The Rime of The Ancient Mariner: Summary and Analysis

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      Sources of 'The Ancient Mariner'. The incident of the Albatross has been taken by Coleridge from a book entitled A Voyage around the World by the way of the Great South Sea by Shelrocke. In this book the second captain of the ship shoots at an albatross which continually hovers near the ship. The interpretation of the incident is to be attributed entirely to Coleridge. The poem is published in 1798 in Lyrical Ballads but is afterwards revised. It is one of the poems written in 1797 when Wordsworth and Coleridge are on tour together and some details are suggested by Wordsworth.

      The Origin of the Poem. Coleridge's great contribution to the Lyrical Ballads is The Ancient Mariner, his one perfect and complete achievement. The way in which this marvellous poem comes to be written is common place enough. On the afternoon of November 13, 1797 Coleridge, Wordsworth and his sister set off together from Alfoxden on a walking expedition 'with a view' Wordsworth tells us, to visit Linton and the Valley of Stones near it and as our united funds is very small, we have have agreed to defray the expenses of the tour by writing a poem to be send to the New Monthly Magazine. Accordingly, we set off, and have proceeded along the Quantock Hills towards Watchet, and in the course of this walk it his planned the poem of the The Ancient Mariner, has founded on a dream, as Mr. Coleridge says, of his friend, Mr. Cruikshank - 'a dream of a skeleton ship manned by skeleton sailors.' With this dream as the starting point, other hints and suggestions are taken from various sources. Wordsworth, who has been reading in Shelrocke's Voyages about the Albatrosses of the South Seas, suggests that the mariner should have been represented as having killed one of these birds on entering the South Sea, and that the tutelar spirits of these regions take upon themselves to avenge the crime. He also contributes a few lines, but soon the manners of the two 'proved so widely different' that he withdraws, and Coleridge has completed the work himself.

      With consummate skill, he welds the story into an artistic whole. For vividness of imagery and descriptive power the poem is unsurpassed. We move in a world of unearthly weirdness whose mystery and charm is unbroken by an inconsistency. He sees the invisible and almost touches the intangible in this realm, where the things that are too seldom dreamt of in our philosophy loom within our ken. Absolutely simple in both meter and language, the poem is indeed, as Coleridge himself pronounces it, 'inimitable'.

      It is futile to try to discover from where all the materials and ideas for such a great work of art have been derived. Coleridge is a voracious reader and the books he read and the men he meets left a profound influence on him. Like the bee, he roams in a garden of flowers, gathering the materials for his honey in strange and little-known places. For the reader it is enough to know that what is presented to him is an exquisite work of art and he need not bother about the sources from which the poet might have drawn his material.

      Purpose for Writing The Ancient Mariner. Coleridge wrote The Ancient Mariner to fulfill his plan of writing a series of supernatural poems, in which the incidents and characters are to be at least in a part of supernatural and yet to present them as would impress the readers with a sense of their reality. This is a part of the literary programme, he has made along with his friend Wordsworth. There is another purpose behind the composition of the poem, and this is purely mercenary. It is to defray the expenses of a journey to Linton and neighborhood that he has undertaken in the autumn of 1797 along with Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy.


      Part I. An Ancient Mariner, with a long grey beard and glittering eyes, stops one of the three guests on their way to a wedding feast, and wants him to hear his story. The Wedding-Guest stands hypnotised and "cannot choose but hear." The Mariner goes on with his tale. He tells how his ship leaves the harbour and under a favourable wind sails southwards to the tropics. Then comes a furious and thundering storm-blast which drives it to the land of mist and snow. The mariners see no beast, or bird there. At last an Albatross comes flying to the ship and follows it. Along with its coming, the weather clears up and a favourable wind begins to blow. The sailors hail it as a bird of good omen and feed it with affection. But, alas, The Ancient Mariner, in a moment of wanton impulsiveness, shoots the bird with his cross-bow and this marks the beginning of their sorrows.

      Part II. All goes well for a while. The fog thins away. The sun rises "like God's own head." The ship sails merrily along. The sailors approve of the Mariner's crime by saying that it is right to kill such birds as it brings the fog and mist. But suddenly the wind falls so that the ship cannot move. The ship is becalmed. The sun burns fiercely. The silent sea rots; the slimy creatures crawl about; the sailors suffer from unbearable thirst. At night unearthly fires flit across the waters. The Spirit of the sea pursues the ship nine fathoms deep from under the sea, and take its vengeance upon the sailors for the slaughter of the harmless Albatross by persecuting them with horrible sights and unbearable thirst. All the sailors hate The Ancient Mariner hangs the dead Albatross round his neck as a punishment for his brutal act.

      Part III. The sailors have an awful time, and are almost dead with thirst when The Ancient Mariner sees a tiny speck in the horizon. The Mariner thinks that a ship is coming towards them. He bites his own arm and sucks the blood to moisten his lips to proclaim to the other sailors the approach of a ship that will put an end to their agonising thirst. But, alas, it proves to be a skeleton ship, sailing steadily without breeze or tide. The next moment the Mariner sees in the ship Death and Life-in-Death playing at dice, their stake being The Ancient Mariner. The latter wins, signifying that all the sailors are to die immediately and thus to be relieved of their suffering except The Ancient Mariner who is to suffer life-long agony, i.e., doomed to live a life in death. The phantom ship then disappears. One after another all the two hundred sailors drops down dead. The Ancient Mariner alone is left behind to expiate by life-long suffering and penance.

      Part IV. The Ancient Mariner lives all alone on a wide, wide sea. Not a saint takes pity on his soul in agony. The men, all so beautiful, lie dead on the deck; while a thousand slimy creatures live merrily on. The sight of the dead sailors meets him on all sides. He tries to pray, but a wicked whisper comes, and makes his heart 'as dry as dust'. The sea and the sky he like lead on his weary eye, and the dead men lie at his feet. He is persecuted by his guilty conscience and the cursing looks of the dead sailors. Soon the moon rises and covers the whole sea with white light. The Ancient Mariner watches the water snakes moving in 'tracks of shining white.' He admires their beauty. A spring of love gushes out of his heart and he blesses them unconsciously. At the same moment, he is able to pray; the dead Albatross falls off his neck and sinks like lead into the sea.

