The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by yurtgc548


Samuel Taylor Coleridge

   An archaic spelling of “rhyme”
   Frost
   A coating of ice, as on grass and trees,
    formed when extremely cold water
    droplets freeze almost instantly on a
    cold surface
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      Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
   Friend of William Wordsworth (dissolution of
    friendship), Both men loved poetry, discussed it
   Both fierce partisans of the French Revolution
   Radical politics at Cambridge
   Lovers of nature (Lake District of England),
    enjoyed walks
   Friends help each other, encourage, challenge each
   Known as Lake writers
   A voracious reader
   Married Sara Fricker
      Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
 Fantasies, imagination, retreated into books
 Suffered from poor health and self-doubt
 Born on the Devon coast of England
 Youngest of 10 children
 His father died when he was 9 years old
 Schooled in London and then to Cambridge University
 A riveting (fascinating) public speaker--Mesmerizing his
 Planned a Utopian settlement in PA, inspired by the French
 Romantic writer, poet = celebrated the strange and exotic

       Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
   Suffered from asthma and rheumatism
   Addicted to pain killers which dulled his creativity
   Spent 2 years in Malta and traveled through Italy for
    his health
   Marriage collapsed
   Separated from his wife, moved near Wordsworth
   Wrote on many subjects,
   Lectured on Shakespeare and Milton
   Mary Shelley admired Coleridge
   **His writing included a magical blend of thought and
    emotion in which the unreal becomes compellingly real
         The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
   When this was written, England was developing a
    middle class with money and time for reading as
    pass time
   Written during the Romantic Movement
   Language of fantasy in which Coleridge builds his
    dream world
   Uses archaic words
   **Centered around a crime at sea
   **Illustrates torment of guilt
   **Horror of complete isolation
   The Mariner’s struggle to redeem himself and escape
    his isolation captures the inter dependence of
    humanity and nature, the necessity for respect, order,
    and mercy among all living creatures, and the healing
    power of love.                                     6
                   Poem’s Structure
   “Written in loose, short ballad stanzas usually either
    four or six lines long but, occasionally, as many as
    nine lines long.
   The meter is also somewhat loose,
   The rhymes generally alternate in an ABAB or
    ABABAB scheme, though again there are many
    exceptions; the nine-line stanza in Part III, for
    instance, rhymes AABCCBDDB.
   Many stanzas include couplets in this way--five-
    line stanzas, for example, are rhymed ABCCB, often
    with an internal rhyme in the first line, or ABAAB,
    without the internal rhyme
Ancient Mariner Old sailor who roams from country to
                country to tell a strange tale.
Wedding Guest Man on the way to a wedding reception
                with two other men. The mariner
                singles out the wedding guest to hear
                his tale.
Two Hundred Crewmen Ill-fated members of the ship
                carrying the mariner.
Pilot Boatman who rescues the mariner. (A pilot is an
                official who guides ships into and out
3/23/2009     Mrs. Billet Read 726-753 Questions 753, 748   8
   Hermit Holy man who absolves (forgives) the mariner and
    hears his story.
   Albatross Large, web-footed sea bird with a hooked
    bill. Most species of albatrosses wander the southern
    seas, from tropical regions down to Antarctica, drinking
    sea water and feeding on squid, cuttlefish, and other small
    sea creatures. Sometimes, they follow ships to feed on
    their garbage. Albatrosses have an astonishing ability to
    glide in the wind, sometimes for hours, but have difficulty
    staying aloft without a wind. In the latter case, they sit on
    the water to rest or sleep. When it is time to breed, they
    go ashore.. An old superstition says killing an albatross
    brings bad luck, although sailors have been known to kill
    and eat them.
   This poem helped make this superstition common
    knowledge throughout the world among landlubbers as
    well as sailors. Mrs. Billet Read 726-753 Questions 753, 748
    3/23/2009                                                    9
     Specter Woman= Woman-Life-in-Death
      Red lips, her locks were yellow as gold, her skin was as
      white as leprosy
     Death-mate

    3/23/2009      Mrs. Billet Read 726-753 Questions 753, 748   10
    The time is the late Middle Ages. The places are
     as follows: (1) a street or byway in a locale with
     a hall in which a wedding reception is being held;
     (2) a sailing ship with 201 crew members,
     including the ancient mariner; (3) the Atlantic
     Ocean; (4) the South Pole; (4) the Pacific Ocean;
     (5) the mariner’s native country (undisclosed).
    The atmosphere is ghostly and mysterious.

