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

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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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.