Poem at a Glance
- The ancient Mariner stops one of the wedding-guests.
- He wants to narrate his tale to him and unburden his grief.
- The Wedding-Guest is in a hurry as he has to attend the wedding party.
- The bright-eyed Mariner made the wedding-guest helpless.
- He had no option but listen to his tale.
- The old Mariner began narrating his story.
- Their ship was cheered off the harbour happily.
- There came a severe storm and it drove them southwards.
- Then it became very cold with both mist and snow.
- The ship was surrounded by huge icebergs as high as the mast.
- Then came the albatross from the fog.
- The sailors cheered it as a ‘Christian Soul’.
- The albatross’s arrival was auspicious as it brought a favourable south wind.
- The sailors gave it food and it flew over the ship.
- In a senseless fit, the ancient Mariner killed the albatross with his cross-bow.
- The fellow mariners cursed the old Mariner for killing an innocent and auspicious bird.
- The weather worsened. The Mariners changed their opinion.
- Now they justified the killing of the albatross as it had brought mist and snow.
- Sadness prevailed all around.
- The sun started blazing and the ocean seemed to rot.
- The wind stopped blowing and the sails were dropped down.
- The ship stuck at one point and didn’t move ahead.
- It looked like a painted ship on a painted ocean.
- Water was all around but the sailors didn’t have even a drop of water to drink.
- The sailors saw in their dreams a spirit that was plaguing them.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ is quite different from the works of other romantic poets. It is based on a dream of Coleridge’s friend and was published in 1798. It is written in the style of a folk ballad and is divided into seven parts. The poem has a scattering of references to outdated beliefs and practices. It is surely not only the mariner, who is ancient, but even his rhyme is old. There are multiple and contradictory time elements and the poem itself hides its origins. Nevertheless the extravagant use of archaic words make it appear old.
Coleridge’s deliberately archaic language, ominous tones and ‘loony’ narrator are a stunning contrast to the lighter, pastoral works of Wordsworth and others. Mariner’s unkempt yet charismatic appearance suggests subtly to the reader, through the repeated focus on his ‘glittering eye’ and his ‘long beard’, that he has become a spokesman of nature. The mariner’s timelessness, in direct contrast to the death of all crew members, suggests the eternity of nature of which he has become symbolic. Ultimately the mariner repents for his sins and this has the echoes of the Christian message, though his killing of the albatross is a crime against nature. The poem focusses on the power and nemesis of the natural world. However, the poem hinges around the line, “I killed an albatross.” Nevertheless after repentance, the didactic content of the poem can be seen in its message, “He prayeth best, who loveth best.”
- stoppeth : stops
- thy : your
- thou : you
- merry din : happy noise of celebration
- unhand : leave
- glittering : shining
- hath : has
- paced : entered
- Nodding : acknowledging good wishes
- fled : moved fast
- wondrous : surprisingly
- dismal : dull and depressing
- plagued : troubled
- drought : parched and dry
- kirk : is an archaic word for church. it lends a favour of a traditional ballad and creates an effect of distancing in time.
- Vesper’s Nine : Literal meaning of Vesper is Venus, which is visible in the evenings. Number nine is a magical number for Coleridge and he was fascinated by it. Basically Vesper’s Nine refers to evening prayers in churches.
- yell and blow (para 12) refers to the noise and convection of the sea storm. It could also be the commotion or the cries of the sailors.
- By the long grey beard and glittering eye
- furrow followed free
- It would work’ ear woe
- down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down
- The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew
- Merry Minstrelsy
- Vespers Nine
- snowy clefts
- The Furrow
- glittering eye
- ice was here etc.
- bright-eyed Mariner
- water, water
- Sun – is personified as a Man
- Storm – is also personified as a Man
- Blast – also as a Bird (“overtaking wing”)
- Like a three year old child – wedding guest
- Red as a rose – the Bride • As who pursued with yell and blow – the ship
- Like noises in a sound – Thundering and growling sounds • As idle as a painted ship – ship as if it is painted
- Like witch’s oils – ingredients used by witches to make their broth