Originally published for a nineteenth-century British literature course. Ignore the madness.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, overall I have nothing against your “Kubla Khan;” I must even admit that I like-slash-love it, but that doesn’t mean that I have no issues with it. So, in an effort to move towards making a point, here they are:
According to good-pal Wikipedia, my love letters to Jared Leto are completely pointless, even though I could have sworn that it was a natural law that anything Lindsay Lohan touches automatically is turned into a gay-extravaganza, but, there he is, being all straight and non-gay, and, to be honest, I don’t even know why I’m still sending him those letters after having seen his plus-sized version in the dreadful Chapter 27. I mean, the film’s script alone still gives me nightmares, but on top of that, seeing him, with his hamster-face and weird gestures, trying to act in what was supposed to be a dramatic feature of quality; why, oh, why?
… Wait, when did this post turn into an episode of Ricky Lake? What I was going to say is that issue number one with your lovely poem is its title. “Kubla Khan; or, A Vision in a Dream: A Fragment”? If my good-pal’s right, and you do like all that opium, you must have been pretty high when you wrote that title. Is it a Vision, a Dream, or a Fragment? And I know that if you picked the All-of-the-above option it would also be right, but could you make up your mind, please?
H’m. Apparently that’s a pretty silly issue to have with this poem, my inner-monologue just told me. He’s been bugging me all day long, little bugger.
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
Now, there isn’t really anything wrong with this beginning; it is just that “Where Alph, the sacred river, ran / Through caverns measureless to man / Down to a sunless sea.” doesn’t really flow as well as it probably should. The last two lines, which apparently are meant to be one thought, hinder this invisible flow to, well, flow.
The next one is not really an issue, I guess, but more an observation.
And ‘mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war !
Is this meant to soften Khan’s war-lust? If he acted on his own, he would be responsible for it—on his own; but if he did it because voices in his head were telling him to do it, some responsibility would be shifted to them.
Isn’t this somewhat similar to what happens in the Old Testament? For instance, couldn’t one say that Abraham was just mentally-insane when he decided to offer his son? Yes, we can. But then, of course, full responsibility for it would be in Abraham’s hands; and by telling people God said it, he gets off scot-free! Sure, he didn’t go through with it because—and allow me to cough before and after saying this—an angel prevented him. (Or maybe his valium just kicked in.) … I’m not sure what kind of point I was going to make with this, especially not in relation to “Khan,” but I think it was this: by attributing Khan’s war-lust to ancestral voices, you—and I’m talking to Coleridge, remember—shift a bit of responsibility away from him.
So, my final question is this: are you in love with Kubla Khan and thus willing to forgive some of his deeds?