The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: Structural Critique

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Within the poem considered his most famous work, Samuel Taylor Coleridge uses an abundance of literary devices to contribute to the effect of the poem. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” contains many elements, each of which enhances the way the poem conveys meaning. The extensive use of alliteration, varying metrical patterns, internal and external rhyme, anaphora, caesura, enjambment, and inversion add to the complexity of the structure and the overall meaning of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” which could be interpreted as love for all living things. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is set up in the form of a ballad with seven parts. The poem follows many traditional conventions of ballads; it is a narrative as opposed to a lyric. It tells the story of the mariner and how he came to roam the seas. The stanzas are primarily quatrains, with an occasional sixains; and the rhyme scheme is nearly always abcb, with the sixain varying the scheme. The meter consists of, within the quatrains, a split between iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter. While much of the poem is written in traditional ballad formatting, Coleridge strays from this occasionally; it appears he is not concerned with the form so much as the meaning. To achieve a successful conveyance of the meaning of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” Coleridge uses many literary devices. One of the most prominent is alliteration, which is found in each of the seven parts of the poem. Many of the individual stanzas contain at least one instance of alliteration. From the very first stanza on, Coleridge’s use of similar consonant sounds contributes to the poem. In the first line in stanza three, “he holds him with his skinny hand,” (line 9) five of the eight syllables are alliterative. The use of this repetitive sound pattern continues throughout the stanzas, drawing attention to certain words. In part two, line 126 depicts slimy things crawling “upon the slimy sea” “Yea slimy things did


Cited: Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. "549. Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The Oxford Book of English Verse." 549. Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The Oxford Book of English Verse. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2013.

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