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Huda Ahmed Muhsen

Supervised by:
Mr Amjad Nimaa

2017\2018 1439 Hijri

‫ظ‬ ‫ع‬ ‫ل‬
‫صدق الله العلي ا مي‬

I would like to dedicate this paper to my
family, my great professor Mr. Amjad,
and to the spirit of Samuel Taylor
Coleridge. Hopefully he will be proud of


Section One:
1.1. Introduction on Poetry
1.2. Coleridge‟s contributions to Poetry.
1.3. Biography of S. T. Coleridge.
1.4. Important works of Coleridge

Section Two
2.1. Influence on Coleridge
2.2. Coleridge and Romanticism
2.3. Biographia Literaria
2.4. The structure of Biographia Literaria

Section Three
3.1. Imagination and Fancy
3.2. Secondary Imagination and Its Existence in Kubla Khan

 Conclusion


This paper is intended to state and clarify the celebrated terms of the great
poet and critic, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his most important
contributions in Poetry. It is only natural to start with the matters of
Poetry in general then move to the great effects of Coleridge on Poetry.
Not to forget how essential it is to go through his early life, for it is quite
necessary to become aware of what made him the man he was and what
motivated him and captured his mind. It is a fact that what he lived, and
all what he read, together participated in the production of his personality.
His close friendship to William Wordsworth also had its immense effect
on many of his works. Coleridge is indeed considered to be the founder of
the Romantic English Poetry. Then we are to surf deeply in his
Biographia Literaria and the important notions of Imagination and Fancy
in Chapter XIII along with the proof of the existence of such concepts in
Kubla Khan. My objective is to find a concrete bases for the Secondary
Imagination defined by Coleridge himself in Biographia Literaria, in the
stanzas of Kubla Khan.

Section One

1.1. Introduction on Poetry

Poetry is a type of literature based on the exchange of words and

rhythm. It usually uses rhyme and meter. In poetry, we put words
together to form sounds, images, and ideas that might be too complex or
abstract to describe directly.
Poetry was previously based on strict rules of meter and rhyme, and
each culture had its own rules. For example, Anglo-Saxon poets had their
own rhyme schemes and meters, while Greek poets and Arabic poets had

Poetry is a different way of using the language. In

some hypothetical beginning of life, it was the only way of using
language. Poetry was thought to be part of a ritual activity in early
agricultural societies. Then it was developed by the passing of time to
form what we now call it a “Poem”. Poems were thought to have
connections with the spiritual world and what is beyond the normal.
Whether this is true or not, we do confess that poetry does take us
somewhere else in time and space!

Sometimes, in order to understand or define something, we have to

understand the meaning of its opposite as well. Basically, Literature has
two forms, Poetry and Prose. The French poet Paul Valéry said that prose
was walking, while poetry was dancing. American poet Robert Frost said
skilfully, that poetry was what got left behind in translation. It means that
whenever you are in doubt, translate. The result will be translation, what
is left is Poetry. Therefore, Poetry is all the things that we feel deeply in

our souls whether those feelings were sad or happy as William Hazlitt

“Poetry is the high-wrought enthusiasm of fancy and feeling. As in

describing natural objects, it impregnates sensible impressions with the
forms of fancy, so it describes the feelings of pleasure or pain, by
blending them with the strongest movements of passion, and the most
striking forms of nature.”

“Many people suppose that poetry is something to be found only in

books, contained in lines of ten syllables, with like endings: but wherever
there is a sense of beauty, or power, or harmony, as in the motion of a
wave of the sea, in the growth of a flower that 'spreads its sweet leaves to
the air, and dedicates its beauty to the sun', -- there is poetry, in its

Poetry helps us express those important ideas and feelings which

require specific artistic atmosphere that makes Poetry very distinct from
Prose. Sometimes, a poet is strongly moved by a political cause which
drives him to compose an immortal masterpiece. A perfect example
would be William Butler Yeats and his poem Easter 1916. At other
occasions, we might have a charming poet who meets a stunning lady
dressed in black and composes a heart-melting poem about her delicate
features. Whom in this case, Lord Byron would be the charming poet we
are talking about; in his poem She Walks in Beauty. In fact, if we were
lucky enough, we would be taken on a journey by an extraordinary poet
to some magnificent caves of ice and listen to a woman singing. Of
course, our extraordinary poet would not be anyone other than Samuel
Taylor Coleridge in his splendid poem Kubla Khan.

