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CHAPTER 1 Romantic poems and contexts by Stephen Bygrave

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Title: CHAPTER 1 Romantic poems and contexts by Stephen Bygrave


1
  • CHAPTER 1
  • Romantic poems and contexts
  • by Stephen Bygrave/ pp.3-53
  • The concept of Romanticism in literary history
  • by RENÉ WELLEK / pp.327- 339
  • Vol. 2 Coleridges Kubla Khan

2
  • Romanticism is an international artistic and
    philosophical movement that redefined the
    fundamental ways in which people in Western
    cultures thought about themselves and about their
    world.
  • Romanticism began in England and Germany in the
    1770's and continued into the second half of the
    nineteenth century, later for American literature
    than for European, and later in some of the arts,
    like music and painting, than in literature.
    However, some of its major precepts have survived
    into the twentieth century and still affect our
    contemporary period.

3
  • Nowadays the word Romantic is often used to
    refer to a popular form of the novel which
    explores aspects of romantic love through its own
    special conventions and vocabulary. So too are
    the associations of the word romantic with
    yearning, the mysterious, the irrational, and
    with transcending everyday reality.
  • but the word has a specialized as well as a
    colloquial sense. The medieval or Renaissance
    romance was a literary form which had as its
    subject exotic or far-fetched stories of knights
    and ladies and adventures. An example of this
    form in English is the stories of King Arthur and
    the Knights of the Round Table in their search
    for the Holy Grail stories of questing for an
    ideal. So the adjective romantic also denoted a
    character or action suited to such tales.

4

  • Romantic in relation to writings produced in
    the period from about 1780 to 1830. It has been
    described as a European movement which came to
    affect all the arts in the first half of the
    nineteenth century. It is a very generalized way
    of claiming coherence for a vast range of
    cultural practices nevertheless, in retrospect
    resemblances can be seen between what different
    writers, artists and musicians were producing in
    different parts of Europe and many have seen
    these resemblances as strong enough to amount to
    a movement. We will be restricting ourselves to
    Romantic writing, which has been defined in a
    number of ways for example, as a response to the
    political revolutions of the last decade of the
    eighteenth century, or as a reaction to
    Classicism (that is to rules of writing drawn
    from the example of ancient Greek and Latin
    texts).

5
  • The term romantic began to be used in English
    in the early nineteenth century to refer to a
    belief that life could be lived by ideals rather
    than rules. Romantic also came to be used to
    describe a group of writers from around the turn
    of the eighteenth century whose work demonstrated
    such a belief and who were thought in retrospect
    to have other characteristics in common. Since
    then Romantic has been used as an academic
    category within the English Literature
    curriculum.
  • Romantic poetry was regarded as mostly having
    been written by just six male English poets
    William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor
    Coleridge, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and
    John Keats. Poetry by women in the period was
    more or less ignored.

6
The diversity of Romantic writings and their
relationship to history
  • This period encompasses the American Revolution
    (independence having been declared in 1776), the
    French Revolution (from 1789), and wars of
    national independence in Poland, Spain, Greece,
    and elsewhere. This, then, was a period of
    revolutions. Within it, the outbreak of war
    between Britain and revolutionary France in 1793,
    and the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in
    1815 are important landmarks.
  • The French Revolution itself was not a single
    event but a series of events which together
    marked a break from the past. A system of
    government that had existed for hundreds of years
    was swept away, classes that had previously held
    no vote and had no voice took power, and a king
    was executed. These enormous and apparently
    sudden changes raised the possibility of all
    sorts of other changes, some of which were to be
    hoped for and some to be feared. The example of
    events in France raised the hopes of some in
    Britain for reform of the franchise, for
    religious toleration, for a change in the legal
    status of women, and so on.

7
  • Perhaps the most influential British defender of
    the French Revolution was Thomas Paine
    (17371809). He had been in America during the
    War of Independence and his Rights of Man (1791
    and 1792) was the manifesto of those who were
    pressing for reforms. Others saw such reforms as
    examples of Jacobinism, that is, as innovations
    that threatened the British constitution with the
    anarchy, blood-letting, and eventual tyranny to
    which the French Revolution had led. Such views
    led to the prosecution of the publishers of
    Rights of Man and to Paine fleeing from England.
    So events in France became part of British
    history. The history of Romanticism in British
    writing is often written as the history of
    responses and counter-responses to the French
    Revolution.

8
  • In this period Britain became the first
    industrial nation and secured its status as the
    great colonial power it only ceased to be after
    the Second World War. Cynthia Chase claims that
    the period saw the invention of democracy, the
    invention of revolution, and the invention of a
    reading public (Chase, Romanticism, 1993, p.1).
    Most of the writers we will be considering
    participated in debates about the Revolution in
    the war years which followed debates which have
    been called a war of ideas.
  • In general, then, Romantic texts need to be
    understood with some sense of the historical
    circumstances within which they were produced.
    Romantic writing might be described as a set of
    different and often competing voices. One
    characteristic of Romantic texts is not only that
    they differ from each other, but that they may
    explicitly or implicitly debate with each other.
    In each case the poem is presented as the special
    view of an individual. As all this suggests,
    Romanticism is not a single thing. If we are to
    retain the term, Romantic writing may be best
    thought of as a set of different and often
    competing voices. Nevertheless, those voices may
    argue over an agenda set by political and social
    circumstances that were experienced in common.

9
  • Some of the main concepts exalted in the Romantic
    movement were
  • Imagination
  • Nature
  • Symbolism
  • Emotion (the Self)

10
  • Common Features
  • Introspective poems perhaps even self-pitying
    as focus is on the private experience as
    suitable material for poetry as a way of finding
    an equivalent for the speakers psychological
    state.
  • Private experience is made public as it were
    from the outside. This assertion of the self and
    what it wishes, feels, fears, and so on, is a
    characteristic of Romantic writing.
  • Poems draw on natural objects as a source of
    comparisons. Nature looked at from the outside
    and described. It is used to find an equivalent
    for a state of the self, so that the external is,
    as it were, internalized.


11
  • In contrast to past reliance on earlier
    conventions and specialized language, Wordsworth
    challenges the reliance on such conventions,
    arguing in the Preface that the language of
    poetry ought to be the language of men. The
    Preface defends his choice of language and
    subject-matter for the poems in the volume. Both
    are drawn, he says, from the rural poor. There is
    a claim that ordinary experience and language
    should be revalued.
  • The real or material is succeeded by the ideal
    or, we might say, the natural by the supernatural
    to share a desire to transfigure or transcend the
    ordinary. This desire to transcend particular
    circumstances, or the claim to have done so, is a
    second characteristic of Romantic writing an
    insistence that private experience (and private
    opinion) is publicly valid, and a desire for
    transcendence. Thus, the Romantics asserted the
    powers of the self as well the validity of strong
    feeling.

12
  • Emphasis on the activity of the imagination was
    accompanied by greater emphasis on the importance
    of intuition, instincts, and feelings, and
    Romantics generally called for greater attention
    to the emotions as a necessary supplement to
    purely logical reason.
  • In Romantic theory, art was valuable not so much
    as a mirror of the external world, but as a
    source of illumination of the world within, as an
    expression of the self.
  • The interior journey and the development of the
    self recurred everywhere as subject material for
    the Romantic artist. The artist-as-hero is a
    specifically Romantic type.

13
William Wordsworth wrote Lucy poem in 1798.
Is it a lyric or a narrative? (That is to say,
does it record the feelings of a particular
moment or does it tell a story?) She dwelt among
thuntrodden ways Beside the springs of Dove, A
maid whom there were none to praise And very few
to love. A violet by a mossy stone Half-hidden
from the eye! Fair as a star when only one Is
shining in the sky! She lived unknown, and few
could know When Lucy ceased to be But she is in
her grave, and oh! The difference to me.
14
  • Low and rustic life was generally chosen because
    in that situation the essential passions of the
    heart find a better soil in which they can attain
    their maturity, are less under restraint, and
    speak a plainer and more emphatic language
    because in that condition of life our elementary
    feelings coexist in a state of greater
    simplicity, and consequently may be more
    accurately contemplated and more forcibly
    communicated because the manners of rural life
    germinate from those elementary feelings, and
    (from the necessary character of rural
    occupations) are more easily comprehended and are
    more durable and lastly, because in that
    condition the passions of men are incorporated
    with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature.
    The language too of these men is adopted ...
    because such men hourly communicate with the best
    objects from which the best part of language is
    originally derived, and because, from their rank
    in society and the sameness and narrow circle of
    their intercourse being less under the influence
    of social vanity they convey their feelings and
    notions in simple band unelaborated expressions.


15
  • According to Wordsworth, the novelty of the poems
    from Lyrical Ballads was to come from their
    concentration on the way of life and on the
    language of the rural poor. Among them Wordsworth
    claims to find the permanent forms of
    experience and the simple eloquence that
    eighteenth century writers claimed to find in the
    literature of ancient Greece and Rome. Literary
    novelty would come from something that in social
    and historical terms was not new at all. Poems
    could not in themselves change the social and
    political circumstances attacked in the Preface,
    but they might take the first step towards
    changing them. They could do so by changing
    attitudes. Fundamental change would require a
    fundamental change of attitudes. It might require
    ridding literature (and ridding oneself) of the
    preconceptions and prejudices laid on by
    education and social custom, in order to wipe the
    slate clean and begin from the viewpoint of a
    child.
  • Children could be said to speak in simple and
    unelaborated expressions and in the eighteenth
    century children were often seen as truly
    uncorrupted and as closer to nature. We have some
    other telling examples of the way children are
    used in Romantic poems by Wordsworth and Blake.
    For a poet to explore the childs point of view
    offered the possibility of seeing the world anew.
    This was particularly valuable when, as we have
    seen, many believed they were witnessing the
    start of a new world.

16
The Chimney Sweeper from Blacks Songs of
Innocence. This is a poem in which the speaker
reaches a conclusion. Read the poem through and
consider whether this conclusion is justified. In
other words, do we take the final line straight
or ironically? The Chimney Sweeper When my mother
died I was very young, And my father sold me
while yet my tongue Could scarcely cry weep
weep, weep weep! So your chimneys I sweep,
and in soot I sleep. Theres little Tom Dacre,
who cried when his head, That curled like a
lambs back, was shaved so I said Hush, Tom!
Never mind it, for when your heads bare You know
that the soot cannot spoil your white hair. And
so he was quiet, and that very night, As Tom was
a-sleeping, he had such a sight! That thousands
of sweepers Dick, Joe, Ned and Jack, Were all
of them locked up in coffins of black. And by
came an angel who had a bright key, And he opened
the coffins and set them all free Then down a
green plain leaping, laughing they run And wash
in a river, and shine in the sun. Then naked and
white, all their bags left behind, They rise upon
clouds and sport in the wind And the angel told
Tom, if hed be a good boy, Hed have God for his
father, and never want joy. And so Tom awoke, and
we rose in the dark, And got with our bags and
our brushes to work Though the morning was cold,
Tom was happy and warm So if all do their duty
they need not fear harm.
17
  • The great poets of the English romantic movement
    constitute a fairly coherent group, with the same
    view of poetry and the same conception of
    imagination, the same view of nature and mind.
    They share also a poetic style, a use of
    imagery, symbolism, and myth, which is quite
    distinct from anything that had been practiced by
    the eighteenth century, and which was felt by
    their contemporaries to be obscure and almost
    unintelligible. The affinity of the concepts of
    imagination among the English romantic poets
    scarcely needs demonstration.
  • They all share same conceptions of
  • poetry and of the workings and nature of poetic
    imagination,
  • the same conception of nature and its relation
    to man,
  • basically the same poetic style, with a use
    of imagery, symbolism, and myth which is
    clearly distinct from that of eighteenth-century
    neoclassicism.

18
Imagination
  • The imagination was elevated to a position as the
    supreme faculty of the mind. The Romantics tended
    to define and to present the imagination as our
    ultimate "shaping or creative power, the
    approximate human equivalent of the creative
    powers of nature or even deity, it is the primary
    faculty for creating all art. Imagination is the
    faculty which enables us to "read" nature as a
    system of symbols.

19
  • The concept of the imagination in Wordsworth is
    creative, an insight into the nature of reality
    and hence the basic justification of art. The
    poet becomes a living soul who sees into the
    life of things. Imagination is thus an organ of
    knowledge which transforms objects, sees through
    them,
  • The whole of the Prelude is a history of the
    poets imagination which, in a central passage of
    the last book, is called
  • Another name for absolute power
  • And clearest insight, amplitude of mind,
  • And Reason in her most exalted mood.
  • Wordsworth believes that in poetry it is the
    imaginative only, i.e. that which is conversant
    or turns upon Infinity, that powerfully affects
    me.

20
  • Blake considers all nature to be imagination
    itself. Our highest aim is
  • To see a World in a Grain of Sand
  • And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
  • Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
  • And Eternity in an hour.1
  • Thus imagination is not merely the power of
    visualization, somewhere in between sense and
    reason, a creative power by which the mind
    gains insight into reality, reads nature as a
    symbol of something behind or within nature not
    ordinarily perceived. Thus imagination is the
    basis of Blakes rejection of the mechanistic
    world.


21
  • Coleridges theory is closely dependent on the
    Germans. His term for imagination, the
    esemplastic power, is a translation of
    Einbildungskraft, based on a fanciful etymology
    of the German.8 he still speaks of the shaping
    spirit of the imagination, of imagination as a
    dim analogue of creation, not all that we
    believe, but all that we can conceive of
    creation.
  • Shelleys Defense of Poetry is almost identical,
    in general conception, with Coleridges theory.
    Imagination is the principle of synthesis.
    Poetry may be defined as the expression of the
    imagination. A poet participates in the
    eternal, the infinite, and the one. Poetry lifts
    the veil from the hidden beauty of the world,
    and makes familiar objects be as if they were not
    familiar. Poetry redeems from decay the
    visitations of the divinity in man.

22
  • The affinities and fundamental identities of
    Keats views are obvious. He also says What the
    imagination seizes as Beauty must be Truth
    whether it existed before or not.11 ,Such is
    the power of creative imagination, a seeing,
    reconciling, combining force that seizes the old,
    penetrates beneath its surface, disengages the
    truth slumbering there, and, building afresh,
    bodies forth anew a reconstructed universe in
    fair forms of artistic power and beauty.12
  • This could be a summary of the theories of
    imagination of all the romantic poets. Clearly,
    such a theory implies a theory of reality and,
    especially, of nature.
  • Thus, to Shelley imagination is creative, and the
    poets imagination is an instrument of knowledge
    of the real. Shelley, more sharply than any other
    English poet with the exception of Blake, states
    that the poetic moment is the moment of vision
    that the words are but a feeble shadow, that
    the mind in composition is a fading coal.10 In
    Shelley we find the most radical divorce between
    the poetic faculty and will and consciousness.

23
Nature
  • Nature was often presented as itself a work of
    art, constructed by a divine imagination, in
    emblematic language. Nature was conceived as a
    healing power, as a source of subject and image,
    as a refugee from the artificial constructs of
    civilization, including artificial language
    .Nature was a very important part in every
    romantic story.
  • There are individual differences among the great
    romantic poets concerning the conception of
    nature. But all of them share a common objection
    to the mechanistic universe of the eighteenth
    century even though Wordsworth admires Newton
    and accepts him. All romantic poets conceived of
    nature as an organic whole, on the analogue of
    man rather than a concourse of atoms a nature
    that is not divorced from aesthetic values, which
    are just as real (or rather more real) than the
    abstractions of science.

24
  • Blake stands somewhat apart. He violently objects
    to the eighteenth-century cosmology, personified
    by Newton.
  • May God us keep
  • From Single Vision and Newtons sleep.13
  • Blakes writings are also full of condemnations
    of Locke and Bacon, atomism, deism, natural
    religion, and so forth. But he does not share the
    romantic deification of nature he comments
    expressly on Wordsworths preface to the
    Excursion You shall not bring me down to
    believe such fitting and fitted.14 To Blake
    nature is everywhere fallen. It fell with man
    the fall of man and the creation of the physical
    world were the same event. In the Golden Age to
    come, nature will (with man) be restored to her
    pristine glory. Man and nature are, in Blake, not
    only continuous, but emblematic of each other

25
  • In Wordsworths conception of nature, there is a
    shift from something like animistic pantheism to
    a conception reconcilable with traditional
    Christianity. Nature is animated, alive, filled
    with God or the Spirit of the World it is
    mysteriously present, it gives a discipline of
    fear and ministry of pleasure. Nature is also a
    language, a system of symbols. Nature is
    animated, alive, filled with God or the Spirit of
    the World it is mysteriously present, it gives a
    discipline of fear and ministry of pleasure.
    Nature is also a language, a system of symbols.

  • Nature is consistently interpreted by analogy
    with the progress of man to self-consciousness,
    and Coleridge indulges in all the contemporary
    speculative chemistry and physics . The later
    Coleridge developed an elaborate philosophy of
    nature as consistently interpreted by analogy
    with the progress of man to self-consciousness.

26
  • Shelley conceives of nature as one phenomenal
    flux he sings of clouds, wind, and water rather
    than, like Wordsworth, of the mountains or the
    soul of lonely places. But he does not, of
    course, stop with nature, but seeks the higher
    unity behind it
  • Life, like a dome of many-colored glass,
  • Stains the white radiance of Eternity.21
  • In the highest ecstasy, all individuality and
    particularity are abolished by the
  • great harmony of the world. But in Shelley, in
    contrast to Blake or
  • Wordsworth who calmly look into the life of
    things, the ideal itself
  • dissolves his voice falters the highest
    exaltation becomes a total loss of
  • personality, an instrument of death and
    annihilation.
  • Echoes of contemporary science also permeate
    Shelleys conceptions and even images. There are
    many allusions in his poetry to chemical,
    electrical, and magnetic theories to theories
    expounded by Erasmus Darwin and Humphrey Davy.
    But, in general terms, Shelley mainly echoes
    Wordsworth and Coleridge on the spirit of
    nature. There is the same concept of the
    vitality of nature, its continuity with man, its
    emblematic language. There is also the concept of
    the cooperation and interrelation of subject and
    object.

27
Symbolism
  • The desire to express the "inexpressible"--the
    infinite--through the available resources of
    language led romantics to a constant use of
    symbols. In the Romantic view, symbols were the
    human aesthetic correlatives of nature's
    emblematic language. They were valued too because
    they could simultaneously suggest many things,
    and were thought to be superior to the one-to-one
    communication.
  • This conception of the nature of poetic
    imagination and of the universe has obvious
    consequences for poetic practice. All the great
    romantic poets are mythopoeic, are symbolists
    whose practice must be understood in terms of
    their attempt to give a total mythic
    interpretation of the world to which the poet
    holds the key. The contemporaries of Blake began
    this revival of mythic poetry

28
  • Blakes mythology is neither classical nor
    Christian, though it incorporates many Biblical
    and Miltonic elements. It is essentially an
    original (possibly a too original) creation which
    tries to give both a cosmogony and an apocalypse
    a philosophy of history, a psychology, and (as
    has been recently stressed) a vision of politics
    and morals. Even the simplest of the Songs of
    Innocence and Songs of Experience are permeated
    by Blakes symbols. Blake was an extraordinarily
    original thinker who had ideas on cycles of
    culture, metaphysical theories of time.
  • Wordsworth, at first sight, is the romantic poet
    farthest removed from symbolism and mythology.
    ... But Wordsworth does stress imagery in his
    theory and is by no means indifferent to
    mythology. He plays an important part in the new
    interest in Greek mythology interpreted in terms
    ofanimism. There is the sonnet, The World Is too
    Much with Us, and there is a passage in the
    fourth book of the Excursion (1814) which
    celebrates the dim inklings of immortality that
    the Greek sacrificing a lock in a stream may have
    had. There is the later turning to classical
    mythology, Laodamia and the Ode to Lycoris,
    poems which Wordsworth defended also for their
    material which may ally itself with real
    sentiment. But, most important, his poetry is
    not without pervading symbols. Cleanth Brooks has
    shown convincingly how the Ode Intimations of
    Immortality is based on a double, contradictory
    metaphor of light and how even the sonnet Upon
    Westminster Bridge conceals an all-pervasive
    figure.24 This shows Wordsworths endeavor to go
    beyond the anecdotal or the descriptive, beyond
    the naming and analyzing of emotions and states
    of mind.

