Christian and Biblical References Hidden Within “the Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

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Mike Peirce
Professor: Mahlika Hopwood
Text & Context: Imagination and Reality
Due: March 8th, 2012

Christian and Biblical References Hidden Within “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

Christian and Biblical references have been involved in the craft of writing since the birth of religion; or at earliest, the composition of the Bible. Biblical Symbolism in “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem, which was written in 1797, has been widely discussed throughout literary history. Although critics have come up with many different interpretations of this poem, one idea that has remained prevalent throughout these discussions is the apparent religious symbolism present throughout this poem. The Ancient Mariner contains natural, and biblical symbolism; however, the religious and natural symbolisms, which coincide with one another, play the most important roles in this poem. Apocalyptic and natural symbolism dominates the core of this poem. The biblical symbolism found in this poem mainly reflects the apocalypse, as it deals with the Mariner's revelation that good will triumph over evil, and his acceptance of all nature as God's creation.

Beginning with the main issues surrounding “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” it is impossible to believe that Coleridge was not thinking of the mysterious wind that blows on the Mariner, without any awareness of the wind as a Biblical symbol of the Holy Spirit. Coleridge could also associate the murder of the albatross with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The reader is told that the Polar Spirit “loved the bird that loved the man / Who shot him with his bow” (Line 404). Signifying a strong tie/bond between the two. This bond not only relates to the ‘love between the man and the bird,’ but rather, the connection between an individual and religion. It is doubtful that someone with Coleridge’s Christian background and faith could fail to see an analogy with God who loved his son who loved the men that killed him. Trying to further understand the symbolism tied into this poem, it is important to take other sections of the piece into account. Another example of symbolism is the fact that the albatross is hung around the Mariner’s neck like a crucifix. “Ah! Well-a-day! What Evil Looks / Had I from old and young! / Instead of the cross, the Albatross / About my neck was hung” (Line 139). As Coleridge writes, the image of the Albatross slung around the neck of the Mariner symbolizes the crucifixion of Christ. The crucifixion of Christ has been discussed for centuries; this Biblical reference of this image is immense. Through the use of words, Coleridge is able to portray a sense of darkness and a loss of hope, comparable to loss of hope when our savior Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross. Looking deeper into the mind of Coleridge and further analyzing his work, another abstract approach to viewing the death of spiritual and/or Biblical reference can be seen by dissecting the text. The “cross” in “cross-bow” hints at the murder of Jesus, which logically places the albatross as a symbol for Christ. Since the publication of Coleridge’s piece “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” It is thought by many literary experts that Coleridge deliberately created these symbols and images with Christian meaning in mind; but if true, why? In order for Coleridge to encapsulate the readers full attention and challenge their knowledge these truly hidden symbolisms and literary techniques are needed.

Coleridge further attempts to navigate his readers though this work by using references and wording that individual’s can connect with. The apocalypse is heavily reflected upon throughout this poem as Coleridge combined the vivid colors, the ocean, and the death fires of “The Ancient Mariner” with the terror and desolation of the days of wrath in order to symbolize the true apocalypse.

“Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down, / ‘Twas sad as sad could be; / And...
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