1.2. Coleridge‟s Contributions to Poetry

Coleridge is not only an extraordinary poet, but he is also one of

founders of Romanticism. Coleridge, in collaboration with other poets
including William Wordsworth and Byron, together they started a new
era for poetry. Love, liberty, interest in supernaturalism, his celebration of
humanized love for Nature, all these romantic qualities make his poetry
the purest and the most ethereal of the romantic spirit. His poetry is
marked by love for Nature. As a poet of supernaturalism, he avoids
terrifying use of supernaturalism and makes it symbolic. He handles
supernaturalism in a psychological manner and gives it supreme strength
through a marvellous dream faculty. Coleridge touched almost every
shore of thought. He was not only a great poet but also a genius critic and
the psychologist of his generation. Even though his life was a tragedy of
unfulfilled possibilities and wasted powers, he managed to be a living
legend to this very day. Coleridge tried to restore and modernize the old
order of ideas in philosophy, theology, and political theory.

Coleridge has introduced a new freedom and flexibility in English

versification as C. M. Bowra said about his three unique poems The
Ancient Mariner, Kubla Khan, Christabel, “They are his supreme
contribution to poetry and of all English romantic masterpieces, they are
the most unusual and the most romantic.”

As for the improvements he added to Supernaturalism, he dealt with

the supernatural as a psychic phenomenon. It was miles removed from the
crude, terrifying pattern of his predecessors. Not to mention his greatness
and everlasting addition to English criticism. Edmunds points out “As a
critic, among much else that is valuable, he gave Shakespeare back to the

English people.” Edmunds also remarked about Coleridge‟s
contributions to English Theology, “As a theologian, champion of the
orthodoxy as he grew conservative, he influenced greatly such rising men
of the younger generation as Maurice, Kingsley, and Newman. He has
been claimed as a teacher of great influence behind the Tractarian

O. Elton‟s remarks on the uniqueness of Coleridge are also very

necessary to be mentioned, “He talked endlessly, often intangibly and
obscurely, but with a potency of suggestion hard to parallel, quickening
the English mind at one of its critical periods as with a new, stimulant
air, rather than by any definite communication of truth.”

Perhaps one of the most essential contributions of Coleridge in Poetry is

his clarification of the two important Cardinal Points of Poetry which are
as follows:

 The power of exciting the sympathy of the reader by a faithful

adherence to the truth of nature.
 The power of giving the interest of novelty by the modifying
colours of Imagination.

1.3. Biography of S. T. Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born on 21 October 1772 in Ottery St

Mary, christened Samuel Taylor in honour of his godfather. He was the
youngest of nine sons and one daughter. His father, John Coleridge had
been the vicar of the parish and master if the local grammar-school. As
for Samuel‟s mother, little is known and he himself has few memories of
her except to say that she was an admirable household economist and was
concerned for her family‟s social well-being.

Coleridge was spoiled by both his parents since he was the youngest
in a large family. Due to that, he suffered at the hands of his older
brothers. Same thing has happened later at school which made him turn
into the privacy of books. He was an avid reader of fairy-tales and the
Arabian Nights from an early age. He was very special and intelligent, as
he described in some Collected Letters for him “because I could read and
spell, and had, I may truly say, a memory and understanding forced into
almost an unnatural ripeness, I was flattered and wondered at by all the
old women and so I became very vain, and despised most of the boys, that
were at all near my own age – and before I was eight years old, I was a
character” (CL, 1347). The complexity and contradiction of his
personality were thus established early in life. On the one hand, he had
fear of rejection and disapproval that promoted his sense of insecurity. On
the other hand, he had unique brilliance that pulled astonished auditors

Coleridge‟s formal schooling began in 1778 when he entered his

father‟s grammar-school at Ottery. In October 1781, three weeks before
Coleridge‟s ninth birthday, his father, at the age of sixty-one, died of a

sudden and unexpected heart attack. However, Samuel enrolled in the
Christ‟s Hospital preparatory school at Hertford in July 1792. Then he
entered Jesus College, Cambridge which was far from a happy
experience, mounting debts, academic disappointments, and a new
intoxication with radical politics which diverted him from his studies.

