Coleridge describes this place as detestable with words like "savage," "turmoil," and "seething."  Then there is a great eruption from the earth, a volcano that reveals a river of lava.  Coleridge says "a mighty fountain momently was forced."  This is the spew of the volcano.  From the volcano there burst "huge fragments" and "dancing rocks."  When the lava reached the caverns, it "sank in tumult" back to the depths of the earth.  It is in this tumult that Kubla hears "ancestral voices prophesying war."  This last line reveals that Kubla is thinking about the deeds of his forefathers.  His ancestors were war-loving people who fought and killed to gain their power.  Kubla on the other hand doesn't want to wage war.  He sees war as a volcano, destroying the land and everything in it, leaving an evil and ugly wake of destruction, just like a lava flow.  Kubla sees himself as the kingdom, a thing of beauty and, more importantly, peace.  The forest he sees as the acts of his ancestors, full of evil and corruption, waging wars and causing destruction. 

The final section of the poem reemphasizes Kubla's inner struggle between his love of peace and his ancestral history of war and death.  The third line talks about a "mingled measure," or in other words, mixed messages, those of his forefathers, and those of his concious [conscience].  The "miracle of rare device" is the author's comment that it is unusual and fortunate that a peaceful ruler could come from a line of warmongers.  The contrast is also emphasized in the lines "I would build that dome in air, that sunny dome! Those caves of ice!"  The sunny dome, or the kingdom, is the way Kubla sees himself, and the caves of ice are like the bad blood that is passed down from Kubla's ancestors.  The last lines also indicate that Kubla sees himself as peaceful when they say, "he on honey-dew hath fed, and drunk the milk of paradise."