Metre and Versification in The Rime of The Ancient Mariner

Also Read

      The unit in the verse which Coleridge uses consists of one unstressed followed by a stressed syllable, to this foot the name iamb is given and the lines contain either four or three iambs. In general, only the former line will be noticed. A perfectly regular line of the type is: "and straight/the sun/was flecked/with bars" (L. 177)

      Variety is introduced by changing the position of the pauses. So we see in most lines at least one case in which the end of a foot is not marked by a natural break in the reading: "It mingl/ed strange/ly with /my fears." (L.458)

      At places, even the pause at the end of the line is ignored, and the verse overflows into the next -

That to the sleeping woods all night
Singeth a quiet tune. (L.371)

      The pauses, whether coming at the end of a foot or in the middle of it, may become more pronounced; they may be so well defined as to be marked by stops: "Strange, by/my faith!/the Her/mit said." (L.527)

      The incidence of the stress may be varied. The iamb may be replaced by some other foot, having either the same rhythm a and b or a reversed rhythm, c. The foot may be an anapaest, i.e. two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable. The two short syllables may either be both distinctly pronounced, as in: "For all averred/I had killed/the bird" (L. 93)

      Or one of them may to some degree be slurred over:

"From the fiends/that plague thee thus." (L. 80)

      The effect of anapaests is to quicken the movement of the verse. The stress on the second syllable may be so light as practically to disappear, leaving pyrrhic - a foot or two unstressed syllables: "Still treads the shad/ow of This foe" (L. 47)

      The foot use may comprise a stress followed by an unstressed syllable, changing, that is, to a trochee introducing, in some measure, a falling rhythm; "We were/the first/that ever burst" (L. 105)

      The bringing together of two short syllables in this way often has an effect of giving lightness and quickness to the verse.

      The stanza used in The Ancient Mariner - the ballad stanza - normally consists of two pairs of lines, the first and third each containing four feet and generally not rhyming, the second and fourth each containing three, and always rhyming.

      Sometimes the lines of four feet have internal rhyme. The internal rhyme usually occurs in the third line of the stanza, but sometimes, it occurs in the first line as well, when both first and third have internal rhyme:

And through the drifts the snowy cliffs
Did send a dismal sheen:
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken-
The ice was all between.

      The Stanza of L 203-11 is of exceptional form, which may be denoted by A, A, B, C, C, B, D, D, B; that is, it consists of nine lines in three sets of three, the first pair of each set being tetrameters rhyming with each other, but not with the tetrameters of any other set, while the last line of each set is a trimeter; these three lines rhyming together. This stanza thus unites all the previous variations.

University Questions

Consider critically the use of metre and versification by Coleridge in The Ancient Mariner.
How does Coleridge vary the metre and versification so as to break monotony in The Ancient Mariner?

Previous Post Next Post