On 4 October 1795, Coleridge was united in marriage to Sara Fricker

whom he described in his Collected Letter as “the woman whom I love
best of all created Beings” Coleridge and his bride were genuinely in
love. He did not love her at first but over the months of close contact in
Bristol, they started a special attachment as he cleared in one of his letters
“I love and I am loved, and I am happy”. After a while of this happy
marriage, Coleridge‟s finances were ruined. He published Poems on
Various Subjects but poetry did not supply his daily bread. The he started
translating Schiller‟s works, preaching, tutoring the sons of a wealthy
widow, but none were suitable for him. Then one of his good friends
came for his rescue, Thomas Poole who located a tiny cottage which was
very suitable for the Coleridges. The new house had a lovely garden
which allowed the family to grow vegetables and sustain a comfortable
life. Coleridge used to work in his garden and was happy with his new
healthy routine. Unfortunately, the good days for Coleridge did not last,
for he had suffered a quite a lot with his struggle with opium. He tried to
conquer his habit but without success. Despite his struggle, he managed
to complete many of his lectures on Shakespeare, different sorts of essays
on criticism and most significantly, the composition of Biographia
Literaria in 1815. By November 1823, Coleridge had become both a
national figure and a national character.

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1.4. Important Works of Coleridge

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.
Coleridge planned much, but achieved little. As O. Elton points out, “The
history of his life is largely one of designs unfulfilled – mere broken arcs
– and of surmises thrown out rather that worked out. His life is a record
of dissipated energies, wasted manhood, unfulfilled promises, and
premature decay.”
His life was brimming with great achievements, and he could have
achieved even more if it was not for his addiction to opium and many of
the misfortunes of his life. Nevertheless, Coleridge‟s literary career can
be divided into four periods:

The first period lasts up to his meeting with Wordsworth in 1797. He was
not quite certain of his abilities and powers, and has not found himself
yet. Critics call this period of Coleridge‟s career as the period of
Experimental Poetry. Some of his best works during this period are:

 To a Friend
 Ode on the Departing Year
 France: an Ode

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 The Fall of Robespiere

The second period opens with the summer of 1797 and ends in 1802.
Critics call this period as the flowering-season of his poetic genius. He
wrote many articles which were published mostly in the Morning Post.
All his magnificent works were created during this period. Such works as:

 Love, Remorse
 Dejection: an Ode
 Frost at Midnight
 The Ancient Mariner
 Christabel I and II

The third period lasting from 1803 to 1817 which was a confused and
dark period due to his slavery to opium and unhappy life. But the most
remarkable work of this period was his famous Biographia Literaria in
Criticism and a series of lectures on Shakespeare.

The fourth period covers the last seventeen years of his life. When he has
recovering and gaining back his powers under the care of Dr. Gillman.
Some of the important works of this period are:

 Confessions
 The Constitution
 Note on English Divines
 Lay Sermons

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Section Two

2.1. Influences on Coleridge

Coleridge came in contact with Wordsworth in 1796. Almost nothing is
known about the first meeting between the two great poets except that
they met in Bristol. Their mutual admiration led to a continuous exchange
of letters. Later on, Coleridge was calling Wordsworth “A very dear
friend of mine, who is in my opinion the best poet of the age”. The two
young poets talked about Poetry, recited some of their compositions to
each other, and discussed their tragedies. Coleridge said about
Wordsworth, “I was in my Twenty-fourth year when I had the happiness
of meeting Mr Wordsworth personally. It was the union of deep feeling
with profound thought, the fine balance of truth in observing, with the
imaginative faculty in modifying the objects observed…”. Coleridge was
also affected by the German Idealists after his tour in Germany with
Wordsworth in 1799-1899. He was interested in the ideas of those
philosophers who took a more active view of the imagination. For them
the human mind or imagination is not a mere passive agent, but an active
creative power, an active power which shapes, moulds, and re-creates.
Art is not a mere imitation of nature, it is re-creation. Beauty is nothing
objective; it is imparted to the external world by the observer. The soul
projects itself into the outward forms of beauty.

