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"In Khubla Khan," Coleridge sets forth a fantastic vision.
In the first stanza, the speaker states that Khubla Khan has built a majestic pleasure dome in Xanadu, with garden, forests, and winding streams.
In the second stanza, deep in a chasm, a fountain springs forth, sending the sacred river Alph into a motionless ocean. amid the noise of the river, the Khan hears voices prophesying war.
In the third stanza, the speaker then describes a vision of an Abyssian (Ethiopian) woman. He claims that if he could recapture her music, he could rebuild the pleasure dome at Xanadu, arousing fear and awe in the people.
Stanza 1 alludes to the Mongol monarch's 'pleasure-dome' decreed to be built in a plot of fertile land in his summer capital, Xanadu. It was Kubla's earthly paradise, an enclosure made secure by walls & towers, with a 'sacred river', Alph, meandering through light & shade to dissolve into a 'sunless sea' underground.
Stanza 2 dwells on the ever-green hills around where the river originates in the form of 'a mighty fountain' from the womb of 'a deep romantic chasm'. Coming overground, the river runs five miles in 'a mazy motion' to merge into the 'lifeless ocean' through 'caverns measureless to man'. The river, a symbol of life itself, has great commotion at both ends--birth & death. Kubla's dome stands high as 'a miracle of rare device', reconciling the warmth of the sun on the exterior, and the coldness of ice in its exterior.
Stanza 3 shows a geographical switch as the poet refers to the 'Abyssinian maid' who sang a song about Mount Abora--a natural paradise on earth--in his vision. If the poet could revive the vision, the maiden's song could have inspired him to build a dome 'in air'. The poet, in his divine frenzy, could have been, a spontaneous maker of a dome in the realm of art.
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