Satisfying Sound Devices

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“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” tells the story of a mariner seeking atonement for his sin of shooting an albatross. Several themes are brought up during the poem as the Mariner tells his story to the Wedding Guest, including sin, guilt, isolation, penance, forgiveness, and atonement. Author Samuel Taylor Coleridge uses several types of sound devices to enhance the meter and rhyme of the poem written in seven main parts. In “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Coleridge uses sound devices such as alliteration, onomatopoeia, consonants, assonance, internal rhymes, and end rhymes to heighten the meaning, mood, and imagery of the poem.

In lines 7 through 8 of the poem, Coleridge uses consonance in the words “guests,” “feast,” and “May’st.” Repeating the “st” sound here emphasizes the images of a busy, bustling wedding scene, the first scene of the poem Coleridge establishes. In lines 9 through 12, Coleridge uses alliteration in the words “He,” “holds,” “his,” “hand,” and “he,” forcing the reader to somewhat whisper during a slower-paced moment. The scene is strange in that the ancient Mariner stops and hypnotizes the Wedding Guest into listening to his story amidst all of the activity. Coleridge emphasizes the contrast between the two actions with the usage of contrasting sound devices.

Line 7 also contains internal rhyme with the words “met” and “set,” neat, tidy-sounding rhymes. Coleridge establishes the wedding as an orderly event, so the surprise telling of the Mariner’s story is emphasized. Internal rhyme is also used in a similar way in lines 21 and 27: respectively, “cheered” and “cleared” rhyme, then “bright” and “right” rhyme. In the first part of the Mariner’s story, the ship sails southward without a hitch. These monosyllabic internal rhymes create a small harmony to make the reader feel the success of the ship’s journey—so far, at least.

In lines 31 through 33, alliteration is used in the use of the words “beat,” “breast,” “bassoon,” and “bride.”...
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