Treatment of Nature in The Rime of The Ancient Mariner

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      Samuel Taylor Coleridge possess a faculty of minute and subtle observation of nature which he has fostered to a degree of delicacy to which neither Wordsworth nor any other worshipper of nature ever quite attained. With this power of minute observation Coleridge has combined a mastery of broad, general effects which is revealed in the description of the ice-fields or the tropical ocean in The Ancient Mariner.

      In The Ancient Mariner we do not come across such sights and sounds of nature we find in the poetry of some other nature - poets like Wordsworth and Keats. There are not many fields, hills, meadows and flowers. There are no lakes and rivers murmuring through the forest groves. Nor do we find here colourful birds for spot white leopards or deer. The poem for most part presents a vast sea-scape where nothing is visible except water and waves and sky. The winds blow, and blow rather fiercely. The sea seems to be heaving in great passion and anger. At other moments it is still as a painting.

      The sunrise and the sunset are beautiful on land when from behind the hills the crimson rays seem so deep and flush the whole sky with their light. But the sight of the sun rising out of the waves and then sinking at the eventide beyond the horizon is of wondrous charm.

      The Ancient Mariner is famous as a poem depicting supernatural horrors. But in enhancing the impression of horror nature plays a great part. The natural background is carefully drawn and is in subtle harmony with the supernatural incidents introduced. In the natural background, we find not the soft and soothing touch of Wordsworth's poetry. There is no bliss of solitude. There is awe and mystery and the very solitude becomes a curse to the mariners when they find themselves:

Alone, alone, all all alone
Alone on a wide, wide sea.

      In the beginning the supernatural horror is introduced against the background of mist and snow, of lonely snowy cliff and growing ice-bergs of the South Pole. Every marvel is preceded or followed by suitable natural imagery.

      Unlike Wordsworth, Coleridge has drawn some cruel and unfriendly aspects of nature. When the mariners are proceeding towards the South, a horrible wind pushes them along. The wind is described here as "tyrannous and strong". When again on their return journey the death of the Albatross begins to be avenged, the sky at the Equator has been painted in hot and copper colour:

All in a hot and copper sky
The bloody Sun, at noon

      When the ship is caught in the snow and mist, the sound of the breaking ice is so pictured that one begins to marvel at the art of Coleridge and his keen observation of the natural phenomena on

The ice was here, the ice was there
The ice was all around;
It crack'd and growl'd and roar'd and howl'd
Like noises in a sound.

      Prof. Flerford says, "All this weird and penetrating supernaturalism is thrown into relief with exquisite instinct by scenes full of innocence of nature."

The play of water-snakes in the water —
Blue, glossy green, and velvet black
They coiled and swam: and every track
Was a flash of golden fire...

      Is one instance. The simile of the singing birds which express sweetness and purity of the song of the angels is another instance.

      Thus we find that the poem is full of beautiful scenes of nature, sometimes showing us the softer and balmy aspects of nature but often picturing the harsher ones. There are striking images of light and luminous colour in sky and sea. But these pictures, beautiful in themselves and finely drawn, are there to serve a purpose. They contribute the unity of effect produced by the poem.

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