Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Is this Rime a primarily a religious allegory? A green parable? Or is it some amalgamation that escapes a straightforward reading? Write a paper offering your reading.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is the longest poem written by poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It was written in 1797-98 and was subsequently published in 1798 with a collection of poems known as Lyrical Ballads. This poem, along with the other poems in Lyrical Ballads marked the beginning of the English romantic literature and this imaginary tale highlights the symbolic killing of the albatross. It also marked the shift to the modern poetry changing the direction of the English poetry and literature.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner gives an account of the story of a sailor who has just returned from a long sea voyage. The Mariner stops a wedding guest who was on his way to a wedding ceremony. The Mariner then tells the story to the guest and begins with his ship leaving on its voyage. Despite the initial good luck, the ship is driven off to Antarctica by a storm. An albatross appears during the journey and takes them out of the Antarctica. The albatross is praised by all the members of the ship's crew but the Mariner shoots the bird, mentioned in the poem as "with my cross-bow / I shot the albatross." (Keach, 2004) The crew gets angry with the Mariner for killing the bird claiming that albatross was responsible for bringing forth the South Wind that dragged them out of the Antarctic. However, after a while, the crew members forget this act and change their mind when the weather turns warm and the fog disappears. But after a while the oceans gets thickened and the men suffers from the scarcity of water. Some sailors also dreamt that a spirit is also following them beneath the ship. This made the sailors realize that they have made grave mistake while supporting the crime of killing the albatross. They blamed the Mariner for their condition as according to them, it incited the anger and the wrath of the spirits who then follow the ship. The South wind that initially leads them away from ice now pushes the ship into remote waters.
The challenges faced by the sailors forced them to change their mind and they blame Mariner for the torments they suffer. Angry at the act of Mariner, they force the Mariner to wear the dead albatross around his neck perhaps to demonstrates the burden that he must carry out because of killing the albatros ("Instead of the cross, the albatross / About my neck was hung") (Keach, 2004). Eventually, the ship confronts a ghostly vessel. On board of this ship, there are Death and "Night-mare Life-in-Death" (in the form of a pale woman) who plays dice for the souls of the sailors. Through rolling the dice, Death captures the lives of the sailors and Life in Death wins the life of the Mariner. Her name is symbolic in this poem as it seems that Mariner will face a far worse fate than death as a punishment for killing the albatross.
Eventually all the crew members die but the Mariner lives on also suffering from the curse in the eyes of the sailor's corpses for seven days. The Mariner's curse gets lifted temporarily when he sees the sea creatures in the water. Initially the Mariner had cursed these creatures as slimy things" ("Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs / upon the slimy sea") but now he sees them as beautiful things and blesses them ("a spring of love gush'd from my heart and I bless'd them unaware") (Keach, 2004). As the Mariner bends to pray, the dead albatross falls from his neck and his guilt is somewhat absolved. The bodies of the sailors who are possessed by good spirits and drag the ship back home where the ship is drowned into a whirlpool leaving only Mariner alive. The Mariner is then saved by a hermit aided by pilot and pilot's boy in a boat. As a punishment of killing the albatross, the Mariner is forced to wander around the world driven by the sense of guilt. He tells story to everyone he meets and teaches them a lesson. Similarly, after telling his story to the Wedding guest, the Mariner leaves and the guest go back to his house, waking up the next morning as a "sadder and a wise man."
The Rime of Ancient Mariner is the outcome of the wild imagination of Coleridge. This poem explores the theme of sin and its restoration. The poem basically draws attention to the result of violating the nature and the psychological impact that it had on the mind of the Mariner. This poem takes the pieces of symbolism from Greek myths and the Christian scripture. This poem is also considered a religious allegory i.e. Christian allegory that highlights the salvation of Jesus Christ. Some critics also claim that this poem is the self portrayal of Coleridge himself i.e. there is a link between the Mariner's loneliness with Coleridge's own personal feelings of loneliness that was also expressed in his letters and journals. (Whalley, 1947)
This poem has many qualities that would later become affiliated with Romanticism with elements of supernatural and dramatic images of nature. The Mariner's act of shooting the albatross (that initially brought the good fortune to the ship) is shown as an irrational act. The Marine does not offer any rational explanation for his act which angers his crew members. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is unique among the works of Coleridge due to the use of archaic language. The ambiguity of the language and the archaic language gives a sense that it is of ancient age. Critics have attempted many times to discover the theme of this poem. The theme of this poem ranges from Christian allegory to green parable. (McGann, 1985) There are many interpretations that can be drawn from this poem.
The setting of this poem is marked by the natural scenery and the supernatural elements. The setting of this poem is natural and lonely. The poet has put special emphasis on the weather and the astrological elements such as sun, stars etc. The power of the nature in this poem has been unquestionable and the poet has put a great deal in showing how natural world can impose itself over the man. There is also emphasis on the details of the phenomenon such as cracking of ice and the receding shoreline. After the albatross is shot dead by the Mariner, the setting changes its direction to that of supernatural. The wind disappears and the ocean becomes strangely calm. The sun and water also changes its color and the slimy things appear in the ocean. One section of the poem is also marked with dryness when the sailors suffer from thirst and the ghost vessel appears. At this point, the wind dries and the intensity of the sun increases. The supernatural elements are also linked with astrological elements in the poem for e.g. The retribution of the nature comes through the astrological and natural phenomenon.
There are many themes that can be interpreted from this poem. One of the themes is that of pride which is considered an important sin in the Christian writings. While it is not mentioned clearly that why Mariner does kills the bird, it can be inferred that he did that out of his pride. Although he didn't intend to bring the death to the crew members, he must have thought that the arrival of the bird has nothing to do with the good things that were happening. The poem draws its elements from the story of Adam and Eve and weaves it into a new take in man's pride. Another theme of this poem is that of suffering. The suffering through which the Mariner goes through makes him realize of his bad habits. The albatross around his neck also becomes a source of suffering as he had to carry the burden of his sins with him. Hence, this suffering also becomes one of the ways to change his attitude towards things and he realizes that nature is worthy of love.
The theme of isolation is also highlighted in this poem. After what the Mariner has gone through, the Mariner becomes isolated from the rest of the society. It becomes difficult for him to return to the society like normal human beings. The idea of going to the wedding also sounds displeasing to him. At one point of the story, he is left as the only man on the ship and he must therefore suffer from the curse in the eyes of the sailors. Some critics also link the theme of loneliness to the loneliness of Coleridge himself as mentioned in his journals. (Whalley, 1947) This poem also touches the theme of transformation as the Mariner…