Literary Devices in Kubla Khan

Literary Devices Examples in Kubla Khan:

Kubla Khan 4

"And drunk the milk of Paradise...."   (Kubla Khan)

The poem arrives at a significant expression of its theme: Paradise, in the end, exists only in the imagination. The Xanadu we encounter in the poem is itself a fantasy of the speaker, who turns out to be a crazed man with “flashing eyes” and “floating hair.” Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” is thus a poem aware of its own limitations as a poem, a quality that perhaps paradoxically adds to the poem’s richness and value.

"And all should cry, Beware! Beware!..."   (Kubla Khan)

In a surprising twist, the speaker imagines how he might look to those around him as he talks of Xanadu. The last several lines of the poem constitute the imagined exclamations of “all who heard,” an audience which can be said to include us, the readers.

"I would build that dome in air, That sunny dome! those caves of ice!..."   (Kubla Khan)

This final stanza is self-referential. The building of “that dome in air,/That sunny dome! Those caves of ice!” is precisely what Coleridge has done in the first two stanzas. In a sense, those first two stanzas become a poem within the poem, a dream the speaker awakens from. Coleridge structures the poem in this way in order to express the theme of the struggles of artistic creation. Just as Coleridge, according to his account, struggled to craft “Kubla Khan” from a dream-inspired outpouring, the speaker drives himself into a frenzy trying to “revive… That sunny dome! those caves of ice!”

"Or, a vision in a dream. A fragment...."   (Kubla Khan)

The poem’s subtitle foreshadows the theme of art as an endless pursuit of perfect expression. Coleridge calls the poem “a fragment” in a recognition of its limits. The reference to the “vision in a dream” refers both the the circumstances of Coleridge’s composition of the poem as well as the structure of the poem’s narrative: a dreamlike description of Xanadu is followed by a wakeful reflection.