In the poem Kubla Khan by Samuel Coleridge, language is used to convey images from Coleridges imagination. This is done with the use of vocabulary, imagery, structure, use of contrasts, rhythm and sound devices such as alliteration and assonance.
By conveying his imagination by using language, the vocabulary used by coleridge is of great importance. The five lines of the poem Kubla Khan sound like a chant or incantation, and help suggest mystery and supernatural themes of the poem. Another important theme of the poem is that of good versus evil. The vocabulary used throughout the poem helps convey these themes in images to the reader. In the first two lines, Coleridge describes the pleasure dome in Xanadu.
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
a stately pleasure dome decree
Kubla Khan did not merely order, but decree that a stately pleasure dome be built. This dome is evidence of how unnatural the place of Xanadu is, it has a ruler who ignores the unpleasantness that can be found in life.
The use of vocabulary challenges and teases the imagination into seeing what he, Coleridge saw in his dream. In Xanadu, there are not small streams, but sinuous rills and wall and towers do not enclose the gardens but are girdled round. Coleridges use of language and vocabulary helps to convey the extent of his imagination.
In the poem Kubla Khan, imagery is also important for Coleridge to convey his imagination to the reader. There are images of paradise throughout the poem that are combined with references to darker, more evil places. On example of this is the demon lover that has bewitched the woman. Coleridges image of the dome of pleasure is mystical, contradicting the restrictions of realism. Xanadu is also a savage and ancient place where pure good and pure evil are much more apparent than in the monotony of everyday living. By using images, Coleridge conveys the extent of his imagination to readers.
The structure of Kubla Khan is really in two parts. The first, which contains three stanzas, describes Xanadu as if Coleridge is actually there, experiencing the place first hand. The second part of the poem is filled with longing to be in Xanadu, but Coleridge is unable to capture the experience again.
The first stanza has a definite rhythm and beat and describes the beauty and sacredness of Xanadu with rich, sensual and exotic images. The second stanza depicts the savage and untamed violence of life outside of the pleasure dome. The disorder and primitive cycles of nature are mixed with images of evil and the threat of war are also introduced in the second stanza. In the third stanza, the life forces are entwined together to prove that beauty and danger cannot be separated from eachother, despite what the ruler Kubla Khan wants. Kubla Khan is a self-portrayal by Coleridge who believes that it is he who controls the land of Xanadu.
A sunny pleasure dome
With caves of ice
The dome itself is a contrast with sun and ice, the sun symbolising all things good and the ice symbolising death and destruction.
There is a definite change of tone between the third and fourth stanzas. The fourth stanza no longer describes Xanadu, but Coleridges desire for control over his imagination, to be able to recon jure up the feelings and ideas of Xanadu. The two parts may initially seem unconnected, but the ideas in both parts of the poem link these sections together by showing that even the ruler cannot have control over the forces of nature, and the writer over his imagination.
Both parts of the poem deal with the attempt to create: Kubla Khan has built a pleasure dome and Coleridge is trying to use language to recreate the perfection of his dream with words. The poem is conveyed to the reader with the use of language and the structuring of the poem plays an important part in this.
In the poem Kubla Khan, Coleridge uses contrasts in the images he presents to his audience. Xanadu is idyllic, but also savage. Coleridge uses images such as
a waning moon
was haunted by
a woman wailing for her demon lover
This image of a woman bound to evil brings the dark side of the supposed utopia to light. The peace and serenity is contrasted by the violent disorder of the river and the threat of war. The use of language in the contrasting images helps convey to the reader the extent of Coleridges imagination.
There are images of two women in the poem and they are a direct contrast to each other, one representing evil, and the Abyssinian maid exotic and beautiful. Yet the poem is a good example of appearances being deceptive. The pleasure dome may be beautiful with its bright sunny gardens and blossoming incense trees, but it is an enchanted eye of the storm. The garden is surrounded by savage destruction caused by the ceaseless turmoil seething. Xanadu is not ruled by what Coleridge wants, but by the raw, ancient corners of his mind, which are continuously struggling in their search for utopia. The ideal paradise is threatened by the darkness and disorder caused by the river Alph. All these images are examples of the extent that Coleridge conveys his imagination to the reader.
Coleridge was a deeply religious man and the poem is filled with references to god and related ideas. Xanadu symbolises the fabled Garden of Eden, it is lovely and innocent, surrounded by evil and the constant threat of destruction. Ancestral voices prophesying war could be likened to Gods warning to go near the tree, as Eve fell for the snakes treacherous charm.
Coleridge describes the river as sacred on numerous occasions throughout the poem, and to Xanadu as holy and enchanted. This is yet another contrast, how can something holy be enchanted at the same time? Coleridge talks too of miracles but mingled with the holiness, Coleridge refers to hell with his choice of language to depict what is outside the pleasure dome. The demons described are closely related to witchcraft and the closing lines of Kubla Khan describe pagan rituals that attempt to protect not only the reader, but also Coleridge himself from the forces of evil and the extent of his imagination.
Coleridge, having drunk the milk of paradise desired and sought after the beautiful image of Xanadu and Utopia and his final stanza is his way to describe to the reader how badly he wants to go back there. By using his wide vocabulary to depict images and contrasts with the help of some literary techniques such as imagery and contrasts, Coleridge easily conveys to the reader the extent of his imagination.