Coleridge | Kubla Khan as an Allegory


Coleridge | Kubla Khan as an Allegory

–Menonim Menonimus
Coleridge | Kubla Khan as an Allegory
Coleridge | Kubla Khan as an Allegory

Coleridge | Kubla Khan as an Allegory

An ‘Allegory’ is a narrative- either in prose or verse- which carries a second (deeper) meaning besides its literal or surface meaning. In other words, to say, an Allegory is a narrative description of a subject under the guise of another similar subject. In a sense, an Allegory may be called an ‘Extended Metaphor’ because in an allegory the theme (story) is meant to be something else. In an allegory, the author invokes objects with symbolic significance. S. T. Coleridge’s ‘Kubla Khan’ is a narrative poem that carries three fragmental episodes: first, it is about a palace that the poet heard of; secondly, it is about a singer (an Abyssinian maid) that the poet dreamt of and finally, it is about a poet that the poet imagined of. Besides the superficial or literal meaning, the poem may be interpreted as an allegory of arts, especially of poets and poetry. Let us interpret the poem as an allegory as below:

First, the poet has given an account of the city called Xanadu. In the 13th century, a Monghul Emperor by the name of Kubla Khan built the city as his pleasure palace. It was built by the side of a sacred river called Alph. The river flowed through deep caverns and ultimately fell into a ‘sunless sea’. The city was encircled by walls and towers. There were beautiful gardens, winding streams, and trees laden with fragrant flowers and fruits. There was a fascinating ‘chasm’ that ran down the slope of a green hill. It was a wild and awe-inspiring place often haunted by a woman wandering about in search of her ‘demon-lover’. Deep down the ‘chasm’ a mighty ‘fountain’ gushed forth making a roaring sound. The mighty outburst of water threw up massive rocks which fell here and there like hailstones striking the earth. The mighty fountain was the source of the sacred river Alph. Amid the roaring sound, Kubla Khan heard his ancestors’ voices prophesying future wars. Thus in this part of this poem, the poet has endeavoured to show that it is an art that reflects life the best with all its complexities and contradictions. The objects that the poet delineates in the poem have borne symbolic (allegorical) meanings as- the ‘palace’ built by Kubla Khan in Xanadu signifies the greatness of art created by men. The ‘sunless sea’ signifies ‘death’ where life finally ends. The ‘woman’ wandering about in search of her demon-lover suggests the inexplicableness of art. The ‘chasm’ signifies the ‘unfathomable human consciousness. The ‘mighty fountain’ symbolizes pure art (poetry) which comes out from the depth of human mind. The ‘ancestral voice’ heard by Kubla Khan signifies human experience. Thus allegorically Coleridge finds an ideal art in Kubla Khan’s palace.

Secondly, the poet says about an Abyssinian maid that he dreamt of. She was playing on her dulcimer and was singing a melodious song about Mount Abora. Allegorically the maiden and her song suggest that art transcends life and it becomes celestial. 

Thirdly, the poet expresses his vision of becoming a great poet who would change a life with new ideas and new hopes in the mind of man. The poet hopes that he would be such a great artist (poet/ singer) that would draw children out of their homes and follow his path being enamoured by his song.

Thus the poet S. T. Coleridge through the poem has illustrated the allegorical significance of the achievements of great art, especially of poetry. 0 0 0

Coleridge | Kubla Khan as an Allegory

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Coleridge | Kubla Khan as an Allegory

N. B. This article entitled ‘Coleridge | Kubla Khan as an Allegory’ originally belongs to the book ‘Critical Essays on English Poetry‘ by Menonim Menonimus. Coleridge | Kubla Khan as an Allegory

Books of Literary Criticism by M. Menonimus:

  1. World Short Story Criticism
  2. World Poetry Criticism
  3. World Drama Criticism
  4. World Novel Criticism
  5. World Essay Criticism
  6. Indian English Poetry Criticism
  7. Indian English Poets and Poetry Chief Features
  8. Emily Dickinson’s Poetry-A Thematic Study
  9. Walt Whitman’s Poetry-A Thematic Study
  10. Critical Essays on English Poetry
  11. Tawfiq al-Hakim’s Novel: Return of the Spirit-An Analytical Study
  12. Tawfiq al-Hakim’s Novel: ‘Yawmiyyat Naib Fil Arayaf’-An Analytical Study
  13. Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories
  14. A Brief History of Arabic Literature: Pre-Islamic Period
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I am Menonim Menonimus, a Philosopher & Writer.


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