COLERIDGE THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER

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     Dr. Theresa Thompson
     English 3120
     Fall 2011

     COLERIDGE: THE RIME OF
     THE ANCIENT MARINER




  Anne Williams. “An I for an Eye: ‘Spectral Persecution’ in
  The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” PMLA 108.5 (October
                      1993), 591-604.
“Through what is essentially a four-
fold perspective, the poet achieves
a refraction and humanization of
impossible events:
• “the personality of the Mariner reporting;
• “the reactions of the Wedding-Guest who
  listens;
• “the moralizing of the pious antiquarian
                                                 “The gloss thus functions
  editor who comments;
• “by implication, the minstrel-balladeer.”      dramatically as a chorus,
                                               ensuring the mood and point
                                                 of view of the spectator in
                                                accordance with the ‘pious’
“By following this plan the
poet lent credibility to what                      and ‘sanguine’ editor’s
was becoming an obsolete
 vehicle, the Gothic tale of                          character” (591).
         terror….”




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                  Features of Gothic Tales

Omens,                           Mystery and                  The metonymy (part
                                                              for the whole) of
                                                                                            Sex and Death:
portents, dream                  suspense.                    gloom and horror
                                                                                            Fainting,                      Ancient /
visions. [lines                  [Rime                        (wind, rain, doors            frightened,                      exotic
63-70]                                                        grating on rusty              screaming, near-
                                 epigraph from                hinges, howls in the          naked women.                  spaces and
• Supernatural events.
  [lines 153-76]                 Thomas                       distance, distant
                                                                                            Women                           places:
                                                              sighs, footsteps
• Ancient prophecy,              Burnet]                      approaching, lights in        threatened by                 castles, the
  especially                                                                                powerful,
  mysterious,                    •  High emotion,             abandoned rooms,
                                                              gusts of wind blowing
                                                                                                                          Doldrums,
  obscure, or hard to               sentimentalism,                                         impetuous male.                 tropical
                                                              out lights or blowing
  understand. [The                  but also
                                                              suddenly, characters          [lines 181-94]
  Mariner’s entire                  pronounced                trapped in rooms or           • La Femme /
                                                                                                                            islands,
  tale.]                            anger, surprise,          imprisoned).                    l’homme fatale:            Africa, India,
                                    and especially
                                    terror. [lines
                                                              • The vocabulary of the
                                                                gothic (use of words
                                                                                              deadly woman /
                                                                                              man
                                                                                                                           China….
                                    79-82]                      indicating fear,
                                                                mystery, etc.:
                                                                apparition, devil,
                                                                ghost, haunted, terror,
                                                                fright). [lines 224-231]




  From: James D. Boulger. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner--An
 Introduction” Twentieth-Century Interpretations of The Rime of
      the Ancient Mariner. 1-20. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: 1969.


 “The main body of the poem, then, despite some residue of logic and sense realism of our
 ordinary kind, is a world of ‘pure imagination’ and will have the logic of a Dream, in so far
 as we can understand such logic” (10).


     The voyage takes place in the world of
     imagination; “four aspects are noticeable, as
     evidence…” (12).
          “The ‘dream’ quality of the
        voyage and all its events, with                                       “a machinery of ‘spirits’ of     “a special definition of
      the participation of reality, living                                    various orders not found in      appearance and reality,
                                             “a special kind of logic, or
         and nonliving in one organic                                          the ordinary world; [The        substance and surface,
                                              ‘non-logic’ if you will, in
       whole, and the unending series                                        Storm-Blast, the Polar-Spirit,       developed in the
        of shifts between subjects and           the main events and           Nightmare Life-in-Death,        descriptions of objects,
      objects, sights and sounds, in the        symbols of the poem;            and the ‘troop of spirits
         phenomena of the perceived
                                                                                                              especially the sea, during
                                                                                         blest’]                    the voyage.”
                     world;




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   “…the world of the poem is quite
  different from the land world” (12).
“…some examples of the tension between imaginative process and worldly
logic in the [poem’s] central section….For a short while, the two worlds
compete, with the orderly, rational world of conventional bride and wedding
gaiety gradually giving way to the phantom ship, its sudden voyage, and the
living sun and moon” (11).


