Man has, since the beginning of recorded history, been intrigued by their dreams. In Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan,” he writes of a dream he had which contains a surplus of archetypal images that he may or may not have been aware of upon his writing of the dream. This is not unusual, however, as most writers’ works contain images like these at some time or other.
The first thing about this poem I noticed was line 4 of the poem where he writes of “caverns measureless to man.” This line describes an age-old existential, somewhat spiritual philosophy, that the infinite cannot be measured. Likewise, man’s dreams and unconscious thoughts cannot be measured, even though some may be able to analyze and theorize about what they believe them to mean. Despite this, they still cannot be measured, and as with this particular dream of Coleridge’s, if they are not quickly written down they soon become lost to the conscious mind.
The caverns mentioned in line 4 of the poem are thought by some to be speaking of the dwelling place of Mother Earth, whom he might be describing in line 16 when he writes of a “woman wailing for her demon-lover.” This is but one of the many archetypal images of the poem, and to me was the most obvious. This woman has been written about throughout history, and comes often to people in dreams. This woman was in Asia thought to be the goddess Cybele, who is the goddess of wild nature. Animals such as the elephant, the polar bear, or the humpback whale have, in many cultures been taken up symbolically as archetypal representations of the earth mother as well. Noting this, it becomes easier to see the vast symbolism in “Kubla Khan” as a subjective representation of Coleridge’s unconscious mind. These things, at least at the time of his dream, were symbolic representations of his truth. I say his truth, because I believe that truth is an intensely personal experience.
Another important point of this poem is the theme of a union of opposites, which like...