The poem Kubla Khan is a complex and perplexing poem. It was written after an opium-induced dream and serves as an insight into the subconscious of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It talks of things, which the reader would literally find impossible to imagine, and so is hard to deconstruct, it seems that it was never intended to be understood and rather just read and enjoyed. Without referring to the physical action of building with bricks and mortar, poets build through words, phrases, structure and grammatical devices. The most prominent grammatical devices used in this poem are hyperbole, metaphors and similes.
All of these help emphasise what the poet is describing, they weave a lush visual tapestry in the reader’s head. Starting at the top, the poem’s title, Kubla Khan is the name of Genghis khan who lived lavishly. The poem describes a dome or temple he built in the mountains. The poem is structured with three stanzas, the rhyming structure seems random but it flows well and rhythmically. The hyperbole used, such as “caverns measureless to man”, deeply emphasise his feelings and thoughts. Metaphors are another device used to emphasise emotions and experiences, as do similes. Alliteration is also used, as is religious imagery. All of these provide a media with which he can express his dream.
The damsel with a dulcimer leads the poet to aspire to build a dome in air. This dome in air is difficult to understand. It surpasses his previous descriptions for implausibility, as it is in fact impossible to build a dome in air. It is debateable as to what this could mean. Air is the English word for aria, which means song, so the dome in air could mean he would like to recreate the dome in song form. He could be describing the dispersion of sound, in a dome shape, wide and far. He describes the dome as sunny, so he might want to make a rainbow, or even a sun. These ideas all seem absurd though, but must be taken in context, as the original idea seems just as unbelievable.
It is possible he would like to recreate the moon or other such celestial beings. It could be that he is hallucinating enough to want to build a dome in the air, which is of course impossible. The dome could be the clouds, or even the sky, but neither of these could be emulated or built by man. It is possible that the dome could be a ceiling of a building, made of glass or painted. This is humanly possible but has no definite link with the poem.
He could be talking of a physical dome supported by struts or ropes suspended in air, but this doesn’t have a link with the poem either. It is likely there is no explanation of what it could be, as there is no definite or obvious one. The language used when writing this is very much different to that used today so it can be confusing and misleading to the reader. The air could be implying high up, as in the mountains, and he could be referring to a large dome built in the mountains, but this seems unlikely, as it doesn’t fit the context of the poem. Someone could have an air about them, a manner of acting or speaking, so it’s possible he would like to recreate the dome in his personality, but this doesn’t fit the context of poem either. He might just be saying he would describe a dome, he would speak it into the air for others to hear, he could be saying that if he could remember it, he would speak of it and describe it.