Analyze the theme of poetic creativity in Coleridge's "Kubla Khan."


Kubla Khan

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This is a poem that is famous for being actually about the creative process of writing itself, as modelled in the action of Kubla Khan in creating his famous "pleasure dome." Note the way in which he "decrees" a pleasure dome, followed by a description of its appearance and the process of it being made. Just as Kubla Khan creates this pleasure dome, so a parallel is drawn with the speaker, who, in the final stanza of the poem, wishes to re-create the pleasure dome through his words: clearly referring to an act of poetic creation:

That with music loud and long,

I would build that dome in air,

That sunny dome! those caves of ice!

Coleridge further alludes to the special place that poets occupy in the imagination, as figures both to be revered and feared, as demonstrated by the way those looking at the speaker shout "Beware!" because of the way he has fed on "honeydew" and "drunk the milk of paradise." The creation of the pleasure dome seems therefore to act as a powerful symbol of creativity as a whole. Just as Kubla Khan created his pleasure dome, so Coleridge has created this poem, and longs to be able to exercise the same gift of creativity. The poem itself has been created out of thin air to give us a new way to look at creativity and the imagination.

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