Dream-Like Qualities in Coleridge’s Kubla Khan and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

March 18, 2021 by Essay Writer

Explore the dream-like qualities in Kubla Khan. In your answer, explore the author’s use of language, imagery and verse form.

Kubla Khan and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner are two very distinctive poems by Coleridge: Kubla Khan, a shorter poem in comparison to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, involves a dreamy tone while The Rime of the Ancient Mariner has a suspenseful tone. Regardless of their differences, there are relations that can be made between the two poems. They both have vivid imageries that cause the reader to view each poem for their own language techniques, rhythm and context. In this essay, I will be focusing on some of many of Coleridge’s techniques that entice the reader.

Firstly, in the poem of Kubla Khan, Coleridge crafts dream- like qualities fluently through each stanza that become recognisable to the reader. In stanza one, Coleridge describes the scenery of the setting of the poem, Xanadu. The rhyme scheme of the first stanza being ABAABCCDEDE, gives a staggering rhythm. Coleridge describes the river as being ‘measureless to man’. The word ‘measureless’ implies that a human wouldn’t have the ability to recognise the true length of the river. To emphasise this, Coleridge then adds, ‘Down to a sunless sea’. This suggests further that the river is very long as it leads to a sunless sea that hasn’t been witnessed by man because it’s the depths of the river. This adds to the dream-like quality of the poem because the imagery of a never-ending river with flowing water, it can be recognised as a meditative object which makes it appear dreamy.

An opposite use of descriptive language is then incorporated to the poem as Coleridge goes from describing darkness to bright objects: ‘And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills…’ The garden being described as ‘bright’ and ‘sinuous’, this is a dreamy fantasy, sinuous meaning curves and turns, this hints at a hallucination type of dream that is being experienced. This can be an ideology of what Coleridge could’ve been presenting as he had a drug addiction of Opium. Coleridge was a frequent user of opium as a relaxant, analgesic, antidepressant, and also a treatment for several other health problems he had. With this in consideration, this could suggest that as Coleridge was suffering an illness at the time of this poem, and he was known for his drug taking, the reader can view the descriptions in a way that no sane individual would as they will acknowledge his mental state of his drug addiction.

A dream-like quality that can also be perceived as a hallucination, is in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, part 6, in the stanza, Coleridge writes about an angel standing over the dead bodies: ‘A man all light, a seraph- man, On every corse there stood’. Coleridge, being an individual who was focused on religion, he has incorporated this in the poem as well as interpreting something that can also be viewed as a psychedelic scene.

Coleridge’s literary movement was romanticism, and in Kubla Khan this can identified: ‘By woman waiting for her demon-lover!’ This quotation involves a combination of horror and romance. The description of this woman’s lover as a demon implies that whoever this woman has fallen in love with, he is some type of evil entity that she has unintentionally or accidently fallen for. This adds to the romance of the poem because the quotation is based on the love of the woman but Coleridge has done this in a way that can leave several ideas of what this demon- lover is really like.

To conclude, Coleridge uses a wide variety of techniques which contribute to the poem including dream-like qualities. Coleridge has definitely entwined the realities of the natural world while adding parts that he may have experienced himself while going through his drug addiction. I believe that he has done this because he has captured images for the readers that are very imaginative so they can be interpreted widely.

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