Kubla Khan

Week 5

What did I do?

Analysed and discussed Kubla Khan and Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Kubla Khan (written: 1797 – published: 1816)

The poem Kubla Khan (19343q05) by Samuel Taylor Coleridge was composed ‘in a dream’. The author, after reading of the legend of Kubla Khan and Xanadu [from: Purchas, his Pilgrimes by Samuel Purchas, 1613], dreamt the poem that he wrote down upon waking. His recount was disturbed however, by a welcomed visitor – ‘a person from Porlock’, he claimed – and the poem was gone from his memory, halted a mere 3 (although some argue for 4) stanzas into what was supposed to be a ‘250 – 300’ line poem. The poem is a consistent allusion to the legend  of Xanadu, as many legends and aged literature were re-acclaimed during the Romantic period. Kubla Khan was inspired by the summer capital, Xanadu, of the Mongol ruler Kublai Khan, the first emperor of the Yuan Dynasty after conquering China. Xanadu was an attempt to assimilate the nomadic Mongolian and Han Chinese cultures. All that remains of the capital city today are temples, palaces, tombs, nomadic encampments and the Tiefan’gang Canal, along with other waterworks.

The Tiefan’gang Canal may be the river ‘Alph’ that Coleridge wrote about. There have been questions on the correct assumption in interpreting this allusion. After research I am assuming that the reference was an act of imagination in combination with the text on Xanadu that Coleridge had read prior to inventing the poem. Such imagination was not uncommon in Coleridge’s works and were, in fact, a critical aspect of his role in the establishment of Romanticism. 


Changed related text

I have changed my related text from Wuthering Heights (184) to The Lady of Shalott (1832) by Alfred Lord Tennyson. This was because I found that the former text was not substantially ‘Romantic’ in the period sense, both time-wise and in content. Although Tale of Two Cities was also published well outside of the Romantic period setting, I have found that its content is highly reflective of the Romantic period and as an effective illustration of the negative effects of the Enlightenment period. Contextually, Charles Dickens was raised during the Romantic period and, due to his upbringing, had substantial reasoning to despise and de-celebrate the urbanisation that occurred during the industrial revolution.

The Lady of Shalott was written by an acclaimed Romantic author, within the time period. As an allusion to a legend of the medieval age, the poem reflects the revival of the conventions of the age that occurred during Romanticism. It is also more appropriate due its form; poetry was a more common and revered form of expression during the Romantic poem than prose fiction, as prose was commonly used for the Gothic genre of the time period. I will need to analyse the poem, study its context (the context of Tennyson and the story that it alludes to) and read about it content so that I can use it as effective evidence towards my thesis.


  • Wuthering Heights (1970)
  • p.327 of Wuthering Heights (1847) by Emily Bronte
  • The Lady of Shalott (1832) by Alfred Lord Tennyson


Image:  RubyMatrix. (2012). Thumbnail image for Kubla Khan Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cPWg7Uq0l4


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