“Kubla Khan; or, a Vision in a Dream: a Fragment” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge


Samuel Taylor Coleridge by Pieter Van Dyke (1794)

In the interpretation of “Kubla Khan”, a significant role is played by the notion of dream and imagination. In his Preface, Coleridge claims that he fell victim to a peculiar sleep in which “images rose up before him as things, with a parallel production of the correspondent expressions, without any sensation or consciousness of effort”. While he admits that he had fallen into a “profound sleep”, he qualifies this sleep as a state in which images from within his mind suddenly appeared as things, with “parallel” expressions. Coleridge describe these unconscious half-sleep as “the true witching time ”, the very season in which “spirits hold their wont to walk”. In dreams the imagination translates and shifts images into altogether different objects; conventional landscapes become sublime or threatening , or even ridiculous.  The imagination’s position as a translational power of poetry, of dreams and of body organs creates a situation in which Coleridge the poet and Coleridge the dreamer can be seen as parallel actors. It is the poet who brings “the whole soul of man into activity, with the subordination of its faculties to each other, according to their relative worth and dignity” (94).

Sources:  Ford, Jennifer. “Coleridge on Dreaming – Romanticism, Dreams and the Medical Imagination.” Cambridge University Press. 1998.Print.


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