Scenic Descriptions The Rime of The Ancient Mariner

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      Descriptions in Coleridge's poetry. As C. M. Bowra aptly remarks, "The Romantics knew how to use their senses, and Coleridge, despite his metaphysical abstractions, was in this respect a true member of their company". The Rime of the Ancient Mariner "uses to the full the vividness of visual description which was one of Coleridge's great poetic strengths." What is more, the description, far from arresting the progress of the story or in anyway impeding its progress, always reflects the subtle and delicate stages of the Mariner's mind.

      Variety of Scenes Described in the Poem. In The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Coleridge has described every phase of landscape, seascape and cloudscape from the quiet-scenery of an English woodland to the vivid scenery of the tropics. There are pictures of the ship moving fast with fresh breeze, cold of the ice-covered polar regions, of the horrors of the becalmed sea, of the torrid fierceness of the stagnant waters, of Death and the Nightmare Life-in-Death, of the sky in various stages of day and night, of the ghastly look on the dead men's laces, of the elfish movements of the water-snakes in the moon light, of the blessedness of the welcome rain and of a host of other things. All these descriptions are not coldly objective and impersonal but highly emotional and suggestive of the Mariner's mental and emotional state.

      Description of Objects. Apart from the power of The Ancient Mariner's "glittering eye" and "skinny hand" which we are made to realise through the horror of the Wedding-Guest, the first part of the poem gives a most beautiful and picturesque description of the south sea region:

And ice, mast high, came floating by,
And through the drifts the snowy cliffs
Did send a dismal sheen.

      It is in the descriptive phrases, "As green as emerald', And "a dismal sheen" that the double mood of admiration and fear is conveyed.

      When the ship comes to a standstill, throwing the Mariner into a sea of gloom, Coleridge does not waste many words to describe the state of sailors. Instead, by monotonous repetition of words and by indirectly suggesting the motionless silence around, he conveys to us all the oppressive melancholy of the sailors:

Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down?
'Twas as sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea.

      Description of Human Scene. Let it - not be misunderstood that Coleridge is good only at describing scenes of sadness. In contrast to the above descriptive lines, we can quote the lines describing the merry scene of the wedding:

The bride hath paced into the hall
Red as a rose is she;
Nodding their heads before her goes,
The merry minstrelsy.

      Nature Descriptions. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner abounds in picturesque descriptions of the sun and the moon. The sunset in the tropical sea is matchless in its realism and brevity. The same sun is transformed into a horrid object of terror and foreboding, a little later on:

And straight the sun was flecked with bars,
(Heaven's mother, send us grace!)
As if through a dungeon grate he peered
With broad and burning face.

      Similarly, the moon is also described in its two aspects, one of quiet beauty and the other of ghastly horror:

The moving Moon went up the sky
And nowhere did abide:
Softly she was going up
And a star or two beside

      This very moon is charged with an ominous meaning in the following lines, but still is vividly described:

Till clomb above the eastern bar
The homed moon with one bright star .
Within the nether tip.

      The suddenness of the oncoming of the night and darkness is portrayed with an amazing economy of expression:

The sun's rim dips, the stars rush out:
At one stride comes the dark

      Descriptions of Supernatural Forces, evil and good. Coleridge does not consider a detail superfluous if it is significant. This attitude to detail is an important feature of all great art. It becomes irrefutably clear in Coleridge's descriptions of the supernatural beings. The water-snakes are ugly and the Mariner has recoiled from them in horror and abomination. That is only one aspect of the water-snakes that he see. But, a little later on,

Within the shadow of the ship,
I watched their rich attire:
Blue, glossy green, and velvet black
They coiled and swam, and every track
Was a flash of golden fire.

      All these minute details flash into our mind the water-snakes in all their beauty and glory and serve as a transition for the Mariner's admiration and blessing of them.

      The description of Life-in-Death is in such great detail that we see her terrible figure wanting to thick "man's blood with cold".

      In contrast to those horrible shapes, we have the lovely angels who are part of the story. Their description is so rich in delicate detail that we find in them all that we associate with godly beings.

      As soon as The Ancient Mariner is made aware of his sin by the two voices, the dead sailors are animated once again this time by visible angels. As the ship is neared the harbour, the angels stand on the corpses and

They stood as signals to the land
Bach one a lovely light;

      Description of States of Feeling. Coleridge is at the highest excellence of his descriptive art when he catches ethereal feelings in concrete pictures. Even when a feeling of acute thirst is described Coleridge remains rigorously simple in expression and yet achieves a great force and power:

Water, water everywhere
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water everywhere
Nor any drop to drink.

      The state of stagnation is a difficult one to describe or convey to the reader. But Coleridge shows his artistry when he says:

Day after day, day after day
We stuck, nor break nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

      Loneliness is another state which words fail to describe, more so if it is sought to by the very person who experiences it. But Coleridge do not have any difficulty in making The Ancient Mariner portray his loneliness convincingly:

For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky
Lay like a load on my weary eye.
Alone, alone, all, all alone
Alone on a wide, wide seal

      The last two lines are a supreme example of vivid description, reflective of the Mariner's emotional agony, done with unimaginable economy of words.

      Conclusion. Examples of Coleridge's descriptive power and his nature pictures can be indefinitely multiplied. No other poem of Coleridge's shows more completely developed in practice the principle of description, which, according to Coleridge is "never to see dr describe any interesting appearance in nature without connecting it, by dim analogies, with the moral world."

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