Read Theory (Grade 11, 1230L)

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Important

Due to the ReadTheory system, I do not know the next few questions. I have to answer a question first in order to view the next question. If you know the answer to the first question, please help me and message me the answer and I can reply you with the next few questions. Thanks! ___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Xanadu

Passage 1

“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan, a stately pleasure dome decree.” These words are as immortal and indeed as famed as any by Shakespeare, and yet they introduce a far stranger work than even The Tempest, perhaps the oddest of all the Bard’s plays. The lines are the first of “Kubla Khan,” by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, one of the most beloved works of the Romantic period. But for a poem so revered, its meaning is surprisingly ambiguous.

The poem has two main parts, with the first describing the dome the Mongol Kubla Khan constructed on the banks of the River Alph. Said dome is destroyed toward the end of the first section, and, in the second, the narrator recounts an Abyssinian maid he once saw. The maid was capable of inspiring him and giving him godlike powers. Indeed, at the end of the poem, the speaker imagines others fearing his “flashing eyes” and “floating hair.” As might be apparent from the summary of the two disjointed sections, making sense of the poem’s two parts is not an easy task.

Contemporary critics have suggested “Kubla Khan” is a poem about the creation of poetry, but only the second half of the poem seems to support this. Others have argued it is a poem about the destructive forces of nature, but only the first half of the poem seems to support that reading. Still others have suggested the poem is about the contrasting idylls and terrors of the dream world, arguing that the poem suggests man is capable of both creating personal utopias and personal hells. While this author tends to support that last analysis, there are aspects of the poem that still leave her scratching her head and wondering just what in the heck Coleridge was trying to say. As one contemporary of Coleridge’s put it, Coleridge was the best writer of “nonsense verse” in the English language, and it is often hard to separate nonsense from necessary phrases when determining the abstract meaning (or perhaps meanings!) of the poem.

Regardless of its meaning, the poem endures because of the power it contains. A reader of the poem cannot help but get lost in the figurative language of the poem and the robust force the poem uses to create its image. It is a masterwork by a master of language, and to read it is to gain a better appreciation for the powers of language. As such, perhaps the meaning of the poem does not really matter, for the meaning of the poem might simply come from the experience of reading it and getting lost in the dream it creates.

Passage 2

Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” is a poem as well known for its origin myth as for its content. The poet christened his work with a subtitle: “Or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment.” And, according to legend, the poem was merely that: a vision Coleridge had in a dream. One night, he took laudanum, a medicinal preparation of opium that, like most opium preparations, caused slight hallucinations. (This was the early 19th century, and doctors routinely prescribed drugs now known to be dangerous to consume.) Coleridge had a dream about Kubla Khan making a dome in a beautiful natural setting and then dreamed of himself writing a poem about it. He woke up and wrote the poem down, creating what we know today as the first half of “Kubla Khan.” Then, he paused and forgot the dream and instead began to describe what he calls in the poem, another “vision once [he] saw,” that of an Abyssinian maid.

This is a great story and one that is, of course, as impossible to verify as it is to refute. All readers can agree the poem is excellently written, but certainly the legend has added to its intrigue. The tales raises questions about artistic inspiration and also meaning: if a poem is not so much created as merely thought, does it even have meaning?

Such a discussion is not limited to the works of Coleridge. Later poets—namely the French Symbolists and the American Beats—would similarly claim to have just dreamt up poems, and other poets—notably W.B. Yeats—would occasionally indulge in automatic writing. In fact, many poets like to pretend that they are divinely inspired. And, as poetry readers, we love the idea of the poet as divine creator, even though we know the truth: that writing poetry is a painstaking process in which a poet will spend literally months writing two lines. But it certainly is fun to dream about dreaming up a classic of the English canon! ___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Questions

The author of Passage 1 most likely believes that

a) Poets often lie about their inspirations

b) All poems have just one intended meaning

c) Shakespeare could not have written something like “Kubla Khan”

d) Most popular poems are easy to understand

e) Coleridge did not really dream up “Kubla Khan”

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