Paradox and Prophetic Blast

The use of the dream world in Wordsworth’s The Prelude and the environments of Xanadu in Coleridge’s Kubla Khan act to symbolize the mind of the poet. Concordantly, the introduction of the caverns/shell imagery offer interesting peeks into the creative process of the poet and the rendering of seemingly paradoxical, ‘immortal’ elements into rhythmic verse.

The worlds that they introduce in their respective works are surreal creations where anything is possible–where fabrications of the mind ‘live’ in ‘dream worlds.’ In Book 5 of The Prelude, Wordsworth beheld an “arab of the Bedouin tribes” in the midst of a desert (77). The man that Wordsworth has created in his mind transforms from a simple arab knight into a “semi-Quixote” only to be returned to as a “living man–/A gentle dweller in the desert” stirred by human emotions (143-145). The dream arab seems to wrap on himself to the point that Wordsworth cannot place either a beginning or an end, a paradoxical being existing in reality and in reality and fiction. Similarly, in Kubla Khan Coleridge’s character seeks to create an earthly palace in a seemingly paradoxical environment–“A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice” (36). The objects that dwell in the exotic minds of the poets serve to pose as products of creative thinking.

What truly becomes more interesting upon realizing that the reader is peering into the mind of the author is the creative process made aware throughout and the work of the poet in grounding ideas in reality. Wordsworth’s friend holds a shell to him through which “an unknown tongue” that the listener could decipher as speaking “articulate sounds,/ A loud prophetic blast of harmony” that foretold of the coming of a second flood (94-95). Coleridge deals with similar prophecies being shouted from the cave and infinite ocean. To me, these loud noises act as a source of inspiration for these poets in their dream world, that they must seek to bury the “immortal verse” in “poor earthly casket[s]”–which is why what appeared as “unknown tongues” before or “ancestral voices” become articulate in the mind of the respective poets (Wordsworth 164, Coleridge 30).  It is fitting then that the scattered nonesense is heard as “mingled measure” from the place that it was born–in the mind of the poet (Coleridge 33). 

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~ by frightenedinmate2 on September 13, 2012.

One Response to “Paradox and Prophetic Blast”

  1. It was really interesting to view the environments of the two episodes as symbolizing the mind of the poet and you draw strong evidence for this through the “blast” from the shell in the ‘Dream of the Arab’ section and the ancestral voices in Kubla Khan. I especially liked your attention to the detail that these prophecies were in “unknown tongues” or spoken through “ancestral voices”, which showed that these were messages that were difficult to interpret, yet profoundly powerful. This really is an excellent description of poetic inspiration that I had not seen in the texts before.

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