      Part V. The Mariner then falls into a deep sleep. When he wakes up, he finds that rain has moistened his 'baked' lips and quenches his thirst. He is so light that he cannot feel his limbs. He feels as if he has died in sleep and is a blessed ghost. He hears strange sounds and sees strange movements in the sky. The rain pours down from one black cloud, with the moon at its edge. The dead men gives a groan and suddenly rise, as if from sleep. The Mariners work at the ropes and the ship moves on. The Ancient Mariner and his nephew pull the same rope, without speaking to each other. The dead bodies come to life, animated by a troop of heavenly angels. But the next morning the angels leave the bodies. Still the ship moves on. The vengeful Spirit of the South Pole 'makes the ship go'. At noon the ship comes to a standstill. But in a moment it begins to stir and then makes a sudden bound. The Ancient Mariner falls down into a swoon. In that condition he hears two spirits' voices talking about his crime. One of the voices says that The Ancient Mariner does a great crime in killing the Albatross that has loved the Mariner. The other voice says, "The man has done enough penance and will do more of it."

      Part VI. When The Ancient Mariner wakes up, he finds the moon calmly shining in the sky and sees the dead bodies standing with their stony eyes fixed on him still. But soon the spell is broken altogether. A light breeze begins to blow and the ship enters the harbour which the Mariner at once recognizes to be that of his own country. To his great astonishment, he finds the corpses lying flat, with a seraph standing on each and silently waving his luminous hand like a bright signal. The silence sinks like music into his heart. But soon he hears the flash of oars and sees a boat coming fast, bringing the Pilot, the Pilot's boy and the good Hermit. The Ancient Mariner rejoices, for he thinks that the pious Hermit will wash his soul clean of all guilt.

      Part VII. But as the boat approaches, there is heard a loud thundering noise below it and the ship goes down like lead into the sea. But The Ancient Mariner is at once saved in the Pilot's boat. His strange aspect frightens the Pilot and sends the Pilot's boy crazy. The Mariner finds himself on the solid land of his own country. He prays to the Hermit to wash his soul clean of all guilt. The Hermit asks him who he is; and forthwith his body is 'wrenched with a woeful agony' which forces him to tell his ghastly tale. Since then at uncertain intervals this woeful agony returns and he is relieved only when he has told his tale of woe to some sympathetic listener. The Mariner tells the Wedding-Guest that he passes, like night, from land to land; he possesses a strange power of speech and of knowing the right man who will hear his tale. To him his tale relates. The Ancient Mariner, before parting, tells the Wedding-Guest that "he prayeth well, who loveth well all things both great and small," and then he suddenly vanishes.


      Cold Reception of the Poem on Its First Appearance, but now Regarded a Masterpiece and Best of the Author's Poems. This famous poem of Coleridge, now justly is regarded as a masterpiece in English poetry, is curiously enough, on its first appearance, very coldly received. Even the poet's own friends, Southey, Lamb and Wordsworth, does not show any appreciation of it. Southey speaks of it as 'a very Dutch attempt at sublimity.' Lamb has said that 'he dislikes all the miraculous part in it.' Wordsworth thinks that the poem has 'great defects.' Time has, however, abundantly vindicated the excellence of The Ancient Mariner and it has now come to be regarded as one of the world's great poems, and the greatest written by its author. For, as Mr. Traill says, this weird ballad abounds in those very qualities in which Coleridge's poetry with all its merits is conspicuously deficient, while on the other hand it is wholly free from the faults with which he is most frequently and justly chargeable.

      The 'Rime of The Ancient Mariner' is the High Water Mark of Coleridge's Excellence as a Poet. In the thin volume of his poetical work, this poem ranks the best. Not only this, it holds a lofty position in the entire romantic poetry for its dexterous treatment of the supernatural, vivid and sensuous nature-imagery, smooth flow of its musical meter, simplicity and dramatic appropriateness of language and above all its truth to human sentiment and its profound ethical and spiritual implications.

      The Simple Realistic Force of its Narrative. Perhaps the greatest achievement of the poem is the simple force of its narrative. To achieve this is of course Coleridge's main object; he has undertaken to "transfer from our inward nature a human interest and sentence of truth sufficient to procure for those shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment which constitutes poetic faith." It is a difficult task. But Coleridge has triumphed over his difficulties by sheer vividness of imagery and Lense vigour of descriptive phrase — two qualities over which his previous poems does not prove him to possess by any means so complete a mastery. Among all the beauties of his earlier landscapes we can hardly reckon that of intense and convincing truth. He seems to seldom write as Wordsworth nearly always seems to write, "with his eye on the object;" and certainly he never before has displayed any such remarkable power of completing a word-picture with a few touches.

      In The Ancient Mariner, his eye seems never to wander from his subject, and again and again the scene starts out upon the canvas in two or three strokes of the brush. The skeleton ship with dicing demons on its deck; the setting sun "peering through its ribs, as if through a dungeon grate," the water-snakes under the moonbeams, with 'elfish light' falling off them, 'in hoary flakes' when they rear; the dead crew who work the ship and "raise their limbs like lifeless tools" everything seems to have been actually seen; and we believe it all as the story of a truthful witness.

      The Execution of the Poem. Then again the execution is marvellously equal throughout: the story never drags or flags for a moment, its felicities of diction are perpetual, and it is scarcely marred by a single weak line.

      What could have been better said of the instantaneous descent of the tropical night than -

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

      What more vividly imagines of the "cracks and growls" of the receding ice-bergs than that they sounds "like noises in a swound?" With what consummate art are we left to imagine the physical traces which the Mariner's long agony has left behind it by a method far more terrible than any direct description - the effect, namely, which the sight of him produces upon others — as he is a Devil in human form? Perfect consistency of plan, in short, and complete equality of execution, brevity, self-restraint, and an unerring sense of artistic propriety-these are the chief notes of The Ancient Mariner, a masterpiece of ballad minstrels (Traill).

