Book: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Author: Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Publisher: taken from Selected Poetry, published by Penguin
Format Read: Paperback
“And now the STORM-BLAST came, and he
Was tyrannous and strong:
He struck with his o’ertaking wings,
And chased us south along.”
– The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
A bit of poetry for this post.
The “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” was part of my school syllabus, and I was eleven or twelve years old when I read it first. “The Rime…” is a haunting, eerie poem with ghostly undercurrents.
In the beginning, a hapless wedding guest is accosted by a mysterious mariner – the ancient mariner – and thereupon begins a tale of damnation. The wedding guest is flustered, because he is getting late for the ceremony, and yet he holds no power over the hypnotic story of the ancient mariner and ends up listening to him.
There are memorable lines in “The Rime…” and an allegory woven into the poem, all to do with an albatross. Sailors die and are resurrected, the ship sails on, and the ancient mariner recalls all of it with a strange, trance like clarity. Much to the wedding guest’s chagrin, he’s entranced by the mariner’s tale that is reminiscent of a waking nightmare. The ancient mariner, in a moment of madness, shoots the innocent albatross – and spells doom for his fellow mariners and their ship. It is unclear how old he is, but it is clear that is he condemned to the un-life, and hopeless wandering.
The poem touches on the human experience with the supernatural, and the use of rhyme is particularly evocative. The forces of nature, as the ancient mariner discovers, are not benevolent, and the albatross, such a mundane bird, eventually has ties to greater unseen mysteries.
“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is one of my favourite poems. It has it all – ghostly whispers and allegory, the human experience, and a flowing cadence to its lines. Lines read many years ago in that old school textbook remain in my mind today. Perhaps that is what made the poem so appealing – it is beautifully narrated, a compelling work that drew me to it over and over again.