Coleridge makes this one easy for us since the subtitle of the poem is "a Vision in a Dream." This poem is meant to make us feel like we are in an alternate reality. We recognize all the objects he describes, but the images he creates move in ways we don't expect. People appear and disappear strangely, just like in a dream or a hallucination. Think of it as a scary Alice in Wonderland.
Questions About Versions of Reality
- Are there moments in "Kubla Khan" that seem particularly dream-like? Why?
- Coleridge wanted people to know that this was "a vision in a dream." Does knowing that change your view of this poem? Does it make you like it more or less? What if it was just called "Kubla Khan?"
- Coleridge also claims his memory of the dream was interrupted. Do you have a sense of where it was going? Are there things in this poem you want to know more about? Does this poem feel complete the way it is?
- Are we supposed to learn something from this dream? Is there a message for us, or just a lot of interesting and mysterious images?
- What on earth is going on at the end of the poem? If your friend came to you talking about this "milk of paradise" stuff how would you react?
Chew on This
All the different aspects of his poem (the rhyme scheme, the images, the plot, etc.) are dreamlike in one way or another. The entire poem is designed to create the atmosphere of a dream.