3/23/2009       Mrs. Billet Read 726-753 Questions 753, 748   11

                        Summary 1
   Three men are on their way to a wedding reception when
    an old sailor stops one of them to tell him a story. So
    eager is the old fellow to tell his tale that he raises on
    hand to prevent the wedding guest from moving on. The
    mariner then begins the story–“There was a ship”–but is
    unable to continue because the wedding guest angrily
    orders the mariner to cease blocking his way.

   But after the old man lowers his hand, the guest cannot
    continue on, for he is hypnotized by the mariner’s
    “glittering eye.” Like a three-year-old child eager for a
    wonderful story, the guest sits on a rock and listens.

   The mariner says the ship sailed southward on the
    Atlantic Ocean with a fair wind. The sun rose from the
    sea, crossed the sky, and sank in the west in its daily
    ritual as all went well while ship sailed onward day after
    day. Even though the wedding guest hears music from the
    nearby wedding celebration, he keeps his attention riveted
                         Summary 2
   Alas, a great storm came, the mariner says, driving the
    ship farther south to Antarctica. Everywhere the
    crewmen looked they saw ice.
   Then, out of the fog, a great sea bird appeared–an
    albatross. And, wonder of wonders, the ice around the
    ship cracked, and the ship picked up a wind and sailed
    north. The albatross, was a good omen. It came to the
    ship every day, answering the mariner's “hollo!” It played.
    It ate of the crewmen’s food. During the evening religious
    services, called vespers, it perched on a mast or a rope.
   Then one day, the mariner shot the bird with his
    crossbow. The rest of the crew condemned his cruel act,
    saying he had “killed the bird / That made the breeze to
    blow.” However, when the fog disappeared and the sun
    shone gloriously, they approved the act, saying he “had
    killed the bird / That brought the fog and mist.” And so,
    the crew became partners in his crime.
   But not long afterward, the sails fell as the air grew still.
    Day after day, under a boiling sun, the ship hardly moved. 14
                          Summary 3
   And the men thirsted–in the middle of an ocean with water
    everywhere. They beheld a fire dancing on the ropes and
    chains that control the masts–an ill omen. (St. Elmo’s fire).
    Blaming the mariner for their woes, the crewmen hung the
    dead albatross around his neck.
   Weakened with thirst and fatigue, the mariner beheld a
    sign in the sky–a mere speck that grew into a mist and
    took shape upon its approach. It appeared to be a ship.
    The men were heartened. But what kind of ship moves
    without a wind? When the sun was setting, the vessel
    drew near and revealed itself as a ghostly “skeleton ship”
    with only two crew members. One was a specter woman–
    “Life-in-Death”–with red lips, yellow hair, and white skin.
    The other was her mate, Death. They rolled dice for the
    crewmen, and Death won everyone except the ancient
    mariner. He was the prize of Life-in-Death.               15
                       Summary 4
 All the crew–200 men–then dropped dead one by one, all
  except the mariner. Their souls flew by him, to heaven or
  hell, like arrows shot from a crossbow.
 The wedding guest interrupts the narrative at this point to
  express his fear of the mariner. After all, the old man
  could also be a departed soul, a ghost.
 But the mariner assures him that he is flesh and blood,
  then continues his tale.
 Now he was alone on the ocean with only slimy sea
  creatures to keep him company. He tried to pray but
  failed. The lifeless crewmen, meanwhile, looked up at him
  with a never-changing gaze, fixed by death. For seven
  days and nights, he endured their gaze.

                         Summary 5
   During this time, at night in the moonlight, he watched the
    water snakes–“blue, glossy green, and velvet black”–swim
    and coil. Their sleek beauty touched him, and he found
    himself blessing them.
   He was beginning to regret shooting the albatross.
   The spell begins to break: Suddenly, the albatross fell from
    his neck and sank into the sea.
   And then the mariner slipped into a gentle sleep, for which
    he thanked Mary, the holy Mother who is Queen of
    heaven. When he awakened, rain was falling and wind was
    roaring. Although the wind did not reach the ship, the ship
    began to move–and the dead crewmen rose to man the
    ship–steering, tugging the ropes. The body of his brother’s
    son helped him pull on a rope, though he spoke no words.

