The Rime Of The Ancient Marniner SYMBOLISM, IMAGERY, ALLEGORY


The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

The Weather

In pretty much any poem or novel about life at sea, you can expect quite a lot of attention to be devoted to the weather. But who could have expected a huge fog near Antarctica, a massive drought that turns the ocean into a swamp, or a lightning show that gets dead people moving again? Here's the general trajectory: the Mariner's ship gets driven down south by a bad storm, then the albatross guides them through fog and ice, then they suffer a truly horrifying, windless drought, the Mariner sees a massive and supernatural night-time storm, and he finally gets carried by invisible forces back to the bay.

  • Part I.Stanzas 11-12: The storm that drives the ship south is compared metaphorically to some kind of winged predator on the hunt. The ship is like the animal at ground level that runs in the "shadow" of the predator to escape it.
  • I.15: The ice near Antarctica makes loud cracking noises that sound "like noises in a swound," that is, like the sounds a fainting person might hear. The word "like" makes clear that this is a simile.
  • II.25: This stanza, describing the good weather (which lasts all of one stanza) enjoyed by the crew, features the alliterative repetition of the "f" sound, as in "furrow follow free."
  • II.28: When the wind dies and the ship can't move, the scene is compared using simile to a motionless painting.
  • II.29: The ship's shrunken wood boards become central image of the terrible dryness that the killing of the albatross produces.
  • II.33: The crew becomes so thirsty that it's as if their mouths were full of dry "soot," or ashes, which is a simile.
  • V.72-74: Images of a strange meteorological event accompany the rising of the sailor's bodies from death. A single cloud appears in the distance, lightning falls down perfect line, a wind that can be heard but not felt makes a ruckus.
  • VI.105: Coleridge really likes similes. Here he compares the mysterious wind that blows on him alone to a spring breeze blowing through a meadow.

Moon, Sun, and Stars

What is this, an astrology lesson? With the attention he pays to the moon, sun, and stars, you'd think the Mariner had a Tarot card collection. Well, that's actually not too far, considering that these phenomena are invested with supernatural powers, particularly after the Mariner shoots the albatross. Above all, the moon is calling the shots, both in terms of the Mariner's punishment and his eventual penance. Watch out for any images of the moon and its white light.

  • Part I.Stanza 19: The first image of the moon is of the white light shining through the fog down in the Arctic. Sounds beautiful, right? Wait until those sailors see what the moon has in store for them.
  • II.27: When things start to go bad for the crew, the sun's color is compared to blood, and, more ominously, its…


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