What images shatter the depiction of Xanadu as peaceful and serene?

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The first stanza offers us serene images of Xanadu with its "pleasure dome," "gardens bright" and "many an incense-bearing tree," but in stanza two the tone changes as we meet the violence of the river cascading over the chasm. Here, Coleridge uses turbulent images, calling the chasm "a savage place!" Violent imagery includes "a woman wailing," then the image of chasm expelling water with "fast thick pants." This panting creates "turmoil" and the water crashes on the rocks at the bottom of the chasm and is thrown up again like "rebounding hail" or grain rising up in a mist as it is hit with a "thresher's flail." The water is "flung up" by the rocks. The sound of the water is loud, like a "tumult," the narrator says twice, and like an "ancestral voice" predicting "war."

This stanza, with its many exclamation points and images of the wild, raging, dancing and loud warlike water crashing down, is a high point of the poem. The narrator returns to calmer images of the shadow of the pleasure doom reflected and seeming to float on the waves, but later, after the narrator weaves fanciful description of the abyssinian maid and her dulcimer, the narrator breaks the serenity again, crying "Beware! Beware!"

 

 

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