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Rime of the Ancient Mariner

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A poem by S. T. Coleridge, published 1798 in Lyrical Ballads.

An ancient mariner meets three gallants on their way to a marriage feast, and detains one of them in order to recount his story. He tells how his ship was drawn towards the South Pole by a storm. When the ship is surrounded by ice an albatross flies through the fog and is received with joy by the crew, but is then, inexplicably, shot by the mariner. For this act of cruelty a curse falls on the ship. She is driven north to the Equator and is becalmed under burning sun in a rotting sea. The albatross is hung round the neck of the hated mariner. A skeleton ship approaches, on which Death and Life‐in‐Death are playing dice, and when it vanishes all the crew die except the mariner. Suddenly, watching the beauty of the water‐snakes in the moonlight, he blesses them,– and the albatross falls from his neck. The ship sails home and the mariner is saved, but for a penance he is condemned to travel from land to land and to teach by his example love and reverence for all God's creatures.

J. L. Lowes, in The Road to Xanadu (1927), traces the sources of Coleridge's story and imagery.

Subjects: Literature

Reference entries

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772—1834) poet, critic, and philosopher