      The Skilful Blending of the Natural with the Supernatural. The great charm and power of the poem lie in the skill with which the unreal is made to look like the real. Descriptions of the natural phenomena are given with such minuteness and detail, and dove-tailed into the imaginative and supernatural parts with such nicety, as to make the whole story look quite probable. The dreadful silence of the far seas; with hot stagnant waters, with the intolerable blazing sun overhead, and the vast unknown furnish a background of reality on which the emotion of a sensitive human soul is portrayed with absolute freedom and yet carry conviction with them. "I never met", writes Stopford Brooke, "a sailor whose ship has been among the lonely places of the sea, who did not know of their hauntings, who will be surprised to see the phantom ship, who does not hear in the air that has sighed in the rigging the voices of the creatures that are half of the water and half of the air above them."

      The poem is a magnificent plea for universal love and sympathy Stopford Brooke says, "The poem is a revelation made by Coleridge of what he believed to be always the case in the spiritual world. That world is on the side of pity and love, and men who violate these are punished by hardness of heart. They cannot pray, they cannot be wise, they cannot bless the living of the land and sea and sky. Nature for them is dead; and if there be powers bound up with Nature, those are their enemies till they change their hearts. And Coleridge imagines the lonesome spirit of the South Pole who loved the Albatross, and his fellow demons, the invisible inhabitants of the elements and great Ocean that always looks at the Moon, and the Sun and the Moon, who act with the Polar Spirit. Death and Life-in-Death - the spiritual powers which execute the sanctions of the Law of Pity." The poem is a magnificent plea for universal love and sympathy. The Mariner is relieved of his soul's agony only when he blesses the slimy creatures. Then only a prayer gushed from his heart. Well does the poet say -

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small.
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.

      The Ballad Element in the Poem. "Coleridge drank deep of the spirit of the folk-ballad, and at no point has he more completely caught the primitive spirit of the ballads than in their childlikeness. It is a difficult feat for the poet to keep his own thought within the circle of the Mariner's mind and the Mariner's thought within the circle of a child's mind. Like the old ballads, the poet deals with elementary feeling and primal affections of humanity (as the Mariner's) and this simplicity of sentiment is equally matched with a simplicity of language and style. Then there are the elements of moral as in the old ballad. He has used, for the sake of effect, the traditional tricks of ballad style viz., the ballad meter, medieval rhyme and alliteration, repetition of phrases and lines, archaisms and a noble simplicity of language, vigour and energy of narration. Yet he touches the ballad to a finer issue."

      Development of Thought. One of the chief problems of the story-teller is the right choice of a dramatic narrator. Coleridge makes the Mariner himself tell his own story a perfectly natural thing, considering the abnormal and sensational quality of many of the happenings. In the first part the Mariner sets upon the voyage in a cheerful mood, overcomes the usual calamities of seafaring; and commits the crime which 'presses a supernatural trigger.'

      In Part II, even after the killing of the Albatross of the fair breeze continues for some time that is a test of the sensitivity of the shipmate's consciences. They do not feel that the killing of the bird is wrong in itself; they only judge it by its immediate consequences on their material welfare, which for the moment has appeared to be favourable. And then begins the train of disasters starting with the complete stifling of the breeze and the parching heat of the tropical sea.

      In Part III, the supernatural appears concretely on the scene in the shape of the ghostly skeleton-ship and its two shipmates, Death and Life-in-Death. It is an irony of fate that the appearance of the ship on the horizon fills the mariners with a frenzied joy for a time; but soon they realise their mistake. The game of dice between the Spectre-Woman and her Death-mate is a symbolic weighing of the guilt of the Mariner and his mates. The winning of the game by the Spectral-Woman leads to the death of all the two hundred shipmates of the Mariner and to his being singled out for further persecution and penance. The horror of the situation reaches a peak in this part.

      In Part IV, the psychological strain from which the Mariner is suffering reaches its point of highest tension. The blackness of his sin fills him with horror and makes him disgusted with the whole world, including himself. Thoughts of repentance come to him but are scotched by the 'wicked whisper' which dries up his heart. But the unremitting sight of the dead men at his feet for a whole week, the suffocating loneliness, the physical and emotional stings of calamity, the disgusting feel of slimy shapes created by a fevered brain - these have a softening and humanising effect on the hardened heart of the Mariner. He recovers a feeling of love for living things and that is the beginning of his spiritual regeneration. After having plumbed the depths of degradation, he begins to scramble up towards human dignity. That is the theme of this part, the most central in the poem.

      In Part V, miraculous events follow each other and show the curse upon the Mariner dissolving away. The supernatural element is no longer Maleficent, it is now beneficent. While the gentle sleep and the refreshing rain may be regarded as aspects of the 'natural supernatural', the mysterious movement of the ship and the inspiring of the dead bodies of the crew by the troop of angelic spirits, the snatch of a conversation between two spirits which the Mariner hears in a dream, all show the kindly interest which the supernatural beings are now taking in the physical and spiritual well-being of the Mariner. The kindly forms of the supernatural in this part may be instructively contrasted with the terrifying forms of it in Part III.

      In Part VI, the miraculous and the natural again join hands and bring the Mariner home, both physically and spiritually. The fit of unconsciousness or trance in which he overhears the dialogue between spirit of Justice and Mercy is due, as the gloss say, to the dizzy speed at which the ship is driven forward by the power of the seraph-band. The work of the seraph-band is done when they have made the Mariner feel repentance for his sin and gratitude for the mercy of God, and have brought him back to his own country: they make their exit in a supernaturally telling way and leave the Mariner in the world of everyday reality, the world from which he has set out so adventurously in Part I.

      In Part VII, the last part of the poem, the Mariner re-establishes contact with the normal life from which he has dashed off adventurously in Part I. But his appearance is so unusual that men stand in awe of him: a most startling instance of his weird appearance is found in the unhappily crazing effect it had on the Pilot's boy. Now the Mariner has learned his lesson in blood and sweat of body and soul, the ship with its dead crew is no longer wanted: it is made to scuttle itself miraculously. In the closing stanzas of the poem, there is a conscious attempt at the summing up of the new scale of values which the Mariner has learned through suffering; it is not the gaiety of the wedding-feast which now invites him, but the humble social piety of walking to the church in a goodly company and offering devout and humble prayers to the Creator.

      Comprehensiveness of Details. The imaginative power of the poet is combined with an amazing comprehensiveness of details in description. "Every phase of landscape, seascape and cloudscape is touched upon, from the quiet scenery of an English woodland to the lurid scenery of the tropics. The poet touches with equal power and beauty every phase of the life at sea: the ship flying before the freshening gale, the torrid fierceness of the stagnant waters, the freezing cold of the Arctic region, the horror of the becalmed passage, the blessedness of the welcome rain, the clear sky, the storm cloud, the great sea fog, the incarnate fury of the storm, the soothing peace of the temperate seas, the loneliness of the great ocean, and the welcome sight of familiar landmarks once again as the Mariner views the peaceful English harbour."

      The Technical Beauty. The technical beauties of the poem are remarkable. The form used is ballad and the simplicity of diction is worth noting.

(i) Alone, alone, all all alone,
Alone on a wide, wide sea

(ii) I moved and could not feel my lips,
I was so light-almost
I thought that I had died in sleep
And was a blessed ghost.

      Of metre and versification the poet has shown himself to be a master. The medieval rhymes and the alliteration are used with such skill that one can only wonder.

      Truth to Nature. The poem provides ample illustration of Coleridge's capacity to excite the sympathy of the reader by a faithful adherence to the truth of nature. Coleridge had undertaken "to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and semblance of truth sufficient to procure for those shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment which constitutes poetic faith." One has only to think of the tortured face of the Ancient Mariner, the frightened and later 'sadder and wiser' Wedding-Guest to realise the extent to which he has achieved success in the undertaking. He has eminently succeeded in giving concrete, sensuous expression to feelings and states of mind. To describe the utter and absolute silence what can be more effective than

And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea

      And note the marvellous expression of the effect on the Mariner of his horrible experiences:

Since then, at an uncertain hour,
That agony returns
And till my ghastly tale is told
This heart within me burns

      Coleridge’s Insight into Human Psychology. The poet shows great knowledge of human psychology in describing the feelings of the Mariner while in the presence of the supernatural phenomena. Charles Lamb does not like these horrors yet praises the poet's skill in describing these human feelings which makes the poem so convincing —

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,
We could not laugh nor wail;
Through utter drought all dumb we stood!
I bit my arm, I sucked the blood,
And cried, a sail, a sail, a sail!
We listened and looked sideways up!!
Fear at my heart, as at a cup,
My life blood seemed to sip!

      The poem is full of such intense feelings - not merely of fear, but also of remorse, pity and love for all things that live and move.

      Theme of the Poem. The theme of The Ancient Mariner is not just the story of a sailor who learns through a series of vicissitudes that one shall "be kind to animals." It is rather that experience of guilt, of need for redemption, is shared by all men, which is at the basis of many religious and social customs, and much art. It is no more fantastic, as a modern critic has observed, than The Pilgrim's Progress. Far from dealing with a romantic world of unreality, the poem reveals an intimate depth of human experience. It is no mere miracle of inventive fantasy, but an inevitable projection into imagery of the poet's own inner discord. It describes the slow and hard path to regeneration. Its symbolism places it in the same category as T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land. The real meaning of "He prayeth best who loveth best" is the return of harmony between the Mariner and all living things - not just the assertion of a moral humanitarian law.

      Moral of the Poem. The moral of the poem, "He prayeth well who loveth well, both man and bird and beast" grew out of Coleridge's great love of lower animals. In this poem he gives a dramatic expression to the conviction that God is on the side of pity and love, and those who shut themselves against these tender emotions are punished by hardness of heart which does not let them pray or attain to wisdom. Nature and all its beautiful creatures of earth, water, and sky become dead to them. All the physical and moral forces of the world become their enemies till their hearts are softened again by pity and remorse.

      Conclusion. During the last decade of the eighteenth century a taste for 'supernatural' tales with all their horrible details and blood-curdling incidents has gradually been formed in the public. 'Monk' Levis, Mrs. Radcliffe, and other imitators of the German school has freely pandered to it. For a time even Coleridge is tempted, and the first version of The Ancient Mariner admits the horrible much more freely than the later and refined version. Happily, he soon recognises his mistake, and employs - his knowledge of psychology, his mastery of colour and detail to create beauty even out of the ghastly incidents of his originals.


      1. L. 21-24. The ship.....Lighthouse top. The passage is taken from Coleridge's poem The Ancient Mariner. It occurs in the first section where the Mariner describes how the ship has started. He says that they have started very happily. The greetings and good wishes of friends are with them. He mentions the church, the hill and the lighthouse top.

      The stanza with its picturesqueness, conjures up before our imagination an image of the little village harbour as the ship puts out on its voyage and also the cheers of onlookers assembled on the quay. But those who witnessed its departure would little dream of the fate awaiting it.

      2. L. 28-32. Higher and higher.....bassoon. In this passage from the first section of Coleridge's The Ancient Mariner, the Mariner is continuing his narration. As the ship has moved towards the Equator the sun stood higher and higher at noon, till on the Equator it has stood over the mast at noon. At this point the guest has heard the loud sound of bassoon coming from the feast hall and as he has felt that he is being prevented from attending the feast, he beat his breast in utter helplessness.

      The story so far has been a plain, matter-of-fact narrative. In spite of the fascination exercised over him, the guest cannot conceal his irritation when the sounds from the feast break in. These sounds remind him of his strange circumstances, but they do not have the power to break the spell. After this, however, the listener is all attention. He is reminded of the marriage feast only when the Mariner has finished his tale. Traill says: "The details of the voyage are all chronicled with such order and regularity, there is such a diary-like air about the whole thing, that we accept it almost as if it were a series of extracts from a ship's log.

