These lines from "Kubla Khan" describe the most fantastical feature of the land of Xanadu. The oxymoronic features of this dome, whic is both sunny and made of ice, emphasizes Coleridge's familiar theme of the wonders that are present in nature.
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
These final lines of "Kubla Khan" exemplify the theme of mysticism/the supernatural in the poem. The bewitched man, who is the subject of these lines, can no longer exist as a "normal" person after seeing all the wonders of nature in the foreign land of Xanadu (which is the "Paradise" referred to in the quotation).
I may not hope from outward forms to win
The passion and the life, whose fountains are within
In this quotation, Coleridge acknowledges the futility of his efforts to use his natural surroundings as his source of happiness. He realizes that his happiness must come from an internal source and that he cannot rely on external sources.
Visit her, gentle Sleep! with wings of healing,
And may this storm be but a mountain-birth,
May all the stars hang bright above her dwelling,
Silent as though they watched the sleeping Earth!
Coleridge's wish of goodwill for his "Lady"/former lover is an example of theme of the power of sleep and dreams. Coleridge describes sleep as a means of "healing" and as a portal to happiness.
On my way,
Visions of childhood! oft have ye beguiled
Lone manhood’s cares, yet waking fondest sighs:
Ah! that once more I were a careless child!
This quotation highlights the adult speaker's longing to return to the idyllic innocence of childhood. The idealization of the joys of childhood is a common theme in Coleridge's poetry.
Sir Leoline, the Baron rich,
Hath a toothless mastiff bitch;
Prior to his description as infirm, Coleridge introduces Sir Leoline paired with his guard dog, a "toothless" female dog, clearly old and beyond service as a protector. This foreshadows Sir Leoline's own failure to protect his daughter from the machinations of Geraldine.
The gate that was ironed within and without,
Where an army in battle array had marched out.
The lady sank, belike through pain,
And Christabel with might and main
Lifter her up, a weary weight,
Geraldine faints (or feigns a swoon) at the threshold of the castle. This may be an allusion to tales in which vampires cannot enter a home unless invited (or in this case voluntarily carried), or the proximity of the iron gates may indicate that Geraldine possesses a Faerie nature, and is thus susceptible to harm from iron. Either way, Geraldine is only weakened at the threshold, forcing Christabel to bring her into the castle of her own free will.
Christabel answered--Woe is me!
She died the hour that I was born.
Christabel here explains to Geraldine that her mother, though long dead, may yet watch over her as a guardian spirit. Aside, Geraldine commands this same spirit to depart and leave Christabel in her power. The supernatural elements of guardian spirits and a vampiric houseguest may give way to the more natural tension between the departed mother and a new rival for Sir Leoline's affections.
The inmates of my cottage, all at rest,
Have left me to that solitude, which suits
Abstruser musings: save that at my side
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.
The speaker takes advantage of the solitude to meditate on the snowy silence outside, but at the same time is reminded that he is not truly alone: his infant son rests next to him. Coleridge's son Hartley would often figure into his poetry as an object of his affections and hopes. Here his presence foreshadows Coleridge's final wishes that his son might appreciate all of nature more fully than Coleridge himself--raised as he was in the city--cannot.
'Most musical, most melancholy' bird!
A melancholy bird! Oh, idle thought!
In nature there is nothing melancholy.
Coleridge decries the poetic trope of describing the Nightingale as melancholy. He draws from this bird--as from all of nature--joy and hope, not sorrow. Often in his poetry, Coleridge turns poetic conventions around; here in particular he argues against the common misconception of nighttime as a period of fear and the unknown. To Coleridge, the nightingale is a harbinger of all that can be appreciated and learned from nature in the stillness of a moonlit night.
Coleridge’s Poems Questions and Answers
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