Supernatural Elements in The Poem Kubla Khan

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      Kubla Khan is a dream vision, a poem of pure magic. It exemplifies Coleridge's mastery over supernatural poetry.

      Coleridge creates an atmosphere of mystery in Kubla Khan mainly by describing the pleasure-dome and the surroundings in which it stood. It is a beautiful place where the river Alph flows "through caverns measureless to man down to a sunless sea." The immeasurable caverns and the sunless sea, perhaps some dark, subterranean lake, evokes in our mind a feeling of mystery and awe. There is the deep romantic chasm which lay across forest of cedar trees. From this gorge is momently forced a mighty fountain, the source of river Alph. The manner in which the water is described as intermittently forcing its way out from the spring, throwing up huge pieces of rock, fascinates the reader. The atmosphere of mystery and awe is emphasized when another reference is made to the sunless sea or the lifeless ocean into which the waters of Alph fell with a lend roar.

      Suggestiveness is the basic feature of Coleridge's supernaturalism. It is true that a very vivid and graphic description of the surroundings of the pleasure-dome is give" in the poem but the supernatural element is suggestive. Coleridge is a superb artist for intermingling the natural and the supernatural so that the probable and the improbable interfuse. Here are lines which tor sheer suggestiveness and mystery are perhaps unsurpassed:

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

      A complete story of love's tragedy is hidden in these three lines; a story comparable to Keat's La Belle Dame Sans Merci. And then the following two lines:

And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

      The mystery and awe of these lines are striking. What war and why? It is left to our imagination.

      Then we come to the closing lines which contain a picture of poetic frenzy. Here too we have a superb blending of the natural and supernatural. A poet's inspiration is a well-known and natural fact of human experience, but there is something supernatural about the way in which this poetic inspiration and the creative powers of a poet are shown:

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.

      But despite the mystery and awe evoked in the poem, the whole description is psychologically accurate because when the poet is in a state of frenzy, he is really like a magician. Out of this creative madness, come the gems of truth and beauty. Touches of realism have been added, even to the description of the chasm and the mighty fountain. Coleridge uses the similes rebounding hail and chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail which are familiar to our lives and most natural. If Kubla Khan hears prophesies of war in all the tumultuous noise, it is not unrealistic. It is true to human experience. After all he is a brave warrior.

      Coleridge never forgets that his real purpose is to make the supernatural natural and to bring about the "willing suspension of disbelief which constitutes poetic faith". Whether Kubla Khan is seen as a poem about poetic creativity or about life, it is a convincing work.

University Questions

Bring out the supernatural elements in Kubla Khan.
"There is a deep psychological realism behind Coleridge's use of the supernatural." Discuss with reference to Kubla Khan.

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