Coleridge was a man who loved to read. His thoughts and views were
moulded by all that he reads. However, the influences which were most
direct in shaping the views and theories of Coleridge are three;
Wordsworth, Hartley and his Associationist psychology, German

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transcendental and idealistic philosophy of Lessing, Kant, Hegel,
Shelling, Schiller, etc. He determined to travel to Germany in order to
learn German and to experience the real revolution in philosophical and
scientific thinking. Germany was a happy and stimulating experience for
Coleridge. While in Germany, he attended lectures on physiology and
natural history. Also, he studied Gothic and Old High German under the
supervision of Tychsen. He devoted himself to study the history of
German Literature which was very beneficial for the production of many
of his works.

2.2. Coleridge and Romanticism

The term Romantic as a classification for a school of literature opposed to
the Classic was first used by the German critic Karl Wilhelm Friedrich
von Schlegel (1772-1829) at the beginning of the 19th century. The
concept of Romanticism was carried from Germany to England and
France. As the word defines according the Oxford dictionary,
Romanticism is a philosophical, literary, artistic and cultural era, which
began in the mid/late-1700s as a reaction against the prevailing
Enlightenment ideals of the day (Romantics favoured more natural,
emotional and personal artistic themes), also influenced poetry.
Inevitably, the characterization of a broad range of contemporaneous
poets and poetry under the single unifying name can be viewed more as
an exercise in historical compartmentalization than an attempt to capture
the essence of the actual movement. It emphasized creative inspiration

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and individual feeling. In this era of Romanticism artistic, literary and
intellectual intervention played the vital role in transforming the
individual feelings and was strengthened by revolting against the
industrial revolution and scientific rationalization of nature. The most
strongly used media was in the form of visual arts, music and literature.
German romantic poets included Fredrich Schiller and Johann Wolfgang
von Goethe, and British poets such as William Wordsworth, Samuel
Taylor Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelley, George Gordon Lord Byron, and
John Keats propelled the English Romantic movement. Coleridge has
always been considered as a man of nature, a dreamer, a philosopher, and
all of these things make him the greatest Romantic poet of all times. He
followed the steps of the logical father of Romanticism, Aristotle. In
Coleridge's Frost at Midnight, his sharp mind was lured with imagination
linked with nature as he observed the effects of the season while his child
was sleeping. He wanted his child to experience nature in ways he was
not otherwise afforded. Coleridge is saying that he was not so surrounded
with nature, as he might have otherwise desired, but that his child would
not be without that experience.

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2.3. Biographia Literaria

“Until you understand a writer‟s ignorance, presume yourself ignorant of

his understanding” (Biographia Literaria, I 160)

As mentioned before, Coleridge was not only a poet. He was a great critic
and philosopher. Therefore, he produced a very important work which is
considered as the most essential critical work for him during his career.
This work is known as Biographia Literaria. This book was published in
1817 but its origins are traced back to nearly two decades to Coleridge‟s
German tour of 1798. First is was known as the “Project of Lessing” in
which he wrote a biography of the dramatist and critic Gotthold Ephraim
Lessing as well as an attempt to describe the reality of German Literature.
Coleridge chose to write about Lessing because, as he wrote to one of his
friends “it would give me an opportunity of conveying under a better
name, than my own ever will be, opinions, which I deem of the highest
importance.” Then, Biographia Literaria was supposed to be a Preface to
some of Coleridge‟s poems. It was not until mid-September 1815 that
Coleridge came to regard Biographia Literaria as a work separate from
his edition of his poems “The Biographical Sketches” and the complete
manuscript was sent at last to Bristol printer, but it was not published yet.
In July 1817 after twenty three months, Biographia Literaria was
released for sale.

