Kubla Khan as a Romantic Poem

The essence of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s romanticism lies in his artistic rendering of the supernatural phenomena. Almost all his major poems are steeped in supernatural mystery. Kubla Khan, it is true, is less directly concerned with the supernatural, yet the supernatural elements in the poem stand out quite conspicuously. The woman wailing for her demon lover’ and the ancestral voices prophesying war’ are obviously supernatural occurrences. The poetic frenzy of an inspired poet borders on the supernatural. The tumultuous rise of the river Alph from a deep romantic chasm is also given an unmistakable supernatural touch. But what is remarkable about Kubla Khan is the convincing presentation of the supernatural elements. The description of the landscape is so vivid and precise, the similes used for the mighty fountain so homely and familiar that it just does not occur to the reader that anything incredible is being described. The psychological truths hidden behind Kubla Khan’s hearing ancestral voices prophesying war or the presentation of the poet as a superhuman being make these facts acceptable.

Reference to distant times and places with a view to evoking a sense of awe and mystery is another romantic characteristic used by Coleridge in Kubla Khan. The very first line transports us to the distant city of Xanadu, the summer capital of the great oriental king Kubla Khan, the son of the great Genghiz Khan. These names, unfamiliar and wrought with the spirit of mystery, lend to the poem an enchantment of their own. The same purpose is served by the allusion to the Abyssinian girl singing of Mount Abora in the second part of the poem.

Kubla Khan abounds in suggestive phrases and lines capable of evoking mystery. The description of the romantic chasm, the source of the river Alph in the second part of the poem is romantic in spirit. Perhaps the most suggestive lines in the poem refer to the woman wailing for her demon-lover:

A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!

But almost equally suggestive is Kubla Khan’s hearing the war prophecy made by the ancestral voices.

Sensuous phrases and pictures so generously used in the poem contribute a good deal to its romantic spirit. The bright gardens and sinuous rills, the incense-bearing, trees laden with sweet blossoms, the sunny spots of greenery, the half-intermittent burst of the mighty fountain the rocks vaulting like rebounding hail – all these vivid pictures give the poem a sensuous touch so characteristic of romantic poetry.

The very idea of poetic creativity taking place under divine inspiration and of the poet transcending his prosaic existence and rising to the level of superhuman being when caught in his poetic frenzy is based on the romantic concept of poetry and of a poet’s identity.

Above all, the dream-like atmosphere of Kubla Khan makes it an exquisite romantic poem. It was not only composed in a dream but even exhibits a dream-like movement.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *