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Module 1: Coleridge Kubla Khan

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General and specific meanings

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English - General and specific meanings

General and specific meanings

In general terms Kubla Khan is given connotations of power and authority.
He is represented as a creator.

Let us try to capture the ideas in the poem in some kind of general form
before trying to tie them down to the specifics of some of these readings.

The poem opens with:

'In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A STATELY PLEASURE-DOME DECREE' (ll.1-2)

In general terms, Kubla is thus a powerful potentate in the position of
being a lawgiver. He is also a creator. Thus, at the most general level, he
represents processes of creating and ordering. Where does the pleasure-dome
appear?

'Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
DOWN TO A SUNLESS SEA.' (ll.3-5)

Thus this dome appears in the midst of a seemingly untouched natural world
- certainly a world of darkness and mystery (SUNLESS) and a world otherwise
beyond the control and even comprehension of humanity (MEASURELESS TO MAN).
The dome itself, in being a dome, perhaps suggests a physical church and
thus spiritual meditation and sacredness (like the river), while at the
same time being a dome of 'PLEASURE'.

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