29
  • In Coleridge, a theory of symbolism is central
    the artist discourses to us by symbols, and
    nature is a symbolic language. The distinction
    between symbol and allegory is, in Coleridge,
    related to that between imagination and fancy
    (which, in some ways, can be described as a
    theory of imagery), genius and talent, reason and
    understanding. In a late discussion he says that
    an allegory is but a translation of abstract
    notions into a picture language, which is itself
    nothing but an abstraction from objects of sense.
    On the other hand, a symbol is characterized by a
    translucence of the special in the individual, or
    of the general in the special, or of the
    universal in the general above all, a symbol is
    characterized by the translucence of the eternal
    through and in the temporal. The faculty of
    symbols is the imagination. Coleridge condemned
    classical as distinct from Christian mythology in
    many early pronouncements but later he became
    interested in a symbolically reinterpreted Greek
    mythology and wrote a queer piece On the
    Prometheus of Aeschylus (1825), which is closely
    dependent on Schellings treatise, Über die
    Gottheiten von Samothrace (1815).25 The early
    great poetry of Coleridge is certainly symbolic
    throughout. R.P. Warren has recently given an
    interpretation of the Ancient Mariner, which may
    go too far in detail, but is convincing in the
    general thesis the whole poem implies a concept
    of sacramentalism, of the holiness of nature
    and all natural beings, and is organized on
    symbols of moonlight and sunlight, wind and rain.

30
  • That Shelley is a symbolist and mythologist needs
    no argument. Not only is Shelleys poetry
    metaphorical through and through, but he aspires
    to create a new myth of the redemption of the
    earth which uses classical materials very freely,
    e.g. in Prometheus Unbound (1820), in the Witch
    of Atlas, and in Adonais (1821). Through
    Shelleys poetry runs a fairly consistent system
    of recurrent symbols the eagle and the serpent
    (which has Gnostic antecedents), temples, towers,
    the boat, the stream, the cave, and, of course,
    the veil, the cupola of stained glass, and the
    white radiance of eternity. Death is the veil
    which those who live call life They sleep and it
    is lifted.26 In Shelley the ecstasy takes on a
    hectic, falsetto tone, the voice breaks at the
    highest points he swoons, I faint, I fail! I
    fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed.27 Shelley
    would like us to transcend the boundaries of
    individuality, to be absorbed into some nirvana.
    This craving for unity explains also one
    pervading characteristic of his style the
    fusing of the spheres of the different senses in
    Shelley is paralleled in his rapid transitions
    and fusions of the emotions, from pleasure to
    pain, from sorrow to joy.
  • Keats is a mythologist, too. There is in Keats
    the recurrent symbolism of moon and sleep, temple
    and nightingale. The great odes are not merely a
    series of pictures, but symbolic constructions in
    which the poet tries to state the conflict of
    artist and society, time and eternity. Byron also
    ... can be interpreted in these terms Manfred
    (1817), Cain, Heaven .

31
KUBLA KHAN
32
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge was one of the founders
    of the Romantic movement in poetry, with his
    friend William Wordsworth, with whom he published
    the groundbreaking Lyrical Ballads in 1798. He is
    best remembered today for his long narrative
    poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and for
    his opium-dream poem, Kubla Khan, but he was
    also a noted critic and philosopher, and the
    influence of his thought and attitude can be seen
    in many succeeding generations of poets.
  • Coleridge also began what would become a much
    more important relationship in 1795 his
    friendship and literary collaboration with
    William Wordsworth (and his sister Dorothy). He
    met the Wordsworths when they moved to Dorset,
    and later moved up to the Lake District for
    several years to be close to them. In 1798,
    Coleridge and Wordsworth jointly
    published Lyrical Ballads, which contained
    Wordsworths influential preface outlining the
    Romantic theory of poetry, and Coleridges much
    discussed and admired poem, The Rime of the
    Ancient Mariner.
  • Coleridge and Opium
  • Around the same time that he met the Wordsworths,
    Coleridge began using opium (usually in the form
    of laudanum) as a painkiller for his many little
    ailments. He explicitly admitted that his poem
    Kubla Khan was written in an opium reverie --
    and never finished because he couldnt write fast
    enough to recapture the entire dream. His
    addiction later caused many troubles in his life
    -- financial difficulties, alienation from
    Wordsworth, and deteriorating health. He put
    himself in a doctors care several times to
    combat the addiction, and took refuge in the home
    of Dr. James Gillman for the last 17 years of his
    life.