Biographia Literaria was a work of great value on literary aesthetics and

theories. Coleridge illustrated some particular critical view-points on
poems and different works. It was published in two volumes of twenty-
three chapters. Biographia Literaria is concerned with the form of poetry,
the genius of the poet and the relationship to philosophy. Coleridge feels

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that all of the great writers had their basis in philosophy because
philosophy was the sum of all knowledge at this time. All education at
that time consisted of a study of philosophy. Coleridge examines issues
like the use of language in poetry and how it relates to everyday speech.
He looks at the relationship between the subject of poetry and its
relationship to everyday life.

Coleridge examines the sources of poetic power which relates to the

brilliance of the poet. This involves the use of language, meter, rhyme,
and the writing style or the poetic diction. The poet, he feels, should write
about subjects that are outside his own sensations and experiences. This is
where the poetic genius comes from. If the poet confines his poetry to
subjects within his own experiences, then the work is mediocre.
Coleridge feels that the purpose of poetry is to communicate beauty and
pleasure. This is an expression of the brilliance of the poet.

2.4. The Structure of Biographia Literaria

In the opening paragraph of Biographia Literaria, Coleridge states clearly

and concisely the scope and purpose of his book “It will be found that the
least of what I have written concerns myself personally. I have used the
narration chiefly for the purpose of giving a continuity to the work…”
The book then is not an autobiography. In fact, autobiography is used to
give continuity to the central themes and concerns of the work which are:

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 A statement of Coleridge‟s principles in politics, religion,
philosophy, and literary theory.
 A philosophic investigation of the principles governing poetry and
 The practical application of these principles.

The opening chapter emphasises the formative influence on Coleridge‟s

understanding of poetry by James Boyer and William Bowles. In chapters
II and III, Coleridge exposes the malicious inadequacy of the pseudo-
criticism. In Chapter IV, Coleridge returns to the early formation of his
poetic creed, while the chapters V to XIII constitute the philosophic core
of the book. They trace the growth of Coleridge‟s philosophic
consciousness and the influence on his thought of German Idealism. The
most important results found on chapter XIII are the famous definitions
of Primary Imagination, Secondary Imagination and Fancy which are
considered to be the greatest production of Coleridge‟s mind. In the
following chapters, Coleridge discusses many issues between himself and
Wordsworth, his lectures on Shakespeare, the poets of the 15th and 16th
centuries, and many other theories on poetic diction and meter. Finally on
chapter XXIV which is considered as the „Conclusion‟, Coleridge
declares that the delay in publication has not been due to any laziness or
neglect on his part.

Coleridge had a plan but he broke it. He was planning to write a work of
metaphysics in which he hoped to give continuity to his life events. But
he ended up producing a work of aesthetics.

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Section Three

3.1. Imagination and Fancy

In chapter XIII of Biographia Literaria, Coleridge states the clear aspects

of Primary Imagination, Secondary Imagination, and the distinction
between them and Fancy. He points out that most of the critics agree that
Primary Imagination is the faculty common to all sane and healthy human
beings, while Secondary Imagination is the peculiar gift of artists and

Coleridge calls the Primary Imagination as “the living power and prime
agent of all human perception”. Perception is the process of knowing the
external universe through the senses which nourishes the mind with
sensation received from the world outside. Thus, by some thinkers
primacy is given to the senses and the mind is regarded as more or less
passive, waiting for the intimations conveyed by the senses built it.
Coleridge however, does not accept the notion that the human mind is
merely passive and at the mercy of the senses. He asserts that in all act of
perception the mind plays an active role. The mind is something living
and vital and the senses through which it receives sensations from the
external objects are its agents, which share part of its vitality and so
become half-creator and half-perceiver. Every individual mind repeats the
process of creation which is at work in the external universe which
Coleridge calls “the infinite I am”, that means something vast and
limitless through which the majesty of the Creator is proclaimed. This
belief came from the word of God “God said there should be light and
there was light”. Similarly, the inner mental universe is built through the
operation of the living agent which is the Primary Imagination.

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Secondary Imagination is the creative power peculiar to poets and artists
which is called by Coleridge “an echo” of the Primary Imagination.
Meaning, the Secondary Imagination depends on the strength and energy
of the Primary Imagination. In other words, the Secondary Imagination
can function actively as long as the Primary Imagination continues to
supply fresh material for it to work upon. However, Primary Imagination
functions involuntarily, which the Secondary Imagination is voluntary
and deliberate. This means that the difference between the two is:

 Only one of degree and not of kind.

 Their modes of operation are different.

The Secondary Imagination strives to reconcile the opposites, create unity

in diversity, and spread an ideal tone and atmosphere over the real and
familiar. It is a living power, which works wonders with the objects in
nature, which are dead, fixed and definite. M. H. Abrams comments on
Coleridge‟s view “Coleridge has added a third term – the mind in
perception – to the existing analogy between the poet and the creative
God. The result is triple parallel. At its base it the ceaseless self-
proliferation of God into the sensible universe, this creative process is
reflected in the Primary Imagination by which all individual minds
develop out into their perception of this universe, and it is echoed again
in the Secondary, or re-creative imagination which is possessed only by
the poet of the genius. As early as 1801, Coleridge had written that the
perceiving mind is nit passive but „made in God‟s image‟ and that too, in
the sublimest sense”

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“Fancy, on the contrary, has no other counters to play with, but fixities
and definites. The Fancy is indeed no other than a mode of Memory
emancipated from the order of time and space; while it is blended with,
and modified by that empirical phenomenon of the will, which we express
by the word „choice‟. But equally with the ordinary memory, Fancy must
receive all its materials ready made from the law of association.”
(BL, Chapter XIII). "Fancy," in Coleridge's eyes was employed for tasks
that were "passive" and "mechanical", the accumulation of fact and
documentation of what is seen. Fancy, Coleridge argued, was "too often
the adulterator and counterfeiter of memory. The Imagination on the
other hand was "vital" and transformative, a repetition in the finite mind
of the eternal act of creation." For Coleridge, it was the Imagination that
was responsible for acts that were truly creative and inventive and, in
turn, that identified true instances of fine or noble art.
The distinction made by Coleridge between Fancy and the Imagination
rested on the fact that Fancy was concerned with the mechanical
operations of the mind, those which are responsible for the passive
accumulation of data and the storage of such data in the memory.
Imagination, on the other hand, described the "mysterious power," which
extracted from such data, "hidden ideas and meaning."
This shows that Fancy for Coleridge is the same power as was much
discussed by the Associationist philosophers of the say. Coleridge means
to say that images assembled by Fancy to form clusters are governed by
associations based on superficial resemblance.

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A kind of logical faculity:
the mechanical ability the
poet has to use devices like
metaphors, aliterations in
poetry in order to blend
various ingredients into
beautiful images.

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3.2. Secondary Imagination and Its Existence in Kubla Khan

Coleridge considers poetry the product of Secondary Imagination. The

Secondary Imagination dissolves, diffuses, and dissipates in order to
recreate. It struggles to idealize and unify. It works as the element of
passion. Secondary Imagination represents a superior occulty which
could only be associated with artistic genius. It is more active and
conscious in its working. It is at the root of all poetic activity. The
Secondary Imagination selects and orders the raw material and reshapes
and remodels it into objects of beauty. Thus it is "a shaping and
modifying power." In a clear sense, Secondary Imagination is the
doorway into a whole new world. Some critics had chosen to drop the
“Secondary” part and used “Imagination” only, for they have a deep
belief that the only Imagination exists is the Secondary Imagination.
Since the Primary Imagination is considered universal and found in all
human beings‟ minds. It is this secondary imagination that contains "the
seeds of all moral and scientific improvement." Coleridge's theory of the
secondary or artistic imagination is an activity regulated and directed by
the will. It is the struggle between the passion and will that constitutes the
essence of the imaginative activity. Out of this struggle metre emerges as
one aspect of form. The struggle between passion and will fuses the two
into one and consequently the metrical form, which is only an aspect of
the organic form, is surcharged with the inward struggle; and then it
acquires the specific vitality. It "produces a more frequent employment of
picturesque and vivifying language." This is what Coleridge meant by
elevating things into living words. The images, metaphors and figures,
and the metrical pattern are all thus indispensable factors that make up the

