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Module 1: Coleridge Kubla Khan

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Sacred and sexual imagery

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XSIQ
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English - Sacred and sexual imagery

Sacred and sexual imagery

This place is savage AND sacred:

'A SAVAGE PLACE! AS HOLY AND ENCHANTED
AS E'ER BENEATH A WANING MOON WAS HAUNTED
BY WOMAN WAILING FOR HER DEMON-LOVER!' (ll.14-16)

What follows these mysterious lines is the highly sexual image of the
fountain, drawing clear parallels between the earth itself and male
ejaculation:

AND FROM THIS CHASM WITH CEASELESS TURMOIL SEETHING,
AS IF THIS EARTH IN FAST THICK PANTS WERE BREATHING,
A MIGHTY FOUNTAIN MOMENTLY WAS FORCED' (ll.17-19)

Sex of course holds an ambiguous position in Western history and culture.
On the one hand, it has been surrounded by a sense of the illicit, the
immoral and this sense has tied in strongly to a sense of sex as associated
with the wild and untamed: sex is the realm of immorality and also of the
"uncivilised". This dual sense of immorality and quasi-savagery is how
Shakespeare has the mad Lear describe sex: '

THE WREN GOES TO 'T, AND THE SMALL GILDED FLY
DOES LECHER IN MY SIGHT.....
.....The fitchew nor the soiled horse goes to 't
With a more riotous appetite.
DOWN FROM THE WAIST THEY ARE CENTAURS,
Though women all above.
But to the girdle do the gods inherit,
Beneath is all the fiend's.
THERE'S HELL, THERE'S DARKNESS, THERE IS THE SULPHUROUS PIT;'
King Lear, IV vi 112-28).

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