Romanticism. An era in which the margins of art seethed into the imaginations of the individual. Which captured each artist’s ornamented perception of one’s mental and physical world. In a completely chaotic whirlwind of obscure natural concoctions and a bizarre stylistic approach, Samuel Taylor Coleridge immaculately models the broader spectrum of Romantic literature in his infamous poem, “Kubla Khan.” Through his obscure structural foundation and recurring syntactical elements, Coleridge guides us in a dreamlike trance through the “pleasure-dome” of Xanadu, a portal into the fascinating mind of one of the world’s greatest Romanticists.
At first glance at “Kubla Khan,” the disorganized plot and peculiar organization appear indecipherable. It’s vastly abstract storyline is largely, if not entirely, accredited to the prior mental state of Coleridge, who drifted asleep in an opium-induced haze. According to Coleridge, the final phrase he had read before his body submerged into sleep had been extracted from Purchas’s Pilgrimage: “Here the Khan Kubla commanded a palace to be built, and a stately garden thereunto. And thus ten miles of fertile ground were enclosed with a wall.” Afterward, Coleridge dozed into a three-hour sleep, during which he encountered a vivid vision. Upon awakening, the poet’s first thought was to capture his recollection; he composed the lines that could most accurately portray his unique experience, until, quite inconveniently, he was interrupted by a visitor. Upon returning to his work, Coleridge found that his mental snapshot had simply dissipated, and he was left with only the few disoriented lines before him (Knapp).
Coleridge’s complex dream is mirrored by the structural complexity of “Kubla Khan,” evident in its faltering meter and irregular rhyme scheme. Upon its analysis, it was taken note that, though chiefly iambic, the quantity of linear syllables constantly shifted. Beginning in an iambic tetrameter, the poem initiated a steady rhythm from lines 1 through 4, only to stutter into iambic trimeter in line 5 and amble again into iambic tetrameter (lines 6-7) and pentameter (lines 8-11). The trend of scattered meter continues into the body of “Kubla Khan” with a lengthy portion of iambic pentameter containing an additional unstressed syllable at the end of each line. Evidence of continual meter modifications include the presence of trochaic trimeter with additional stressed syllables (lines 32 and 34), trochaic tetrameter (line 33), and, again, iambic tetrameter toward the poem’s finality.
In addition to the sporadic cadence of the poem, a peculiar rhyme scheme contributes to the obscurity of the work. The first stanza is characterized by an ABAABCCDBDB scheme, exhibiting an early irregularity which trends throughout the work’s entirety. With several isolated rhyming couplets and rhymes bridging multiple lines, a precise pattern cannot be pinpointed. The lack of exactitude among the rhymes themselves creates an...