Rime of the Ancient Mariner

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  • Topic: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Albatross, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
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  • Published : July 20, 2008
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Assignment One - Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

Beyond the shadow of the ship,
I watch'd the water-snakes:
They moved in tracks of shining white,
And when they rear'd, the elfish light
Fell off in hoary flakes.

Within the shadow of the ship
I watch'd their rich attire:
Blue, glossy green, and velvet black,
They coil'd and swam; and every track
Was a flash of golden fire.

O happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gush'd from my heart,
And I bless'd them unaware:
Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
And I bless'd them unaware.

The selfsame moment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea

Consider the above extract from part IV carefully. Offer an analysis of Coleridge’s poetic methods and the concerns in the extract, remembering to comment on its importance for the poem as a whole.

Coleridge’s ballad, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner“, is in essence a story of man’s religious and personal redemption. In Part IV, the poem’s protagonist achieves forgiveness for his sin of killing the Albatross, considered a protective omen by seafarers. In a wider sense, the story of his liberation from guilt presents powerful metaphors for the death of Jesus Christ and the fate of the Mariner is linked, symbolically, with the fate of all mankind. In this sense, the central theme of the poem (and especially of Part IV) can be interpreted as redemption of man by unconditional love of life, living things and all of Creation. This essay will focus on Part IV of this poem outlining key factors into my interpretation of the specific section lines 272-291, however will reference other significant points of the text in line with the ideas put forth in lines 272-291. I will provide comment in relation to the poet’s techniques of symbolism and juxtaposition which are used to convey this message.

Part IV of the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is, in a literal sense, chiefly concerned with the liberation of the Mariner from the curse of “Life-in-Death” and the (partial) forgiveness of the crime of killing the Albatross. It gives insight into the process by which the Mariner's redemption is attained, that is, through regaining his respect for life and living things that had been demonstrably absent earlier in the poem. This disregard was most markedly shown by his slaughter of the Albatross, a friendly omen that had saved the Mariner's vessel from probable disaster. Upon regaining this respect, the Mariner is freed of the weight of the crew's collective guilt and thus from a state of living death. There is, however, sufficient spiritual and specifically Christian symbolism present through the poem to argue that the poem is intended to be interpreted as a Christian allegory and that the lifting of the curse of the Mariner can be equated to the forgiveness of sin by God. In this context, Part IV can be viewed a metaphorical tale of the redemption of Man through the death of Christ or, alternatively, an explanation for how Christ's killers could seek redemption themselves.

Part IV is the climactic point in which the Mariner reaches his lowest ebb but goes on to achieve salvation by blessing the water snakes. Surrounded by the dead bodies of his crew, the Mariner is unable to pray because of his bitterness toward God who would allow the men to die and the "slimy" water snakes to live. Coleridge uses this as a symbol of the original sin of Adam and Eve, as by killing the Albatross he has committed a crime without a purpose. The Mariner is alone with his guilt, as were Adam and Eve and has been kicked out of his own private Paradise after losing his entire crew and being won over by ‘Life in Death’. The Mariner's spiritual dryness is emphasized in lines 243-247 (“1 looked to heaven, and tried to pray But or ever a prayer had gushed, A wicked whisper came, and made My heart as dry as...
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