      3. L. 45-50. With sloping.....we fled. These lines give a picture of The Ancient Mariner's ship as it is driven southward by a violent storm. The storm blows from behind. By the force of the storm the tall, erect masts of the ship are bent forward. The front part of the ship sank under the water by the drive from behind. Thus the ship has moved fast before the storm, but still it can not outspeed the storm. The ship here is compared to a man who, being pursued by an enemy, runs fast for fear of life. The enemy is pursuing from behind, shouting and striking the man. His shadow is cast before the man who is being pursued. The man dare not look behind to see the enemy. He runs at top speed, bending his head forward. But however fast he runs, he cannot outdistance his enemy. So also the ship was driven fast by the roaring and striking storm from behind but it cannot get rid of the storm.

      4. L. 59-62. The ice.....a swound. In these lines, The Ancient Mariner gives details of the polar region. The place is not only dark but also full of contused noises, due to the constant breaking of the icebergs. As the icebergs are driven by the storm they crash against one another and crack up. A loud and confused noise is thus produced. These noises are like those heard by a man who falls into a fainting fit. This is a reference to the belief that an unconscious man hears confused sounds.

      An impression of utter desolation is produced by the simple description.

      5. L. 79-82. God save thee.....the Albatross. This stanza marks the end of the first section of The Ancient Mariner. The Mariner has been narrating his story to the Wedding-Guest. At this stage the Guest notices signs of great mental agony on the face of the Mariner. He has felt that the old man is troubled by evil spirits and has prayed to God to protect him from them. He also asks the Mariner the cause of his trouble. In reply he can not give an elaborate explanation. He only said that he has killed the Albatross. It reminds us of the previous stanzas where the Mariner has been lingering on the description and not proceeding with the story. The reason for this reluctance is that this is to be the most painful confession of the crime.

      This dramatic way of saying it has helped us to concentrate attention on the confession and the crime. The stanza also brings out the poet's skill both in keeping up the reality of the story as a story told to a listener and in suggesting, without direct narration, some point of appearance or description which he wants to convey to the reader. The first part of the the poem closes with the mention of the word, Albatross, is suggesting to the reader the idea that the killing of the bird is the crisis of poem. This fact is kept in our mind by the conclusion of almost each part of the poem.

      6. L. 99-102. Then all.....fog and mist. The Albatross, the bird of good omen, which has followed the ship for nine days is cruelly slain by The Ancient Mariner. At first his companions has rebuked him for that wanton act of cruelty. They have said that it is a dastardly crime to kill the bird that has brought the breeze. A little later, however, when the sun rise in all its glory and the fog and mist has cleared away, they have changed their attitude and said that The Ancient Mariner has done right in killing the bird which is responsible for the mist and fog.

      This attitude of the sailors makes them really contemptible creatures who have not even the virtue of consistency. In his marginal commentary to the poem, Coleridge points out that by justifying the action of The Ancient Manner, the other sailors make themselves accomplices in the crime.

      With the change of weather there came a change in the outlook of the sailors regarding the killing of the bird. The Albatross has brought fog and mist and is therefore a bird of ill omen. The Ancient Mariner has therefore done the right thing by killing the bird. Their attitude towards the crime is merely selfish and is not based on moral principles. They judged the deed not on merit but by the result it has on them; they are therefore not merely accomplices in the crime, but also utterly inconsistent in their assertion.

      7. L. 103-106. The fair breeze.....silent sea. This beautiful stanza is the description of how the ship in Coleridge's The Ancient Mariner enters the Pacific Ocean. The Mariner is telling, the Guest in Section II that the wind is favourable. The white foam is being thrown up as the ship advanced and left behind a clear track because of the calmness of the sea. According to him, he and his companions are the first to have entered that silent sea.

      The sea has been mentioned in such a way as if both the Mariner and the Guest knows it well. The stanza is remarkable for vividness of description and fineness of versification. The alliteration makes it smooth and sweet to hear. The rhythm suggests the wonder of a great discovery.

      8. L. 115-118. Day after day painted ocean. For some days after the Albatross is killed by The Ancient Mariner. The ship driven by the favourable south wind entered the calm Pacific Ocean. It still sails northward and reached the equator. The sun now have stood directly overhead. It is intensely hot and the sky is assumed a copper colour by the heat of the sun. All of a sudden the wind has stopped and the ship stood motionless. There is also no current in the sea water. This continues for some days. The ship is as motionless as a ship painted in a picture remains all the time in the position in which it has been drawn by the painter; so the ship of the Mariner remained still and in the same position for some days, for want of wind and current.

      The simile used for the motionless state of the ship is striking and powerful. The stanza, as a whole, is a specimen of Coleridge's power of word-painting.

      9. L. 119-122. Water, drink. As the ship of The Ancient Mariner is suddenly becalmed, their sufferings begins. The sun is pouring fire. So great is the heat of the sun that the planks of the ship are getting twisted or shrunken. Besides, their supply of fresh drinking water is soon exhausted. They are almost dying of thirst. Thus it is their tragedy that with the limitless water of the ocean around them they have no water to drink, as the sea water is not suitable for drinking. The punishment of The Ancient Mariner and his fellow sailors begins here.

      10. L. 123-126. The very deep.....slimy sea. This is the description of the prevailing rottenness around the motionless ship has given by the Mariner in The Ancient Mariner. The situation is so terrible that even the sea seems to have become rotten. There is dirt all around. In the mud of the sea, dirty creatures are crawling about.

      The stanza, particularly the last two lines, illustrates Coleridge's power to describe the horrible. The full effect is best seen and appreciated when these lines are read slowly. The repetition of the word 'slimy' and the addition 'with legs' create the extreme sense of hideousness of the spectacle.

      11. L. 127-130. About, and white. These lines describes the punishment that has came upon the old Mariner and his companions for killing the Albatross. Their ship lay becalmed at the equator. There is no stock of drinking water in the ship. The sea is looking unnatural. It seems to be rotting in the intense heat of the sun. At night various phosphorescent lights coming out of the decaying animal matter in the ocean begains to dance in a confused manner around the ship. To the superstitious mariners, these lights seems to foretell death. The sea water which is rotten begins to burn with strange colours of green, blue and white. It seems to be not water but witch's oils, prepares from various loathsome ingredients which is described by Shakespeare in his Macbeth. The sea-water too seems to be charm and spread horror into the minds of the mariners.

