In Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "Kubla Khan," what are some examples of alliteration, consonance, assonance, and onomatopoeia?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan” uses a wide variety of literary devices, including alliteration, assonance, consonance, and onomatopoeia. 

Alliteration, or the repetition of the same consonant sounds at the very beginnings of words, appears in numerous lines. Examples include “Kubla Khan” (1), “measureless to man” (4), “sunless sea” (5), “five miles of fertile” (6), and “sunny spots” (11), among many other instances. Since alliteration is so easy to notice, there seems little point in continuing this list.

Assonance, of the repetition of the same vowel sounds, is also a common device of sound used in “Kubla Khan.”  Examples include “twice five miles” (6), “fast thick pants” (18), “swift half-intermitted” (20), “Five miles” (25), and numerous other instances.

Consonance, or the repetition of the same consonant sounds in places other than the beginnings of words, also appears frequently in “Kubla Khan.” Examples include “romantic chasm” (12), “waning moon was haunted” (15), “Amid whose swift half-intermitted” (20), and many other instances.

Finally, onomatopoeia, or the effect in which a word sounds like the thing it describes, appears in such possible examples as “wailing” (16), “fast thick pants” (18), and “Five miles meandering with a mazy motion” (25). Each of these examples is somewhat debatable, whereas there can be no debate about alliteration, consonance, and assonance.

The device most often used in this poem is consonance, or the repetition of the same consonants sounds.  Indeed, alliteration is often seen as simply a kind or species of consonance.  Repeated consonant sounds are a common feature of “normal” speech, and such sounds tend to be emphasized even more strongly by poets, especially by Coleridge in a poem as musical as “Kubla Khan.”

Often, in this poem, the devices interact with one another.  Thus, one single line --

Five miles meandering with a mazy motion

combines assonance ("Five miles"), alliteration ("meandering with a mazy motion"), and, arguably, onomatopoeia.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Alliteration involves the repetition of initial sounds of words. Examples include the name "Kubla Khan," as well as "sunless sea," and "sunny spots." Later examples include "cedarn cover," "miles meandering," "mingled measure," "damsel with a dulcimer," and "deep delight." Alliteration adds a musical, singsong quality to the poem. 

Examples of consonance, which involves the repetition of consonant sounds in places other than the beginning of words (usually the end of words), includes "girdled round" and "sinuous rills."

Assonance involves the repetition of internal vowel sounds. Examples are "twice five," "there were," and "chaffy grain." Consonance and assonance also make the sounds musical and smooth. 

An example of onomatopoeia, or a word that sounds like the noise it makes, is "wailing" in line 16 to refer to the sound the woman was making as she mourned her lover. Another example is "fast thick pants" to refer to the sounds of the earth and its fountain. 

teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Examples of poetic devices in "Kubla Khan" include the following:

Alliteration includes "a damsel with a dulcimer," "woman wailing," "deep delight," and "his flashing eye, his floating hair!" in the last stanza of the poem.

Examples of assonance are "And all" in the last stanza, in the repeating "a." "And all" is also repeated twice in a row.

Consonance, the repetitive use of consonants anywhere in words, appears in "circles" and "thrice," both with soft "c" sounds near the end of the poem, and in "damsel" and "dulcimer," which not only begin with the alliterative "d" but also contain the interior soft "c"/"s" sound and the interior "m."

Onomatopoeia, at least to an extent, occurs in the word "wailing," which carries the sound of lament and in the phrase "fast thick pants" which captures the rhythm of panting breath.

Coleridge relies heavily on alliteration and consonance in this poem fragment as he builds his dream vision of the Orient.