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ALL ANSWERS MUST BE TYPED. Leave yourself ample room to add class notes. Your grade will be derived from the typed portions of your answers. Print out a copy of the poem and Coleridge's note on its composition and bring both to class.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) was the son of a respectable country clergyman and his wife. He was the youngest of 14 children, and, as his father’s favorite, spent much of his childhood with adults. He quickly developed into a precocious speaker and reader. He went to Cambridge University but spent more time enjoying city life than studying. This cost him an important scholarship and he left in 1794 without a degree. He spent the next few years writing sporadically and unevenly until 1797 when he met Wordsworth and their poetic collaboration began. However, since Coleridge's family was not wealthy, he decided reluctantly to enter the clergy in order to support himself. Fortunately, his work found favor with the Wedgwood family. They offered him a modest annual stipend so that he could continue his study and writing. Coleridge's work is complex and diverse, reflecting the breadth and depth of his education. He was an impressive scholar who could read and write Greek, Latin, French, and German with ease. Over the course of his career, Coleridge wrote on most of the major issues concerning the British public, including religion, morals, politics, the imagination, literature, landscape, and philosophy. He published work in a variety of genres, including essays, theoretical treatises, public lectures, dramas, and magazine articles. Coleridge wrote relatively little poetry, but the poetry he did write demonstrates an astonishing range of styles. Today, literary critics tend to consider his "mystery" poems to be his greatest work: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, “Christabel,” and “Kubla Khan.” Literary historians usually identify Coleridge as a Romantic poet. They group him with William Blake, William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley, George Gordon, Lord Byron, and John Keats. However, we should note that this label has been imposed retrospectively by twentieth-century critics: during their lifetimes, and for several decades after their death, they were not understood as part of a coherent group, nor did they understand themselves this way. Nevertheless, they do have common interests. Coleridge Wordsworth, and Blake are usually identified as the "first generation" of Romantics. They came of age as poets during the first wave of enthusiasm for the French Revolution. As young adults, therefore, they believed in the ideals originally associated with it. Although all became disillusioned with the course France subsequently took, they still knew the heady optimism of its early days: all three learned to look at the world with the hope that it could be transformed
and remade by visionaries and revolutionaries. IN part as a result of this, these poets emphasize the power of the human imagination. Like Gray, these poets take as their subject imaginative capabilities of human beings. But whereas Wordsworth's early work celebrates the power of the poetic imagination to escape the realities of the everyday world, Coleridge's poetry tends to explore a darker side of the psyche. His work suggests a profound ambivalence about the poet's visionary powers. In Coleridge's poetry, the power of the poetic imagination is both marvelous and frightening. The visions it offers are both fascinating and terrifying. And the poet who records his or her visions runs the risk of complete isolation from the social world. Whereas Wordsworth's "I wandered Lonely as a Cloud" celebrates the solitary transcendence made possible by imaginative vision, Coleridge's "Kubla Kahn" suggests that this isolation can forever distance the poet from other people, and thus from the more mundane pleasures of "ordinary life." As you read “Kubla Khan,” consider the precarious quality of the speaker's vision. How does its appearance suggest its insubstantiality? What threatens the imaginary world of the Kahn? What kind of language characterizes the suggestive descriptions of the landscape? What does the poem suggest about imaginative visions in general through the descriptions in this poem? Visit the Samuel Taylor Coleridge archive at the University of Virginia.
Print out a copy of the poem and Coleridge's note on its composition and bring both to class. Author: Title: Date of publication: 1. Scan ten lines from each section (1 - 11; 12 - 36; 37 - end). Note any difficult passages and introduce them during class discussion. (20 points) 2. What is the form of the poem? What is the meter of the poem? (20 points) 3. The poem divides itself into three long verse paragraphs: 1 - 11; 12 - 36; 37 - end. Write a brief (four to five sentence) discussion of one of these sections in which you comment on some significant aspect of its form and content. Provide at least three quotations to illustrate your work. (30 points) 5. Draw a diagram of the landscape described by the poem. Label all important landmarks: rivers, walls, towers, and mountains. (30 points) If you would like to write an essay on the poem, you might consider the following topics.
How do the title and subtitle try to shape the reader's expectation of the poem to follow? Analyze a passage that includes a detailed description. Consider its word choice, use of figurative language, and the particular details it provides, and demonstrate its importance to the poem as a whole.