      12. L. 153-156. A speck.....veered. In these lines, The Ancient Mariner describes the gradual approach of the skeleton ship. He and his companions has passed a long and weary time, in thirst and loneliness. One day, looking towards the western sky, when the sun is setting, The Ancient Mariner sees a strange sight. At first, the thing has appeared like a dot in the horizon. As it come nearer, it has looks like a moving piece of mist; it is still too indistinct to be clearly distinguished. Then as it come still nearer, the Mariner find it has a definite shape - it is a ship. It is moving so fast that it has appeared to be escaping from the pursuit of a water spirit. Besides, its course is very unsteady. This strange behaviour of the ship makes. The Ancient Mariner thinks that the ship is trying to escape from a water spirit that is pursuing it to take revenge.

      The poet skilfully suggests the supernatural nature of the ship. The ship of The Ancient Mariner is becalmed for there is no wind and tide. But in the same sea there is another ship which is moving fast and very irregularly. How can this second ship move thus, without wind or tide, unless there is something supernatural about it.

      13. L. 190-194. Her lips.....cold. In these lines, The Ancient Mariner describes one of the crew of the phantom ship, namely Life-in-Death. On a nearer view of the ship The Ancient Mariner has found that there are two ligures on the deck of the ship. One is Death and the other is Life-in-Death, the companion of Death. Life-in-Death has the beauty of a woman. Her lips are red, the look of her eyes are bold and open. Her hair is golden. But her skin is of an unnatural colour. It is as white as the skin of a woman who is suffering from leprosy. Now a normal, healthy woman cannot have such a white skin as that of Life-in-Death. Life-in-Death is like a nightmare that congeals men's blood.

      The horrible description corresponds to the strangeness of her character as is evident from the name. The appearance of the skeleton ship is a mere device to demonstrate the respective awards by higher supernatural agency to the two categories of human sinners. Death will indicate lighter punishment; and Life-in-Death, a more severe punishment, though leading to the laborious pleasure of a godly life. The strangeness of her character is indicated by contrasts: red lips and yellow locks stand for life; leprous-white skin stands for Death.

      14. L. 199-202. The Sun's run.....spectre bark. This stanza is describing the night-fall in tropics from The Ancient Mariner by Coleridge is striking. The ship of the Mariner is driven by some spirit from the south to the tropical region where they have suffered from thirst and scorching heat of the sun.

      The Mariner has seen with fear the skeleton-ship and its inmates. At that time darkness overtook them suddenly and the skeleton-ship has disappeared. Describing it he says that the edge of the sun has gone down into the sea and the stars has appeared. The darkness covered the entire scene swiftly. The skeleton ship has disappeared in the darkness. Only a faint sound is macle by it is heard from a distance. The stanza shows Coleridge's great power of word-painting. The absence of twilight in the tropics has been described remarkably through the simplest words.

      The fearful climax of human destiny is followed by the description of nature; man, nature and God are forming the eternal themes of poetry. The darkness suddenly appeared because there is no twilight in tropical regions (the ship is near the Equator). The dark' is personified. The phantom-ship suddenly disappeares with a hissing sound which is heard from a distance.

      15. L. 203-207. We listened.....gleamed white. These lines describes the horror felt by time Mariner at the strange disappearance of the spectre ship. Night comes rapidly in the tropical sea. It is a very dark night but the stars are dim pale. As the ship dartes off, it produces a hissing sound which cannot be heard from a distance. The mariners listenes to the sound. They have not the courage to look directly at the disappearing ship and looks only sideways. The Ancient Mariner's fear is so great that all his life-blood seems to be suck dry. Fear seems to sip all his blood, in the same manner as a man sips tea out of a cup. In other words, The Ancient Mariner becomes pale with fear. He also find in the lamplight that the face of the helmsman is white with fear.

      16. L. 232-235. Alone, agony. The stanza is taken from Coleridge's The Ancient Mariner Part IV. The horrors is described and the Mariner tells the Guest that all his companions is dead. The Guest fears that he also may be talking to a ghost. His fear is intensified by the strange appearance of the Mariner. The Mariner, however, assures the guest that he is not a ghost. He tells him that the signs of pain and ghastliness on his face have resulted from the utter loneliness that he has had to suffer. This stanza describes the oppressive solitude. It is all the more terrible because he is alone in the midst of a vast ocean with dead companions. He feels that he is forsaken even by God and no holy saint has pity on his tortured soul.

      By repeating the words 'all', 'alone' and 'wide' the poet marvellously depicts the terror of loneliness.

      17. L. 236-239. The many did I. The Ancient Mariner here describes his condition after the death of his two hundred companions. He is left alone on the wide sea. Even a saint of heaven whom he has invoked do not come to his help. His companions are all strong, beautiful men. They are dead. The only living creatures are the ugly aquatic animals living in the mud. They are moving about the ship. Like them, The Ancient Mariner, too is living. He seems to be one of them, because he too is living. His mind is, therefore, filled with a hatred for his own self. He look upon himself not as a man, the beautiful creation of God, but as an ugly, slimy thing.

      This shows that there is in him even now a hatred for lower creatures and his heart is not chaste. It is this disdain for lower creatures which has led the Mariner to kill the Albatross. His sense of loneliness is the punishment for his want of sympathy with his humbler fellow-creatures.

      18. L. 244-247. I dust. In these lines The Ancient Mariner describes his utterly helpless condition in the far-off sea. The sea is rotting. He can not look at it, because he see there only ugly aquatic animals. He tries to look up to the sky and pray to God for relief from his suffering. But no prayer has came out of his mouth because his heart is not yet softened with pity and love. It is only a wicked thought that has found expression in the shape of a whisper that has came out of his heart. The result is that his heart is left dry as ever-utterly devoid of noble feelings. Thus his condition is so miserable that he can not even say a Christian prayer.

