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The Caverns

Symbol Analysis

The caverns are huge, frightening, cold, and fascinating to our speaker. They appear in the poem for just a moment at first, as the place the river passes through. As things move along, however, we start to see that these caverns are important in this poem. They are the opposite of the warm, happy palace. They are dramatic, freezing, underground, and represent everything the pleasure dome is not.

  • Line 4: The phrase, "caverns measureless to man," is a good example of hyperbole. The speaker could say that the caverns are "really deep" or "you can't see the bottom." Instead, the depth of the caverns is exaggerated to an infinite point, adding to the feeling of mystery. In the real world, any cavern could eventually be measured, no matter how deep. So what and where are these strange caves?
  • Line 27: Here we see the caverns again, described in exactly the same way: "measureless to man." The repetition of this phrase emphasizes their importance and drives home their sense of mystery and depth.
  • Line 47: When they are contrasted with the sunny dome like this, the caves of ice becomes a symbol of the forces of nature that lie under and surround the works of man. We keep mentioning this because Coleridge keeps pushing it into view. The clash of these forces is one of the main points of this vision.

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