Does the poem have a real geographical location? How does the poet mix up the real and the imaginary to give a sense of the surreal?
Coleridge’s poem adopts the character of Kubla Khan, who was the grandson of the legendary Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan. Genghis Khan took the initiative to build a summer palace located in Xanadu, which is in Mongolia.
In Kubla Khan, Coleridge talks about how Kubla was seeking means to build a dome which would be unperturbed by the natural forces. He was antithetical to the natural forces of decay and degeneration and wanted to create a private world bereft of metamorphosis. Whereas, the poet wants to build a dome in the air out of the natural forces- the imaginative cocoon that would shell the poetic and the natural truth. The poet doesn’t want go against the organic world. Rather he wants to build something out of the natural forces that would blend with the natural motions of the world. The introduction of the River Alph is another instance of how the poet combines the real and the imaginary. There is certainly no river with that name though some critics claim this to have an allusion to river Alpheus in Greece. This is how Coleridge is constantly shifting away from the real world by adopting certain figures and binding them with imaginary concepts to provide a surrealistic effect.
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