Kubla Khan : A personal depiction of Coleridge’s orientalism

“In any case drug induced or not, Kubla Khan and the personal depiction of Coleridge’s orient”

“Pearl” poet & dream vision genre

When the term or genre dream vision appears, the Gawain poet and his elegy poem “Pearl” conjures to my mind due to his vivid imagination after laying down on the grass where he “lost” his daughter. The alternative is Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan; or, A Vision in a Dream: A fragment” because it was drug induced and written momentarily upon his awakening of his trance or daze. Coleridge’s creative process for Kubla Khan was ignited by opium, or at least believed so, a drug of choice to many romantic authors like De Quincy (who wrote “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater) with anesthetic and narcotic effects which Coleridge himself was using for his toothache and sadly deteriorated towards addiction.



The poem opens with “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/ A stately pleasure-dome decree” (lines 1-2) which posthaste situates and pinpoints the poem towards the east and oriental sovereignty, a dynasty known even today for its grand and superior power that almost took over the entire continent and world. “dome of pleasure” is repeated three times throughout the description, lines 2, 31-32 “The shadow of the dome of pleasure/ Floated

“dome” structures allude to power and grand authority

midway on the waves” and 36 “A sunny pleasure dome with caves of  ice!”; with respect to the word “dome” stated alone in lines 46-47 “I would build that dome in air/ That sunny dome! those caves of ice!”. The dome represents majestic powers and authority of humanity as well as sovereignty, but when put in comparison to nature or mother earth, it is bijou.


Coleridge’s description of Kublai’s court is purely upon his own imagination and fantasy of beauty and natural oriental essence such as the Alph “the sacred river” (line 3) and like the hanging gardens of Babylon, a man made paradise which denotes immaculate beauty and magnificence “So twice five miles of fertile ground /With walls and towers were girdled round: / And  there were gardens bright with sinuous rills/ Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree” (lines 6-9).

Hanging gardens of Babylon & man-made paradise on earth

First time readers of the poem may not fully grasp Coleridge’s amplitude of Kubla Khan’s court due to its obscurity and shift of emphasis, yet it may be unnecessary to know or understand the author’s background information to understand the poem or personal depiction of the grand other than it was drug induced and fragmented ascribed to the interruption of his creative process by “A person on business from Porlock”.

With respect to Lord Byron’s help, influence and arrangement, the poem was first published in 1816 by Byron’s publisher John Murray. The preface to the text prepares us readers for the fragment reading and earmarks a “fill in the blank” feature, which is common for the romantic relics and view of authorship at the time. Whether the poem is drug induced or an aftermath of a dream vision or not, Kubla Khan a perfect example of 18/19th century depiction of authorship, romanticism themes and ideas of the world and thirst of the unknown knowledge beyond the limits of geography or nature. Coleridge’s depiction of the oriental and grand is not only vivid as it seems, but shares a cavernous understanding of nature with respect to mankind.


Works Cited

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. Christabel ; Kubla Khan, a Vision ; The Pains of Sleep. London: John Murray, 1816.

Images :

Pearl Poet : https://medievalpearl.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/getimage-3-exe-version-2.jpeg

Hanging gardens of Babylon
: https://mir-s3-cdn-cf.behance.net/project_modules/max_1200/0e148a43165623.56073d98ad1d0.jpg

Dome : https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/7d/71/5f/7d715fe9a5c308f0b87cb0ab8247e182.jpg

Xanadu : http://i52.tinypic.com/6r6o0i.png



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