The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

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Megan Gillan
Mr. Adriano
Friday February 25, 2011
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Death-in-Life means to be living in a constant fear or thought of death, or a feeling that the soul is damned but the body remains. Life-in-Death suggests the idea that the soul will continue but the body will deteriorate. In the poem “the Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the paradox of death-in-life and life-in-death is a consistent theme throughout this piece of literature. The sailor’s corpses, the constant aging of the mariner’s body and the gamble of death and life suggest this theme in Coleridge’s poem.

When a person’s heart stops pumping blood, the average amount of time for the body to start decomposing is four to six days. This average is dependent upon the temperature the body is kept; if it is hot and in the sun the body will decompose much faster than in colder climates. In Coleridge’s poem the sailor’s bodies are in the sun for seven days, yet they refuse to be subjected to the ravages of time. “The many men so beautiful / and they all dead did lie / and a thousand thousand slimy things lived on; / and so did I / ... The cold sweat melted from their limbs / nor rot or reek did they: / the look with which they looked on me / had never passed away / ... Seven days, seven nights, / I saw that curse and yet could not die” (Coleridge, IV, 1817). The sailor’s corpses stay intact while their souls escape, leaving the mariner with the visible token of the living death that awaits.

The wedding Guest proclaims to fear the Mariner because he looks so skinny and aged. “I fear thee and thy glittering eye, / And thy skinny hand, so brown. / Fear not, fear not, thou Wedding-Guest! / This body dropt not down. / Alone, alone, all, all alone, / Alone on a wide wide sea! / And never a saint took pity on / My soul in agony” (Coleridge, IV, 1817). The Mariner explains that his soul is trapped in his...
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