33
  • Kubla Khan
  • or, A Vision in a Dream
  • A Fragment
  • The following fragment is here published at the
    request of a poet of great
  • and deserved celebrity Lord Byron, and, as far
    as the Authors 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 farm-house 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 Purchass
    Pilgrimage Here the Khan
  • Kubla commanded a palace to be built, and a
    stately garden thereunto.

34
  • 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 awaking 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!

35
  • Then all the charm Is broken all that
    phantom-world so fair
  • Vanishes, and a thousand circlets spread, And
    each mis-shapes the other. Stay awhile,
  • Poor youth! who scarcely darst lift up thine
    eyes The stream will soon renew its smoothness,
    soonThe 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. but the to-morrow is yet to
    come.
  • 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.
  • 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 here were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
  • Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree
  • And here were forests ancient as the hills,

36
(No Transcript)
37
Xanadu, Xanadu, (now we are here) in
Xanadu Xanadu, your neon lights will shine for
you, Xanadu A place where nobody dared to go, the
love that we came to know They call it
Xanadu And now, open your eyes and see, what we
have made is real We are in Xanadu A million
lights are dancing and there you are, a shooting
star An everlasting world and you're here with
me, eternally Chorus Xanadu, Xanadu, (now we
are here) in Xanadu Xanadu, Xanadu, (now we are
here) in Xanadu Xanadu, your neon lights will
shine for you, Xanadu The love, the echoes of
long ago, you needed the world to know They are
in Xanadu The dream that came through a million
years That lived on through all the tears, it
came to Xanadu A million lights are dancing and
there you are, a shooting star An everlasting
world and you're here with me, eternally Chorus
38
Xanadu Shang Du, in China
summer capital of Kubla Khan who was the founder
of the great Mongol dynasty. 180 miles north of
Beijing.  Kubla Khan built a great 'garden of
delights' with a 'pleasure dome' at the centre. 
soldiers were drugged and convinced that they
were waking up in paradise - ruse - happily fight
in the emperor's battles
  • summer capital of Kubla Khan who was the founder
    of the great Mongol summer capital of Kubla Khan
    who was the founder of the great Mongol dynasty.
  • 180 miles north of Beijing. 
  • Kubla Khan built a great 'garden of delights'
    with a 'pleasure dome' at the centre. 
  • soldiers were drugged and convinced that they
    were waking up in paradise - ruse - happily fight
    in the emperor's battles
  • dynasty.
  • 180 miles north of Beijing. 
  • Kubla Khan built a great 'garden of delights'
    with a 'pleasure dome' at the centre. 
  • soldiers were drugged and convinced that they
    were waking up in paradise - ruse - happily fight
    in the emperor's battles

39
The poem contrasts a man-made, earthly paradise
with a true form of paradise. Xanadu is unable
to resist the demonic forces and is doomed to be
annihilated.
40
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.
  • SECTION 1 (lines 1 11)
  • Introduction to ruler, place, and decree
  • Kubla Kahn decrees an earthly paradise, Xanadu
  • Fulfulment of the decree