      The distant sea, the nearer deck and upward heaven are the possible objects on which the Mariner can look or concentrate his mind. But in each case there is some positive obstacle — disdain for the sea-creatures, the reminder of his crime and the impurity of his heart. As a result the Mariner can not find peace or rest anywhere. His heart is still filled with antipathy and aversion for the ugly sea-creatures and can not find peace in prayer. Pride and disdain constitute sin and so long as sinful thought will persist, the mind will be bereft of gentler feelings and all good aspirations will wither.

      19. L. 257-262. An orphan's.....not die. In these lines, The Ancient Mariner describes his suffering after the death of his companions. He does not find any consolation from the sea or the sky. When he looks at the deck of the ship he see horrible sights there. The dead bodies do not show any sign of decomposition that is caused by death. The sweat falling from their bodies has evaporated. There is still the same dreadful look of curse in the eyes of the dead men. It seems as if they are still cursing him, though they are dead. The curse of an orphan is powerful enough to bring an angel from heaven to hell. Even an angel has to suffer torment in hell if it is cursed by an orphan, so great is the power of an orphan's curse. The curse in the eyes of a dead man is even more powerful. And this curse now fell upon The Ancient Mariner. For seven days and nights he remains in that state, being exposed to the cursing looks of the two hundred dead men. Every moment he has prayed for death, which will be a welcome relief from his torment. But he can not die and has to suffer more.

      Curses are believed to have great power over men's spiritual welfare. Cruelty to a helpless orphan will, under the moral order of God, drag down even an angel from heaven to hell. The reason is that in the heart of every being it is God who dwells; that is why even the most powerful man cannot be exempted from divine punishment for moral violation.

      20. L. 263-266. The moving Moon.....two beside. The stanza occurs in part IV of The Ancient Mariner written by Coleridge. The Mariner is saying that in that loneliness he is utterly bewildered. He does not know what to do and where to go. He is surrounded by dirty things — dead bodies and slimy creatures. As he looks up he see the Moon whose journey is described here. It goes on moving up the sky without stopping anywhere. She is going up gently with a star or two by her side. They seemes to him to enjoy a free, happy life in their native home. The Mariner desires to share their happy condition. It is made clear by the comment in the margin: "In his loneliness and fixedness he yearneth towards the journeying Moon and the star...."

      The picture is a symbolic fulfillment of the Mariner's desire to have a welcoming home and to be able to move into it with freedom, a thing which he can not hope for in that situation. The contrast between the tortured life of the Mariner is surrounded by the dead bodies of the crew and the peaceful loveliness of nature above him is to be noted. When the Mariner is haunted by the looks of the dead sailors the moon continues her quiet unchanging course. The permanence of Nature and the mutable and painful character of human life is a fundamental note of poetry.

      21. L. 288-298. The self-same moment.....into the sea. The stanza marks the end of Part IV of The Ancient Mariner is written by Coleridge. As soon as the Mariner is able to appreciate the beauty of the creatures of God and feels love for them, he gets pity from god. It is possible for him to pray. The curse begains to lose its effect. The very moment he is able to pray, the Albatross fell off quite freely from his neck. It sinks into the sea like lead or a heavy burden. As he has regained the power to pray, the power of the curse breaks.

      As in the other parts, here also in the very last lines appears the incident to which the whole section has been leading. It comes suddenly and is mentioned briefly. This point is, indeed, the dramatic center of the whole poem and on it, is based the moral of it.

      This incident is obviously modelled on the falling off of Christian's burden in Pilgrim's Progress when he sees the Cross.

      22. L. 292-296. O sleep.....soul. After The Ancient Mariner has atone for his sin by loving and blessing the water snakes, his redemption becomes complete. The dead body of the Albatross, which is so long hanging around his neck like a dead weight of sin, fell off. The Mariner fell into a refreshing sleep, of which he has been deprived so long. In these lines The Ancient Mariner sings his song in praise of sleep. Sleep is a soft and soothing thing, that is dear to all people of the world. It is the balm of hurt minds. It is the great nourisher of life. The man who is denied the blessing of sleep is a miserable wretch, indeed. Sleep is a divine blessing. It is a gift of God to toil-worn men and animals. May Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, be thanked for giving sweet sleep to men, says the Mariner. It is the divine sleep which descends from heaven into the body and soul of the Mariner. The Ancient Mariner now fell asleep not only in body but also in tortured soul and feels the sweet effect of sleep and was restores to calm and serenity.

      The soothing nature of sleep is well-known in life and literature. In sleep the mind does not function and cares and anxieties of wakeful life come to an end.

      23. L. 313-317. The upper air.....between. As The Ancient Mariner awoke from a refreshing sleep he has heard the roaring sound of the wind blowing violently at a distance from his ship. The whole sky has became vocal with the noises of busy activity. The sky which seems to be dead is so long animated. Bright flashes of lightning has occurred in different directions and looks like white banners. The stars looks pale in contrast with the brilliance of the lightning flashes. These pale stars seems to be moving quickly between the clouds driven by the storm. Thus the spell of silence in the sky is broken by thunder and lightning.

      Coleridge here sketches a storm with delight in the wild effects of sky and cloud. Every detail comes from the known world, which is the firm background of the supernatural events which accompany it in this poem.

      24. L. 324-326. Like waters.....and wide. When he has become conscious of the beauty of created things and has been able to pray, sweet sleep descends on The Ancient Mariner and brings peace to his soul. He dreams that it has been rainy and awakes to find heavy showers pouring down from one black cloud. The cloud soon is cleft into two and from the broken cloud flashes of lightning darted forth continuously. The lightning seems to fall like a deep and wide river flowing down from some high mountains. The beautiful image has been employed to convey the idea that the lightning is continuous.

      Coleridge is here speaking of what is called sheet lightning (and not forked lightning). Sheet lightning comes down from the sky to the earth like a long sheet without a break. A fork lightning is one which flashes from one end of the sky to the other like a set of forks. This is a remarkable simile. The sheet lightning is compared to a waterfall. As a cataract flows down from a high hill, so the lightning, like a continuous flood of light, pours from the sky above. These are "lines noteworthy for their minute and sensitive appreciation of natural scenery, and the realistic description in the interest and simplest of language," as Creswell says.

