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Module 1: Coleridge Kubla Khan

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The River metaphor

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English - The river metaphor

The river metaphor

The river and the sea: connected with darkness and death

What of the river so created? One impression of the river is of ease
('FIVE MILES MEANDERING WITH A MAZY MOTION', l.25); in contrast, another is
of massive activity not unlike that of the mighty fountain ('AND SANK IN
TUMULT', l.28) and yet another is of death as it ends in the 'LIFELESS
OCEAN' (l.28). This latter description of the sea reminds us of its earlier
description as 'sunless' (l.5). Throughout the poem, light has been
associated with life, and lack of light with its opposite. Thus the demon's
lover wails 'BENEATH A WANING MOON' (l.15).

Kubla's garden brings light, while the river and the sea are associated
with darkness and death. The place where the river, the sea and the dome
meet brings meanings to Kubla. He hears 'ANCESTRAL VOICES PROPHESYING WAR'
(l.30); the fountain and caves convey a 'MINGLED MEASURE' (l.33). The
combination, it seems, of the creation with the natural has produced
meaning, while reconciling opposites:

'A SUNNY PLEASURE-DOME WITH CAVES OF ICE' (l.36).

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