Two lines that very much stand out in this set are the sixth and seventh lines. Their diction rushes along with the sacred and mighty river, Alph; and they are onomatopoeic. Especially beginning after the pause in the sixth line, the phrase ‘with ceaseless turmoil seething’, the breath does not cease, but is rushed along as if from the chasm itself, (in a way, it is from a chasm, i.e. the throat), and along with the rush we encounter the vowels and consonants that sound as if they are fighting among themselves, mingling in the rush of the sacred river. In the rush, we encounter at the end of the line, the ‘th’ that blocks the smooth passage and enunciation of ‘see’ in ‘seething’. The seventh line follows with the same quality but in a different manner; the sound is thick, thickened because of ‘f’ and ‘th’ that command the line. The line is said in a rush, as well, thus we say it losing, or affected as if we are losing breath, intelligent that is especially when we consider that the word that breaks the line is ‘breathing’; and ‘th’ in breathing acts exactly as ‘th’ in ‘seething’. In this instance again of onomatopoeia and the seeming hindrance of breath we think again of the tension that exists in the poem as well as in society.
When I speak of tension, I am not alluding to just mere agitation. There is that ever -existing struggle to preserve order and the understanding to improve or to make adjustments in the existing order of things, so that society can continue to exist in peace. To radically overthrow the old in favor of the unknown is foolishness. Or as Edmund Burke said, that we “should not hack that aged parent in pieces . . .” and “A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.” The key to a well-ordered society was one that professed a prejudice for tradition and God’s moral law, for society was a spiritual unity in which all members shared an eternal partnership with the past and the future, and Kubla Khan does possess that characteristic.
In terms of the spiritual, one can see the history of Christianity in how the poem operates. The Old Law is the rule that regulates the different meters employed in the poem. The rule is followed. It is the temple set up in the desert, built according to very specific and minute instructions, and the construction is obeyed down to the very least. However, the temple means nothing if within is just emptiness and without is an attractive edifice. The temple has meaning and comes alive when the Spirit of God descends and dwells within the temple. In the New Testament this translates as the Holy Spirit dwelling in the believer. The Holy Spirit’s indwelling gives liberty and freedom of movement, thus Christianity is really liberating and fluid when lived out. We’ll see more of this kind of effect in the poem.