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organic form, which in its turn is indistinguishable from what is
expressed. In a simpler but a misleading manner, it can be stated that
Poetry is concerned with an excited state of the feelings and faculties.
And as every passion has its proper pulse, so will it likewise have its
characteristic modes of expression.
It is no wonder when Coleridge stated the significance of Imagination,
has already used such concepts in his own poetics. The Secondary is a
similar concept to creativity and is the focus of the epic poem Kubla
Khan. The famous poem is well-known for its magnificent images and
lively imitations. It is, with no doubt, the most glorious work of
Coleridge. It matters in this paper the most due to the rich existence of
Coleridge‟s Secondary Imagination.

 General Analysis of Kubla Khan

A habitual motif for Coleridge‟s poetry is the power of dreams and of the
imagination, such as in Frost at Midnight, Dejection: An Ode, and
Christabel. Perhaps the most fantastical world created by Coleridge lies
in “Kubla Khan.” The legendary story behind the poem is that Coleridge
wrote the poem following an opium-influenced dream. In this particular
poem, Coleridge seems to explore the depths of dreams and creates
landscapes that could not exist in reality. The “sunny pleasure-dome with
caves of ice” exemplifies the extreme fantasy of the world in which
Kubla Khan lives. Similar to several of Coleridge‟s other poems, the
speaker‟s admiration of the wonders of nature is present in “Kubla
The poem begins with the description of the kingdom of Kubla Khan.
The event takes place in the unknown Xanadu, which is a mythical city.

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Kubla Khan was the powerful ruler who could create his pleasure dome
by a mere order. Alpha was the sacred river that passed through Xanadu.
It followed through the measureless caverns to the sunless sea. There
were gardens in which streams were following in a zigzag manner. The
gardens had many flowers with sweet smells and the forests had many
spots of greenery. The poet gives a beautiful description of the remote
and distant land cape of Xanadu.

There was a wonderful chasm sloping down the green hill. The cedar
trees were growing on both sides of the chasm. The place was visited by
fairies and demons. Coleridge then gives a medieval tale of love and
romance. When the moon declined in the night it was visited by a
woman. She was sad for her lover. Form the chasm shot up a fountain
violently. It threw up stones. They were falling down in every direction.
The sacred river Alpha ran through the woods and dales. Then it reached
the unfathomable caverns and sank noisily into a lifeless ocean with a
tumult. In that tumult Kubla Khan heard the voices of his ancestors. They
warned him of approaching war and danger.

In the second part of the poem Coleridge describes the pleasure dome of
Kubla Khan. Its shadow floated midway on the waves. There was mixed
music of the fountains as well as of the caves. It was bright with sunlight
and also had caves of ice. Then the poet tells the reader about his vision.
In his vision he saw an Abyssinian maid playing upon her dulcimer. The
poet desires to revive their symphony and song. Her music world inspires
with divine frenzy. With the divine frenzy he would recreate all the
charm of Kubla Khan‟s pleasure dome. The poet would be divinely
inspired so people would draw a circle around him, and close their eyes

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with divine fear. The poet must have fed on honeydew and drunk the milk
of paradise.

It is this dream element which makes Kubla Khan a thing of wonder in

English poetry. It has no logical consistency of ideas. It is a procession of
images expressed in language of haunting melody. It contains no story,
no thought, no moral, no allegory or symbolism. It is appreciated for its
shadowy vision and haunting music. Supernaturalism is also a romantic
quality. It transports us out of the world of everyday life into a world of
wonder and romance.

What Coleridge did here was that he created a whole new world.
Coleridge did not find it enough to write about what normally exists
around him but it was necessary for him to go beyond the “familiar”. The
poem is marvellously filled with captivating images that sprung from the
Secondary Imagination that is possessed by artists alone such as
Coleridge himself.

