Rime of The Ancient Mariner as A Narrative Poem

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      Coleridge is a born story-teller and he knows the art of telling a story in verse. In this respect, he presents a striking contrast to Wordsworth who is a poor narrator. The Ancient Mariner is a successful literary ballad. It has a sudden direct opening. The poet does not beat about the bush while starting the story. The poem shows a swift movement. One event follows the other in quick succession. There are no incidents or details which may be described superfluous or unwanted. Every incident carries the story forward.

      Coleridge knows the art of arousing suspense. He keeps us guessing throughout the story. We wonder whether The Ancient Mariner will be saved or will meet a terrible fate.

      The Ancient Mariner like all good stories has a very effective climax. The climax occurs in the fourth part of the poem when The Ancient Mariner blesses the water-snakes and when the dead Albatross falls off his neck.

      The action has a beginning, a middle and an end. In the first half of the poem, an agency of avenging demon is in the ascendant, in the second, the prevailing power of an angel band. It is an overt act of the Mariner which precipitates the daemonic vengeance, it is an inner impulse counter to the act which brings to pass the angelic intervention, and in the end it is 'the penance of life' which falls upon the rescued wanderer, a fated wanderer still. Exciting force, rising action, climax, falling action, catastrophe-all are there. And through the transfer to the Mariner of the legendary associations of the Wandering Jew, undying among the dead, Cruikshank's dream-its figures metamorphosed into Death and Life-in-Death is built into the basic structure of the plot. And under the influence of another ship, sailed by an angelic crew, the suggestion of the navigation of the Mariner's vessel by the bodies of the dead is so transformed as to provide that cardinal antithesis of angelic and daemonic agencies on which the action of the poem turns. And finally, by a stroke of consummate art, ship and poem alike are brought back in the end to the secure, familiar, happy world from which they had set out. The supernatural machinery is a masterpiece of constructive skill.

      The poet succeeds in securing the suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader. In other words, the story is narrated by the poet, appears to be convincing and credible. The reader feels that the events described in The Ancient Mariner are capable of happening in actual life. Coleridge describes supernatural events against the background of such objects; of Nature as the sea, the sun, the sky, the moon and the stars. He refers to natural phenomena in such a realistic manner as to make us feel that the supernatural events described in the poem also must have happened.

      Coleridge also contrasts horror with beauty in order to set in relief the supernatural part of the poem. Thus immediately after describing the spectre-bark (phantom ship), he gives us a beautiful description of the moon going up the sky, attended by a star or two.

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