Identify and explicate a passage of figurative language: a metaphor, simile, or use of some other figurative device. Analyze on its relationship to the poem as a whole. Write a brief paragraph commenting on the pleasure dome itself. What do we learn about it from the poem? Does it sound like a building that could ever really exist? What might it symbolize for the speaker? Write a brief paragraph on the final image of the poem. What does the speaker imagine will happen if he begins to sing the song of the Abyssian maid (39)? What will be his fate if he can recreate her song in its original glory? You might consider the shift from past tense to subjunctive mode at line 42.
Extra credit: 3 points each Outline, in two or three sentences, two or three essay topics that would compare and contrast specific aspects of this poem with Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud."
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree : Where Alph, the sacred river, ran Through caverns measureless to man Down to a sunless sea. 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 ; And here were forests ancient as the hills, Enfolding sunny spots of greenery. But oh ! that deep romantic chasm which slanted Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover ! A savage place ! as holy and enchanted As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted By woman wailing for her demon-lover ! And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething, As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing, A mighty fountain momently was forced : Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail, Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail : And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever It flung up momently the sacred river. Five miles meandering with a mazy motion Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man, And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean : And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far Ancestral voices prophesying war ! The shadow of the dome of pleasure Floated midway on the waves ; Where was heard the mingled measure From the fountain and the caves. It was a miracle of rare device, A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice ! A damsel with a dulcimer In a vision once I saw : It was an Abyssinian maid, And on her dulcimer she played, Singing of Mount Abora. Could I revive within me Her symphony and song, To such a deep delight 'twould win me, That with music loud and long, I would build that dome in air, That sunny dome ! those caves of ice ! And all who heard should see them there, And all should cry, Beware ! Beware ! His flashing eyes, his floating hair ! Weave a circle round him thrice, And close your eyes with holy dread, For he on honey-dew hath fed, And drunk the milk of Paradise. Autumn of 1797 or (more likely) spring of 1798, published 1816, 1828, 1829, 1834 (proofed against E. H. Coleridge's 1927 edition of STC's poems and a ca. 1898 edition of STC's Poetical Works, ``reprinted from the early editions'')
Coleridge's note, published with the poem
The following fragment is here published at the request of a poet of great and deserved celebrity [Lord Byron], and, as far as the Author's own opinions are concerned, rather as a psychological curiosity, than on the ground of any supposed poetic merits. In the summer of the year 1797, the Author, then in ill health, had retired to a lonely farmhouse between Porlock and Linton, on the Exmoor confines of Somerset and Devonshire. In consequence of a slight indisposition, an anodyne had been prescribed, from the effects of which he fell asleep in his chair at the moment that he was reading the following sentence, or words of the same substance, in Purchas's Pilgrimage: ``Here the Khan Kubla commanded a palace to be built, and a stately garden thereunto. And thus ten miles of fertile ground were inclosed with a wall.'' The Author continued for about three hours in a profound sleep, at least of the external senses, during which time he has the most vivid confidence, that he could not have composed less than from two to three hundred lines; if that indeed can be called
composition in which all the images rose up before him as things, with a parallel production of the correspondent expressions, without any sensation or consciousness of effort. On awakening he appeared to himself to have a distinct recollection of the whole, and taking his pen, ink, and paper, instantly and eagerly wrote down the lines that are here preserved. At this moment he was unfortunately called out by a person on business from Porlock, and detained by him above an hour, and on his return to his room, found, to his no small surprise and mortification, that though he still retained some vague and dim recollection of the general purport of the vision, yet, with the exception of some eight or ten scattered lines and images, all the rest had passed away like the images on the surface of a stream into which a stone has been cast, but, alas! without the after restoration of the latter! Then all the charm Is broken--all that phantom-world so fair Vanishes, and a thousand circlets spread, And each mis-shape the other. Stay awile, Poor youth! who scarcely dar'st lift up thine eyes-The stream will soon renew its smoothness, soon The visions will return! And lo, he stays, And soon the fragments dim of lovely forms Come trembling back, unite, and now once more The pool becomes a mirror. Yet from the still surviving recollections in his mind, the Author has frequently purposed to finish for himself what had been originally, as it were, given to him. is yet to come. : but the to-morrow
As a contrast to this vision, I have annexed a fragment of a very different character, describing with equal fidelity the dream of pain and disease.