Coleridge's Poems

Coleridge's Philosophy of Imagination

Coleridge's Philosophy of Imagination

February 1, 2005

In Kubla Khan, Samuel Coleridge depicts the great Mongol ruler Kubla Khan creating a palace representative of his great power and ability to induce fear. But near the end of the poem Coleridge reveals that Kubla is a metaphor for an inspired poet. Thus Kubla's palace is like a poet's creation and represents how his imagination constructs poetry. During the course of the poem, Coleridge utilizes images and symbols to enlighten the reader as to his philosophy of how the imagination functions. Most of the poem describes the untamed forces of nature, implying that the poet is uncontrollable, and his imagination rages on in creation with chaotic movement. But Coleridge also subtly hints that there is an element of conscious control in the imagination, which he represents with images of prophesy and inspiration. Since the images of chaotic creation dominate the poem, Coleridge suggests that the process of imagination is largely a mystery.

Coleridge gives a direct explanation of his theories on imagination in his book Biographia Literaria, and the philosophy he describes parallels the images of imagination in Kubla Khan. First he distinguishes between two different kinds of...

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