The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

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Themes

  • Pride 
  • Isolation
  • Religion
  • Suffering 
  • Penance 
  • Transformation
  • Supernatural 
  • The 'One Life' 
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General Comments

  • Hypnotism implied - "by thy glittering eye" 
  • Internal rhyme used often as a poetic device 
  • Repetition of "cross" and "cross-bow" appear as a connection between the Mariner's action and the crucifixion of Christ - significance of religion to Coleridge 
  • Coleridge pays a lot of attention to beautifying the sky and the sea - in the moon light the Mariner watches and blesses the "water-snakes" - aesthetic pleasure in this supernatural tale - theme of beauty 
  • Moon foretells a change? - Richard Gravil 
  • Experience of this story has belonged to another dimension? - in the supernatural realm or in the psyche of his mind? 
  • Outcome of the story strengthens significance of the Romantic "One Life" - whilst this prospect should excite the Wedding Guest, it instead saddens him, this is questionable... Why has he been chosen? Such gaps left in the narrative 
  • Poem's epigraph from Burnet - world is full of spiritual agents, comforting or frightening. Is there a moral universe? 
  • Themes of the poem, according to Warren, are 1. Sacramental vision (One Life) and 2. theme of understanding vs imagination 
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General Comments (cont.)

  • Warren - "Poem of Pure Imagination" Essay (1945) - filled with powerful imagination yet not meaningless 
  • Albatross has Christian, or Christ-like associations, is the Mariner representing the 'original sin'? 
  • George Whalley - Autobiographical aspects of the poem to Coleridge in a metaphysical way 
  • One can read the poem as a central Romantic myth - a treatment of the archetype of the Wanderer - Wandering Jew, Ahasuerus who mocked Christ, condemned to wander the Earth until Judgement Day (Esoteric references) 
  • Can show as an allegory of the fall of an individual/race
  • Coleridge's deep sense of sin - justified? 
  • Parable of crime and experience - greater consciousness and vision into the meaning of existence? 
  • Act must symbolise something else? As shooting an albatross should not merit such a cruel fate? - Individual guilt? Or represenation of historical national or even universal guilt? 
  • The Rime takes place across two thresholds - imp. to the narrative makes it more unreliable, yet the Mariner as an intradiegetic narrator clarifies this 
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General Comments (cont.)

  • The nightmarish hell violently asserts itself into social normality, plaguing the Mariner - transforming the mundane 
  • Wedding Guest is also important as a representation of the 'listener' in stories used as a narrative technique - can be compared to Lockwood in Wuthering Heights - acts as an internal persona for the reader from the author. Can also make it significantly easier for the poet to direct the reader's gaze 
  • Frame narrative is key! - The basis and didactic message of the epic poem is all in the frame narrative 
  • Coleridge deploys stereotypes - ultra-innocent and demoniacal (Nightmare Life-in-Death) 
  • The poem is a subtle modification of traditional ballad metre 
  • Use of alliteration, assonances and internal rhymes -- all of which in the line "In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud" 
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Part the First

  • WEDDING GUEST, VOYAGE, STUCK IN ICE, KILLS ALBATROSS 
  • The Mariner stops a wedding guest and forces him to listen to his story 
  • Ship sails south to equator
  • Music of the wedding begins 
  • Storm hits the ship and impels it south - stuck in ice 
  • Albatross appears and befriended by shipmates - south wind takes then northward 
  • Mariner shoots it with crossbow - it dies 
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Part the Second

  • SUFFER PUNISHMENT FOR HIS CRIME, ARE BECALMED 
  • Crew cry out against him - but commend him when the fog goes
  • Sail north - become becalmed at equator - suffer from thirst, slimy things on the surface - lights are on water and masts at night
  • Spirit follows them under the ship nine fathoms down 
  • Hang the bird about his neck 
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Part the Third

  • SKELETON SHIP APPEARS - GAMBLE FOR SOULS - LIFE-IN-DEATH WINS , SOULS FLY OUT 
  • Far off ship seen - rejoice thinking they are saved - but despair when they question how a ship can sail without wind
  • Skeleton ship with only a woman (Life-in-Death) and a mate (Death) for crew
  • Play dice for the crew and she wins - the sun sets and the skeleton ship departs 
  • Crew dies one by one and their souls fly out 
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Part the Fourth

  • LEFT ALONE FOR 7 DAYS, BLESSES THE WATER SNAKES - SPELL IS BROKEN 
  • Wedding guest fears he is speaking to a ghost - Mariner assures him he did not die
  • Left alone and tries to pray but cannot - 7 days he looks at the dead men and cannot die 
  • Sees the water snakes by the light of moon - blesses them and is able to pray - the albatross falls from his neck 
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Part the Fifth

  • IT RAINS - SHIP IS MOVED NORTH, CREW IS REANIMATED BY SPIRITS, HE SWOONS AND HEARS TWO VOICES 
  • Roaring wind and storm appears - dead crew rises and man the ship 
  • Wedding guest is afraid - reassured that it is not the souls of dead men that reanimate them, but a troop of spirits blest - sing around the mast at dawn till noon - continuing to sail
  • Spirit from the snow and ice moves them to the equator again - ship stands still - moves back and forth and makes a sudden bound - he swoons 
  • Hears two voices in his sleep tell of his crime and trials 
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Part the Sixth

  • TWO VOICES TALK, WAKES UP IN HIS NATIVE LAND. SPIRITS SIGNAL THE SHORE, BOAT APPEARS 
  • Two voices talk back and forth as ship is going northward faster than any human could endure 
  • Wakes up and ship is sailing slowly, crew is still up and eyes still curse him
  • Spell is broken - sweet breeze blows on him alone - sees native country
  • Spirits leave dead bodies - each appears in own form full of light - stand as signals to the land but make no sound
  • Boat is heard coming - Pilot, his boy, and the Hermit are on the boat - hopes the Hermit will shrieve his soul to wash away the blood of the albatross 
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Part the Seventh

  • SHIP SINKS, BUT HE IS SAVED. HE IS COMPLELLED TO WANDER AND TELL HIS TALE 
  • Hermit who lives in woods there loves to talk to mariners 
  • Lights of the signal have disappeared - boat appears warped sails like skeletons 
  • Rumble is heard under water - ship splits and sinks 
  • Body floats and found dragged aboard a boat - when he moves his lips they scream, he rows the boat 
  • He begs the Hermit to shrieve him. Mariner is overcome by a fit - forces him to tell his tale - since then he has had to travel from land to land to tell tale 
  • He has powers of speech and knows the men to whom he must tell the tale 
  • He tells how sweet it is for him to have company after being alone at sea - tells wedding guest to love  all things great and small - wedding guest leaves and rose the next morn wiser and sadder 
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