The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge intentionally represents “The Ancient Mariner” as an ancient relic or manuscript. Archaic language abounds in the story such as “Eftsoons his hand drops he”. The language used creates the general impression of being in the past or ancient times manifested by such words and expressions as yea, i wist, and Ah wel-a-day.

“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is unique among Coleridge’s important works. It is embellished with archaic language, its longer than most of his works, its moral narrative sounds strange, its scholarly notes written in small type in the margins, its vagueness and the long Latin inscription at the beginning that talks about a number of unknown “invisible creatures” that live in the world. It is indeed a peculiar work, one that does not conform to the era it belonged -Romantic Era. It is impossible to compare it to other Romantic works. All in all, the scholarly notes, the epigraph, and the archaic language achieved to create an impression which was originally intended by Coleridge to make “Rime” appear like a ballad of ancient times.

The archaic ballad is filled with symbolisms that could not be interpreted in a definite way. Some readers believed that Coleridge intended the vagueness of “Rime” as a representation on the ways in which people infer the lessons from the past and the fact that the past is, to a huge extent, simply inexplicable.

The mere title “The Ancient Mariner” makes one fully aware of the presence of formal archaisms or its ancient implications. The effects of those associative devices help create the illusion of an archaic past in this poem. The content of the rarely make use of historical references, events or personages although it make mention of some historical practices. The ancient “feel” in the ballad however is made possible by a number of devices used by Coleridge in this work such as the language, the genre, the presentation of the printed text or the appearance of the poem and the content of the surrounding paraphernalia. It also mentions references to out-dated beliefs and practices.

The story goes this way: the Mariner kills the Albatross whom the seamen see as a symbol of good voyage. His deed incurs the wrath of the forces that govern the universe -the spirit beneath the sea and the dreaded Life-in-Death. It is not clear however if they just happen to appear at the same time or if Life-in-Death is a spirit or not.

The Mariner is able to gain redemption from by regaining his ability to pray when he realizes that the monsters he sees around him are truly beautiful in God’s eyes and that he should treat then with love, the same love he should have accorded to the Albatross that he killed. The final three books of the poem, the Mariner’s encounter with a Hermit will make this message vividly clear. The reader will also come to know the reason why the Mariner needs to stop the Wedding-Guest to relate to him this story.

Coleridge is fond of embellishing this work with scholarly glosses such as the inexplicable “Platonic Constantinopolitan”. Avid readers and analysts maintain that these glosses are, although irrelevant, designed to provide that ancient or archaic feel of the poem. It also enables one to focus on the poem itself and the lesson it is trying to impart which is all creatures are made by God and deserve to be loved whether it is a humble Albatross or the slimy snakes. All is beautiful and lovable in God’s eyes.


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