      25. L. 358-362. Sometimes a dropping.....sweet jargoning. The Ancient Mariner realises that the bodies of the dead companions were animated by a troop of blessed spirits. There is proof for this when he hears the sweet sounds coming from their mouths and filling the atmosphere. These musical sounds seems to dart forth everywhere. Sometimes, they sounds like individual melodies, and at other times combine to make a magnificent concert. One moment it is like the song of a lonely skylark when dropping from the great height to which it has soared. Another moment it will be like the music of all the little song-birds in the world combining in one magnificent harmony.

      26. L. 367-372. It ceased.....quiet tune. This delicate stanza occurs in Coleridge's The Ancient Mariner. The Mariner tells how beautiful and soothing are the sound that the sails produces as the ship sails on after that torturous has fixed state in the topical region.

      The sweet sounds of the angels, says he has stopped. Still, the sail has continued producing a sweet sound till noon. This sound is as sweet as the sound produces by a small stream is hidden among trees in a wood during the month of June. The calm song lulls the woods to sleep and rest for the night. The sounds that he has heard are as sweet and as soothing.

      The simile here, as elsewhere in this poem, is dramatically appropriate. The pleasant noise of the wind in the sails suggests to the Mariner the woodland sounds of his home. Choice of words like the 'hidden brook', 'the leafy month of June' and the 'sleeping woods' is very skillful. It gives not only a musical form and melody, but are also sensuous and picturesque in suggestion. The lines gives an unsurpassed impression of gentle continuity and peace.

      The contrast of these lines with the dryness and stagnation describes earlier is noteworthy.

      27. L. 406-409. The other was.....will do. These are the words of the Second Voice, which represents the spirit of Mercy, that The Ancient Mariner has heard in his trance. The First Voice representing Justice, emphasised the sin of The Ancient Mariner who has killed the loving Albatross that is the beloved of the Polar Spirit. Clearly Justice is in favour of giving more punishment to The Ancient Mariner for his sin. But the voice of Mercy has pleaded on behalf of The Ancient Mariner. The voice of Mercy is soft and tender like honey-dew. It is pointed out that The Ancient Mariner is already paying the penalty for his sin by a process of terrible suffering. He will be performing more penance when he goes back to his native land. Hence he shall be spared further punishment at that moment.

      The Mariner is thus assured in his dream of divine mercy and final salvation.

      28. L. 446-451. Like one.....him freed. In these lines, taken from Part VI of Coleridge's The Ancient Mariner, the Mariner expresses his haunted state even after the curse has abated. When a man goes on a solitary journey he walks in fear. Having once looks back and seen an evil spirit pursuing him hotly, he does not look behind again. In fear he walks on though the spirit may not be pursuing him. The situation of the Mariner is similar. Having been once under the spell of horror he can not easily believe that it is over.

      The passage shows how tormented he was and exhibits remarkably Coleridge's understanding of mental states.

      29. L. 534-537. Brown skeletons.....she wolf's young. In these lines the Hermit describes the sails of the ship of The Ancient Mariner towards which they are drawing in a small boat. The sails seem to be unnatural, being completely dried up and of a brown colour, by exposure to sun and rain. He had never seen the like of them. These sails, according to him, can be compared only to the dried leaves which fall from trees and become thin and sere. They decay and only the veins of the leaves remain. The leaves become mere skeletons of a brown colour. The Hermit has seen them float on the stream in winter. In this season the ivy-bushes are covered with snow-fakes. The song of all birds becomes silence in the dead of winter. It is only the owl that screeches at night. Its screech are mixed with the hungry howls of the he-wolf which eats away its young ones, if the mother-wolf did not guard them carefully. The gruesomeness of the imagery is quite appropriate in a supernatural story.

      30. L. 578-581. In this stanza of Coleridge's The Ancient Mariner, the Mariner describe what has happened to him when the Hermit has asked him to tell him about himself. The painfulness of the confessionary process is clearly brought out. His body at once felt a severe pain which compells him to tell the whole story. After having done this he felt relieved. This, as we learn from the lines following it, is the penance of his life. This alone brings him comfort. He washes his sin by confessing it and by describing the punishment. He urges his audience to learn a lesson from his tale and to love and pray as he has once so disastrously failed to do. In this he finds relief and comfort.

      31. L. 597-600. O be. The Mariner has experienced worldliness marked by human pride and has hatred for other creatures, and the resultant sorrows and sufferings; he has also known purity of heart following upon godliness and consequent inner peace and repose. Hence he continues the two paths of life; and ends following the
true pleasure of life in seeking God in the world. He has known intense suffering and loneliness. He is so lonely on the wide sea that he has felt as if God has left him. Though God is present everywhere, yet not being god-minded due to his arrogance, he has to suffer all alone on a silent sea and can not find any solace. When through the dawn of love in his chasten heart he can turn inwards to feel the divine reality pervading all objects he can feel happy, and his mind now has turned away from the empty pleasures of worldly life.

      32. L. 614-617. He prayeth.....loveth all. In these lines The Ancient Mariner sums up the grand moral of his tale. It is a truth that has been driven home to him by his crime and punishment. Prayer, to The Ancient Mariner, does not mean uttering some set of words in the Church. The essence of prayer is universal love-love for all the creations of God, great and small. To pray to God means to love all His creations. God is Love, says the Bible. He loves all His creations, without making any distinction of them. The Ancient Mariner has learned this grand moral lesson from his own experience. He now inculcates this grand moral lesson in the Wedding-Guest.

      The moral arises easily and naturally out of the very constitution of the poem and does not at all appear to be an imposition from outside as the result of after-thought. A crime born in hate must, in the nature of things, find its expiation through love; and thus the large love for "all things great and small" is the cosmic need of the poem itself and an aural reflex from its central life principle. The poem is a revelation, says Stopford Brooke; makes by Coleridge of what he has believed to be always the case in the spiritual world.

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