“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.”

“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!”

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Coleridge is taking us far in a world that does not exist. It only exists in
the minds of educated people as he described, for it is impossible for an
uneducated man to understand and enter this world, at the same time, it is
only with the Secondary Imagination that a poet could excite the reader
and travel with him to such new destinations. Here we have the river
„Alph‟, which is a river from the creation of Coleridge‟s Imagination.
Coleridge has given this river a magical and „sacred‟ power. In Biography
Literaria, Coleridge defines the Secondary Imagination as a power that
“dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to re-create” While the fountain
provides the foundation for the imagination, the task of changing and
shaping the landscape is up to the river. Just as a literal river shapes the
surrounding landscape in its effort to carve a path out of rock and soil,
this figurative river reorders the vision of Kubla Khan‟s garden. Then we
come to the caverns which are „measureless‟ to man, Coleridge is making
us wonder about these caverns which are limitless and far from man‟s
distinction, and what sort of sea that the sun does not shine upon. Here
Coleridge is presenting us with fragments and shattered pieces, in order to
create the bewitching image of the unified river and sea. This is how he
managed to break down everything, only to provide us, finally, with an
idealized and unified world as he stated “yet still, at all events, it
struggles to idealize and to unify.”

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“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!”

Here, the river of imagination and the pleasure dome of the object world
converge in meaningful sense: “The shadow of the dome of pleasure/
Floated midway on the waves”. Not only do the forces come together,
but an aesthetic consciousness emerges about the function of the images
in the first two stanzas. The stanza concludes with the following
“It was a miracle of rare device, A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of
ice!” The speaker is aware not only that the effect created here is
“rare,” but that it is indeed a “miracle.”

“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.”

In the ending of the poem, Coleridge charms us with the deep delights of
his created images of the “sunny dome” and “milk of Paradise”. It is here
what is called, the artistic creation which is only possible in the
Secondary Imagination. We can notice the efforts made by the poet to
achieve such active and conscious visions which are called „Efforts of the

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 Conclusion

This paper merely states the greatness and magnificence of the man who
spent his life seeking knowledge and absorbing philosophy. It is a humble
attempt to connect the theory with the actual images in one of the poet‟s
greatest poems. Coleridge considered the imagination as a channel to
transcendence, thus, he gave so much importance to it. The above
analysis reflects the fact that Coleridge confirmed how the imagination
was the means of reaching truth through originality and therefore he
viewed a human being as enriched with infinite aspiration towards the
limitless good featured by the faculty of imagination. All the raw
materials are re-shaped by Coleridge to produce such voluntary acts of
the will. That‟s why he called the Secondary Imagination as “a shaping
and modifying power” which he used very skilfully in the birth of the
“pleasure-dome”, “the sacred river”, “a waning moon”, “a woman
wailing for her demon lover”, “mighty fountain”, lifeless ocean”, the
shadow of the dome of pleasure”. The exact description of Coleridge fits
here when he calls the power of Secondary Imagination as “magical and
synthetic power”. The identity which the poet discovers in man and
nature results from the synthesising activity of the Secondary

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o Coleridge, S. (1817). Dr. Raghukul Tilak (Eds.), Biographia

Literaria with Critical Introduction, Notes, and Explanations.

(pp.3,9,12,22,32,36,37,38,61). New Delhi, Bright Printers.

o Roma, S. (2018). Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

Summary and Critical Analysis.


o Abrams, M. (1993). The Norton anthology of English literature.

New York: Norton.

o Hill, J. (1998). The romantic imagination. Houndmills [u.a.]:


o Bloom, H. (2001). Samuel T. Coleridge. Broomall, Pa: Chelsea

House Publ.

o Hill, S. (1983). A Coleridge Companion. London: The Macmillan

Press LTD.

o Gilory, J. (2010). Romantic Literature. London: York Press.



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o Blades, J. (2004). Wordsworth and Coleridge. New York:


o Ford, J. (1998). Coleridge on Dreaming. Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press.

o Sastri, P. Coleridge‟s Theory on Poetry. New Delhi: Ram Nagar.

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