41
Sense of the exotic and the mysterious
Sovereign power
sacred river Not real Alpha beginning Symbol
of life
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.
Structure stands within a wild and untamed
landscape Man can neither map nor comprehend the
caverns
Grandeur and majesty vs luxury and leisure
Contrast the destination of this lifegiving
river is a place without light and life
In Xamdu did Cublai Can builde a stately Palace,
encompassing sixteene miles of plaine ground with
a wall, wherein are fertile Meddowes, pleasant
springs, delightful Streames, and all sorts of
beasts of chase and game, and in the middest
thereof a suptuous house of pleasure Puchas
Pilgimage
42
NATURAL VERSUS MAN-MADE
Nature is controlled, separated and set apart
attempt to control, pattern and order the natural
world
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.
Not a public domain private place
Eastern tranquility
43
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!
  • SECTION 2
  • (lines 12 - 30)
  • Evil reasserts itself woman and demonic lover
  • Eruption flow of lava
  • Prophecies of war

44
Irony it is savage and haunted
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!
Across, from corner to corner
SIMILE darkness descending, woman crying in
anguish for her demon lover this kind of
supernatural relationship can only exist outside
of Kubla Khans artificial paradise
This is a place which is not artificial, not
man-made untouched by civilization and
cultivation beyond the understanding of man
45
Chasm is a place of constant turbulence -
symbolic imagery of sex and birth (cp. Calm of
Kublas garden)
Have we descended into the poets unconscious
where we now encounter ceaseless turmoil?
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
Personification
Poetic inspiration sporadic and intense
Fleeting nature of creative thought difficult
to pin down
Tremendous power and force of the mighty
fountain is stressed boulders are first
compared to hail, then grain
46
Dancing floating on the surface of the water
(PERSONIFICATION)
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,
47
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!
Human creations and stations are not permanent
dome is threatened by destructions of war
48
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!
  • SECTION 3 (lines 31 36)
  • Images of a waning paradise

49
The pleasure dome now becomes a shadow
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!
Made according to Khans masterplan
PARADOX OXYMORON
50
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.
  • SECTION 4 (lines 37 54)
  • Vision of heavenly maid
  • Lingering impression
  • Visionary concept of a true paradise

51
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.
The poet himself?
Abyssinia Ethiopia Mount Abora Coleridges
creation Mount Amara (Milton)
52
Does the damsel represent a past moment of
inspiration (maybe a complete poem) that the poet
wishes he could revive?
Conditional verbs
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
Pleasuredome the creative mind sunny
conscious thought caves of ice
unconscious/subconscious thought
BUILD IN WORDS/POETRY symphony and song WHAT
KHAN BUILT IN HIS KINGDOM
53
Poet is caught up in enchantment and mdaness Eyes
flash with creative frenzy
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.
Biblical Allusion Garden of Eden Adam Eve
Honey-dew food of the gods
54
What is it all about?
  • metaphorical journey through a complex labyrinth
    of symbols and images that represent the
    unconscious and seemingly troubled mind
  • a mosaic of fragments of thoughts and incomplete
    themes
  • intentional ambiguity
  • Mr Coleridge can write better nonsense verses
    than any man in England. (William Hazlitt)

55
What is it all about?
  • the poetic process
  • a poem about poetry
  • This poem is metapoetry. It is poetry about
    poetry.
  • Wide range of interpretations
  • Nature if greater than man Kubla khan tries to
    capture and train nature
  • Imagination and the process of creation (esp.
    poetry)

56
What is it all about?
  • Describes a magical place
  • Dream of a woman singing.
  • Writing the poem makes the magic real.
  • Reality destroys the magic.
  • Society destroys the poet.

57
  • KEY QUESTIONS
  • Genre What kind of poem is it? Is it elegy,
    dialogue, narrative, description?
  • Subject What is it talking about? What or who is
    it talking to? What situation does it
  • seem to derive from?
  • Persona Is the speaker a dramatized figure? Does
    the poem identify the I of the
  • poem with the poet? What is the relationship
    between the speaker and the subject?
  • Form Is the poem in stanza form? If so, what
    effect is produced by breaking up the
  • material? Is it continuous? What metre is it
    written in? What part does sound patterning,
    that is, devices that affect the sound of the
    poem, for
  • example alliteration, assonance, play in the
    poem?
  • Figurative language (imagery) What area(s) are
    the figures or images drawn
  • from? Which of the senses do they appeal to?
  • Repetitions What words/lines/ideas are repeated?
    How do these repetitions shape the poem? What do
    they draw our attention to?
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