“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is written in loose, short ballad stanzas usually either four or six lines long but, occasionally, as many as nine lines long. The meter is also somewhat loose, but odd lines are generally tetrameter, while even lines are generally trimeter. (There are exceptions: In a five-line stanza, for instance, lines one, three, and four are likely to have four accented syllables—tetrameter—while lines two and five have three accented syllables.) The rhymes generally alternate in an ABAB or ABABAB scheme, though again there are many exceptions; the nine-line stanza in Part III, for instance, rhymes AABCCBDDB. Many stanzas include couplets in this way—five-line stanzas, for example, are rhymed ABCCB, often with an internal rhyme in the first line, or ABAAB, without the internal rhyme.
Delight in the Natural World
Like the other romantics, Coleridge worshiped nature and recognized poetry’s capacity to describe the beauty of the natural world. Nearly all of Coleridge’s poems express a respect for and delight in natural beauty. Close observation, great attention to detail, and precise descriptions of color aptly demonstrate Coleridge’s respect and delight. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” derive some symbols and images from nature. Nevertheless, Coleridge guarded against the pathetic fallacy, or the attribution of human feeling to the natural world. To Coleridge, nature contained an innate, constant joyousness wholly separate from the ups and downs of human experience.
Although Coleridge’s prose reveals more of his religious philosophizing than his poetry, God, Christianity, and the act of prayer appear in some form in nearly all of his poems.In “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” the mariner is stripped of his ability to speak as part of his extreme punishment and, consequently, left incapable of praying.
Coleridge believed that symbolic language was the only acceptable way of expressing deep religious truths and consistently employed the sun as a symbol of God. In “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Coleridge compares the sun to “God’s own head” (97) and, later, attributes the first phase of the mariner’s punishment to the sun, as it dehydrates the crew. All told, this poem contains eleven references to the sun, many of which signify the Christian conception of a wrathful, vengeful God. Bad, troubling things happen to the crew during the day, while smooth sailing and calm weather occur at night, by the light of the moon. Frequently, the sun stands in for God’s influence and power, as well as a symbol of his authority.
Like the sun, the moon often symbolizes God, but the moon has more positive connotations than the sun. In “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” the sun and the moon represent two sides of the Christian God: the sun represents the angry, wrathful God, whereas the moon represents the benevolent, repentant God. All told, the moon appears fourteen times in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” and generally favorable things occur during night, in contrast to the horrors that occur during the day.