Kubla Khan

The imaginative journey transcends physical boundaries, occurring in the realms of our minds as a vast source of inspiration limited only by its own genius. Through the imaginative journey and the spiritual growth that it offers, composers hope to effectively challenge our way of thinking and broaden our understanding of the world. The representation of an effective imaginative journey contains universal aspects, detailed in The Town Where Time Stands Still by Shirley Goek-lin Lim, evident in all texts as varied as Coleridge’s poems, Drink Entire: Against the Madness of Crowds by Ray Bradbury and Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats.

The Town Where Time Stands Still describes any journey as the “search for the genii loci”, that is the search for spiritual meaning in destination. Through the “purer realm of travel”, a metaphor for the imaginative journey, travellers through an “unconscious, compulsion” seek “to be moved rather than to move”. Lim’s definition is one which encompasses all imaginative journeys, especially those of Coleridge, where the “external geography” of the physical realm often catalyses the more important spiritual journey of the “internal psychology” that occurs within the realms of our imagination.

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In Kubla Khan, Coleridge portrays the external geography of ‘Xanadu’ through juxtaposed images of “sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice”. The contrast of ‘holy and enchanted’ and ‘demon-lover’ demonstrates the associative power of the imagination to fuse antithetical entities. The journey portrays the divine act of creation, the landscape being the link between the parallels of Khan’s ‘Xanadu’ and the composer’s own journey of creation. Coleridge creates the image of the ‘furor poeticus’, the divine ecstasy of creative inspiration in its human embodiment: “For he on the honey-dew hath fed.

/And drunk the milk of paradise”. In contrast, Drink Entire Against the Madness of Crowds by Bradbury portrays a protagonist, Morgan, who is fearful, insecure, cynical, and his personality manifests itself through the settings. Bradbury using pathetic fallacy, to convey the city as “an oil-slick garbage infested midnight” reflecting the desolation of Morgan’s mood. A literary allusion is also used for emphasis, “together in Dante’s Inferno here under a melting city”.

The text concerns Morgan’s journey to find the natural sanctuary of love in a hostile external geography, conveyed though the contrasting metaphor: “he was an island oasis in a dead and unmoving sea of typewriters”. Lim’s definition of the external geography acting on the internal psychology is most evident in Coleridge’s egotism in Frost at Midnight. The poem begins with the alliteration of ‘st’ in the images of ‘frostickles’ creating an almost tangible, deafening silence.

This is illustrated by paradoxes like “so calm it disturbs” and “numberless going-ons” being “inaudible” creating the tone of the poem: a fine balance of stillness and super-sensitive awareness. The poem also obtains a “systolic rhythm” (Gerard) characterised by the contraction and expansion of imagery, echoed by the rhythm of the baby’s “gentle breathings, heard in this deep clam, fill up … momentary pauses of thought! ” The ‘fluttering film’ becomes the catalyst for the imaginative journey: this ‘sole unquiet thing’ becomes a symbol of Coleridge’s consciousness, which acts as a receptor for images of the outside world.

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