                                                                  “the conflict between the actual order of
                                                                  the land world and the imaginative
      “the confused moral                                         dreamlike world of the voyage and the
   reasoning of the sailors…                                      sea…”
                                                                  •  Dreams personify all things, animate or inanimate,
         [lines 91-102]                                              good or malevolent. (Lines 25-28, 41-45, 58-61)
                                                                  •  Confused quality of sounds (lines 354-66).




Tension between scientific logic &
       creative process…
    “The Wedding Guest is a reasonable man,                           “Coleridge constructs a series of cause-
    so he thinks; he wants reasons for things,                        effect, if-then situations which mock the logic
    but the Mariner has none to give…” (11).                          of common sense and custom” (14).
    •  The Wedding Guest “wants to                                    • Dream logic: an Albatross can break up
       participate in a function of the actual                          the ice (lines 63-70); if I kill this Albatross,
       order (the wedding), while the                                   my ship gets stranded by evil forces & 200
                                                                        men die; if, under a random moon, I then
       Mariner has only his dream to offer.”
                                                                        bless water snakes, I will be forgiven the
                                                                        ‘crime’ (lines 279-291).




    “…the acceptance of the appearances of the visible world is       “He has learned something of the spectral
    an act of Faith, and only God is the supreme and unknowable
    Cause of the ‘sense manifold’ that we see and live in… was        nature of ordinary reality, and the fact that
    more congenial to Coleridge’s mind than… common sense,            visual phenomena hide, not reveal
    scientific rationalism, crude mythopoeia, or simple               ‘substance’” (17). [lines 484-491]
    orthodoxy--the alternatives represented by the wedding
    guest, the sailors, the Spirits and the Hermit
    respectively” (16). [lines 396-429]
                                                                      •  “The dream-state acts as an
    • “Before the Mariner can accept faith,
                                                                         existential parable for the proposition
      repentance, and a true sense of the spiritual                      that our ‘real’ world is appearance,
      order behind phenomena or objects, he must be                      and the world of imagination and
      frightened out of the easy, vulgar, and                            process [is] a spiritual reality” (18).
      commonplace assurance of the ‘reality’ of
      things.” [lines 230-262, 468-471]




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                         The Moral Order
The Mariner’s return “is a return to the ordinary world of sense realism and conventional
order, and requires an adjustment of Imagination to Reason again, the reverse of the one
required as we moved into the world of the poem” (18). [lines 496-513]



                      “In this poem it is the Mariner himself who is the
     “His
 redemptio            living proof of a more serious and deeper moral
 n has taken          order than ours…” (19).
   place in
  the world
      of
                          “The ending is
                       supposed to leave         You must ask: What is the
                       the author, reader,
  symbolic                 and Wedding
                         Guest believing
                                                 value of his journey?
 action, but            that the Mariner’s
   does not             voyage was a real
                         one into the seas
 have status                   of the
  on land.”              Imagination….”




       •  Carried away or                                                             •  Hero journeys
          voluntarily                                                                    through a “world of
                                                                                         unfamiliar yet
          proceeds to the                                                                strangely intimate
          “threshold of                                                                  forces.”
          adventure.”
       • Encounters a “shadow”
         presence that guards the
         passage.
                                       Hero lured              Enters alive or dead
                                     from ordinary             the “kingdom of the
                                                                      dark.”
                                         world.




                                     Threshold Crossing:        Experiences
                                      returns to ordinary         “supreme
                                     world with “reward”        ordeal” at the
                                    that will replenish that   nadir & receives
                                      world or restore it.
                                                                  “reward.”
                                                                                      •  Hero must work to
                                                                                         return to ordinary
                                                                                         world.
                                                                                      • If blessed, will be
                                                                                       helped.




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Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth of the
Hero; Maud Bodkin’s “Night Journey”




      Cambell’s Monomyth Structure--based on Jungian archetypes




  Additional Works Consulted
•  Bodkin, Maud. Archetypal Patterns of Poetry:
   Psychological Studies of Imagination.
   London: Oxford UP, 1934.
•  Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a
   Thousand Faces. Princeton UP: 1972.
•  Hayter, Alethea. Opium and the Romantic
   Imagination. U of California P, 1968.
•  Wheeler, Kathleen M. “The Radiating
   Imagination and the Censorious Reason in
   ‘The Eolian Harp.’” The Creative Mind in
   Coleridge’s Poetry. Harvard UP, 1982.




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