                         Summary 6
   The wedding guest again interrupts to express his fear. But
    the mariner again calms him and resumes the story, as
   At dawn, the ghostly crewmen let loose the ropes and
    made a “sweet sound” mingled with the songs of birds. It
    was an angelic symphony.
   The ship sailed on. A spirit, it seemed, was moving the
    ship. Then the ship began to rock and bob–and suddenly
    lurched forward, causing the mariner to fall in a faint.
   When he came to, he heard two spirit voices.
      One asked whether this was the man who shot the
      The other, confirming that it was, said the mariner had
       done penance for his wrongdoing but still had more
       penance to do.                                        18
                       Summary 7
   The ship began to sail northward at such a great
    speed that the mariner went into a trance. When the
    mariner woke up, the ship was sailing gently onward.
    All the dead crewmen were standing together, staring
    at the mariner. A wind–like a gale across a meadow in
    the spring–began to blow, tousling the mariner’s hair.
   The ship picked up speed and soon the mariner saw a
    lighthouse, a hill, and a church.
   The water in the harbor bay was calm, reflecting the
    light of the moon. On the ship, the corpses were no
    longer standing but lying “lifeless and flat.” Over each
    body was a seraph (an angel), giving off a heavenly
    light that could be seen on the shore.
                         Summary 8
   Soon a boat came rowing forth carrying a Pilot, the Pilot’s
    boy, and a “Hermit good” singing hymns.
   The Hermit, who lived in woods near the sea and knelt on
    moss to pray, loved to talk with sailors from afar. When
    the boat drew close, the mariner heard them say that the
    ship looked strange. “It hath a fiendish look,” the Pilot
   Suddenly, the ship sank, rumbling down and leaving the
    mariner floating helplessly.
   But in a moment he was in the Pilot’s boat, which whirled
    round and round.
   When seeing the mariner’s face, the Pilot fell down in a fit
    and the Hermit prayed.
   The mariner took up oars and began rowing. At that, the
    boy laughed, observing that “the Devil knows how to       20
                          Summary 9
   After the boat reached land, the mariner begged the
    Hermit to hear his confession and absolve him of his sins.
   And the mariner told him his tale. Since that the time, the
    mariner says, he has felt a compulsion to travel from land
    to land. It is his penance.
   Whenever he remembers his experience at sea–the terror
    of it all–he must stop someone to tell him his story in
    order to relieve his agony..
   The wedding celebration continues while the mariner
    hears a vesper bell calling him to prayer.
   It is far sweeter to him to pray to God, he says, than it
    would be to enjoy the pleasure of a wedding celebration.
    The mariner notes that a man prays best “who loveth
    best / All things both great and small”–that is, who loves
    all of the things that God created.
   The mariner then walks on. So does the wedding guest,
    as if stunned. But he is a “sadder and wiser man.”        21
                         Symbolism 1
   The Ancient Mariner as Adam
      Adam committed the original sin that brought woe upon
        mankind. The original sin in this context is the killing of
        the albatross. The crewmen are inheritors of the
        mariner’s original sin, just as Christians are inheritors
        of Adam’s original sin. As the mariner says, "And I had
        done an hellish thing, And it would work 'em woe."
      The Ancient Mariner as Christian Sinner
     When the ancient mariner kills the albatross (described
      in the poem as a holy thing “hailed in God’s name"), he is
      like the Christian who commits sins for which Christ died
      on the cross.

   Crossbow as Christ's Cross
      The mariner shoots the albatross with a crossbow, a
       weapon with the same shape as the cross on which
       Christ died.
   Ghost Ship as Wages of Sin
      The ghostly skeleton ship carries Death and Life-in-
      Death, of course, is a consequence of original sin. Life-
       in-Death is the loneliness, the separation from God, that
       a sinner encounters before dying.
   Pilot
      The boat Pilot rescues the mariner after the ship sinks,
       representing the saving grace of a merciful God.

   Hermit
      The Hermit represents redemption. He hears the
       mariner's confession and pronounces a penance,
       requiring the mariner to tell his tale the world over to
       warn others of the consequences of sin.
      Wedding Celebration
     Everyday life that continues merrily without its
      participants' full knowledge and respect of the higher
      rules of the universe. As part of his penance, the mariner
      educates one of the wedding guests about the
      importance abiding by the laws of God. The scene of a
      wedding celebration is, of course, an excellent place for
      the mariner to tell his story. After all, a marriage is a
      beginning, and new life will come from it. Perhaps the
      wedding guest who walks on at the end of the poem will    24

3/23/2009     Mrs. Billet Read 726-753 Questions 753, 748   25

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