Where Alph, the sacred river, ran

Through caverns measureless to man

Down to a sunless sea.

Reference:-   These erotic lines have been taken from the poem “Kubla Khan” written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, which is one of the most famous and most analyzed English poems. It is a fifty- four lines lyric in three verse paragraphs. The poem is written in 1797 and published on 25 May, 1816.

Context:-   Kubla Khan is one of the most analyzed poems, written by Coleridge around 1797, The poem is about a Mongolian ruler who ordered to make a beautiful palace in Xanadu, where ‘Alph’ a sacred river flow through a caverns i.e. a cave. Also keeping in mind the beautiful natural scenery.

Explanation:-  The given lines are describing about a place called Xanadu, the poet starts by introducing us to the river Alph. There is certainly no river in Mongolia of this name. Some scholars think that this is an illusion to the river “Alpheus” (a river in Greece that was made famous in classical literature). In the poem, the place is an imaginary landscape. When the speaker talks about “caverns measureless to man” we get a sense that this landscape is both huge and unknowable, that slightly spooky feeling continues when we get to the “sunless sea”. That is a pretty gloomy image to start out with, and it costs a shadow over these first few lines. It also gives us a sense of being in an imaginary landscape because where else could a sea always be “sunless” and never bright or cheerful.

The name “Alph” might also make us think of us Greek letter “Alpha” which is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and a symbol of beginnings. These association and the fact that the river has a name at all, really make the Alph stand out in the beginning of this poem.

Critical comment:-  “Kubla Khan” is definitely a poem as much about the journey of the mind and the imagination as it is about the real world. In this poem, all the lines have a carefully planned length, short lines stand out and make us take notice. It makes this image just a little lonelier. It also makes this line into more of a dead end, a stopping place, just like the sea is for the “River Alph”. This poem has written in irregular metre as ABAB, and there is a use of hexameter in stanza.

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