The Rime of the Ancient Mariner - Coleridge

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The title itself is intended to be unpacked, on a basic level, the poem is, of course, a 'rhyme' told by a 'mariner'. But, rhyme is spelt rime for a reason, rime means 'frost', specifically frost that forms in fog and wind when the temperature cools down and is often present on the windy side of ships and its sails. Much of the poem takes place in the Arctic or a "land of ice and snow" and so one would expect to encounter much rime in such a climate. Similarly, the mariner himself is described as being "frosty" e.g. his beard is described as "hoary" meaning frosty. This may symbolise the fact that his soul has a layer of frost until he learns to have pity on his fellow creatures. The word 'ancient' means both his age but also suggests that he is a timeless artifact- who will always exist (to tell his cautionary tale).

This poem is full of archaisms such as "stoppest" and "eftsoons", the mariner is a true performer and so uses a lot of repetition such as "The ice was here, the ice was there/ The ice was all around" which to the reader may appear pointless, to the listener it would help set the atmosphere and allow people to keep up with the long and complex story.

  • The ocean represents the mysteries of the human soul and the unconscious. Just like the sea, an individual's personality is often like a flat, uniform surface that conceals a deepness filled with bizarre and often unsightly creatures known as emotions and desires.
  • When the mariner pollutes his soul by killing the albatross, it is not surprising that the ocean too becomes polluted with slime and horrible creatures. It shows the metamorphosis guilt can have upon the spirit.
  • Additionally, the imagery of the vast, vacant ocean, particularly after the rest of the crew has died, expresses the mariner's spiritual solitude, isolation and overwhelming loneliness. "Alone, alone, all, all alone" This setting makes the reader realise that we are truly all alone in this world, with seemingly infinite depths both above and below us. However, this makes room for introspection, allowing the mariner to eventually repent and see beauty in all things.
  • Coleridge treats the moon as an object


Megan Taylor

You, my friend, are an absolute lifesaver!

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