Romantic Poets

Start Free Trial

Construct an argument about the supernatural in William Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality” and Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan."

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
Both Wordsworth and Coleridge allude to the supernatural in their poems "Odes: Intimations of Immortality" and "Kubla Khan."
Wordsworth argues in his ode that our souls come to earth from heaven, as he puts it,

Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream
He exalts early childhood, which he calls infancy (traditionally "infancy" meant ages birth to five), and says the young child is closer to the celestial source of life than adults. We have souls that come from far away, and we gradually lose the sense of the glory of God we had in earliest youth:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
A poet's job is to remember that early sense of God's presence and communicate it to others. In the poem, Wordsworth acts as a poet-prophet, reminding us of the supernatural traces we can find living all around us in nature if we would only open ourselves to them.
Coleridge's poem is a dream vision of an exotic and alluring place in the "Orient": the palace of Kubla Khan and its surrounding countryside. What the ordinary person sees is the beauty described in the first stanza: the river, the gardens, the "incense-bearing tree." What the visionary poetic genius sees appears in the second stanza: this is the violent waterfall crashing down through a chasm that puts the poet in touch with the supernatural, envisioned as woman crying for her demon-lover.
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
Both Wordsworth and Coleridge express in their poems the idea that the poet has a special vision of the supernatural, but they have different views of this. Wordsworth wants people to access this awareness of the divine presence in nature and in the memories of childhood that lie below the surface of life. This presence is exciting and awe-inspiring, but also comforting. Coleridge is convinced that only the artistic genius dares delve to that deeper level. For him, as for Wordsworth, this level is exciting and awe-inspiring, but it is also frightening and demonic.
Both poets believe in the supernatural and express it using metaphors from nature, but one poem depicts the divine or supernatural as more comforting than the other. Both speakers, however, have a deep emotional response to it.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial