‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ is Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s best-known poem it is also Coleridge’s longest poem. It was written over the course of a year from 1797 to 1798 and published immediately after in the first edition of Lyrical Ballads. The poem, along with others, is often cited when speaking about the beginnings of Romanticism in England. Throughout the poem, Coleridge uses literary techniques like personification and repetition while also shifting the mood between peace, fear, and feelings of doom.
Explore The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Part V
After the Mariner’s spiritual peace has been achieved and he’s turned to nature for answers, he’s able to pray again. Then, exhausted, he falls asleep. While sleep, he dreams that it rains and when he wakes it turns out that has infact happened. The supernatural nature of the poem soon reasserts itself though. The dead sailors rise and walk around teh ship without speaking or moving their eyes. The men, the Mariner says, were controlled by angels. Finally the sun rises and the ship sails without a breeze.
Coleridge engages with themes of sins/forgiveness and nature in ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.’ The nature imagery in ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ is impossible to avoid, especially in part V of the poem in which the supernatural and nature come together. Throughout the poem, the poet uses nature as the controlling force in the Mariner’s life, and those of his fellow men. At various points, it appears that nature is on their side, except, of course, after the Mariner makes the mistake of kill the albatross. It’s then that their little bit of luck runs out and they face many stanzas of hardship. The Mariner spends the rest of the poem paying for the one, great sin of killing the bird.
Structure and Form
The text is in short ballad stanzas that are usually four or six lines long. But, some reach as many as nine lines in length. The meter is only sometimes structured. The odd lines are usually in tetrameter while the even lines are in trimeter, features of ballad stanzas. The rhyme scheme is usually either ABAB or ABABAB but there are some alterations, for example, some stanzas rhyme ABCCB or ABAAB.
‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ is a lyrical ballad i.e. a poem written in the form and style of a folk ballad which is usually written by an anonymous person. The ballad is a narrative song-poem, usually relating a single, dramatic incident or story, in a form suitable for singing or rhythmical chanting.
Folk ballads often have sudden dramatic beginnings, are written in the form of a dialogue usually between the narrator and the listeners as well as between characters. The language is simple but there is plenty of repetition and use of archaic words. There is a sudden change of action besides music and rhythm. The poem contains all these characteristics. Hence, it is a ballad although not a folk-ballad.
Coleridge makes use of several literary devices in this part of ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,’ as well as in all the other sections. These include but are not limited to personification, alliteration, repetition, and imagery. The latter is one of the most important techniques a poet can use in their work. Without it, readers might leave the poem interested or unmoved by what they read. For example, “And the rain poured down from one black cloud” and “How they seemed to fill the sea and air / With their sweet jargoning!”
Alliteration is a type of repetition that’s concerned with the use and reuse of the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “pole” and “pole” in line two of the first stanza of the fifth section. Repetition also occurs more broadly in the poem with Coleridge’s use and reuse of refrains, images, and words that begin and end lines (examples of anaphora and epistrophe).
Personification is another technique readers can find throughout ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.’ Coleridge personifies the water, death, and the albatross at various moments in the poem.
Part 5: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Analysis
Oh sleep! it is a gentle thing,
Beloved from pole to pole!
To Mary Queen the praise be given!
She sent the gentle sleep from Heaven,
That slid into my soul.
In this first extract of the poem, The Rime of The Ancient Mariner, by S.T. Coleridge, the mariner says that Oh sleep! – It is a sweet thing. It is loved by the people of the whole world, from the North Pole to the South Pole. He must praise Virgin Mary for her kindness, for she has sent him gentle sleep from Heaven, and it has entered his soul, and he fell asleep. Mary Queen, i.e. Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ’s mother, who is worshipped by Roman Catholic Christians only. But during the Middle Ages she was worshipped by every Christian, since Protestantism was not popular during those times.
The silly buckets on the deck,
That had so long remained,
I dreamt that they were filled with dew;
And when I awoke, it rained.
The mariner says that the simple buckets on the deck had remained empty for a long period. But he dreamt that they were filled with dew. And when he woke up, he found that it was actually raining.
My lips were wet, my throat was cold,
My garments all were dank;
Sure I had drunken in my dreams,
And still my body drank.
He says that his lips were wet with rain-water. His throat was cool. His garments were also all wet. He had surely drunk water while asleep. And his body still absorbed some rain-water.
I moved, and could not feel my limbs:
I was so light—almost
I thought that I had died in sleep,
And was a blessed ghost.
He further says that he walked and his feet were so light that he could not feel any weight in them. His gait was so light that he thought that he had died during his sleep, and was therefore a happy ghost at that time.
And soon I heard a roaring wind:
It did not come anear;
But with its sound it shook the sails,
That were so thin and sere.
In this extract, he soon heard the roaring sound of the wind. Although it did not come near, yet with its loud sound it shook the thin, dry and withered, sails of the ship.
The upper air burst into life!
And a hundred fire-flags sheen,
To and fro they were hurried about!
And to and fro, and in and out,
The wan stars danced between.
And the coming wind did roar more loud,
And the sails did sigh like sedge,
And the rain poured down from one black cloud;
The Moon was at its edge.
Continuing the mariner says that the upper air soon burst into life. And innumerable beautiful, flashes of fire were seen flying to and fro. And among them, pale and sickly stars were also seen dancing to and fro, in and out.
In these lines, he says then the approaching wind began to roar louder than earlier. Its roaring sound made the sails sigh like sedge. Soon it rained heavily from one black cloud. The moon shone at its border.
The thick black cloud was cleft, and still
The Moon was at its side:
Like waters shot from some high crag,
The lightning fell with never a jag,
A river steep and wide.
In the above lines, he says that soon the thick dark cloud got split into two parts. The moon still shone at its border. And from inside the split cloud, there fell down an unbroken sheet of lighting, like a waterfall descending from some high, rough, and steep rock. In appearance, it looked like a wide river descending with great inclination.
The loud wind never reached the ship,
Yet now the ship moved on!
Beneath the lightning and the Moon
The dead men gave a groan.
The roaring wind never struck the sails of the ship. Yet now the ship began to sail on. Soon the dead mariners made a sound of groan, under the influence of the lightning and the moon.
They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose,
Nor spake, nor moved their eyes;
It had been strange, even in a dream,
To have seen those dead men rise.
They (the mariners) groaned, their bodies stirred, and all of them stoop up. But they neither spoke nor moved their eyes. It would be strange to see those dead mariners rise and work, even in a dream, nothing to speak of seeing them rise in real life.
The helmsman steered, the ship moved on;
Yet never a breeze up-blew;
The mariners all ‘gan work the ropes,
Where they were wont to do;
They raised their limbs like lifeless tools—
We were a ghastly crew.
The body of my brother’s son
Stood by me, knee to knee:
The body and I pulled at one rope,
But he said nought to me.
In these lines, the poet through the mariner says that the steersman began to steer the ship, which began to sail on. This happened in spite of the fact that even a breeze was not blowing. All other mariners began to work the ropes, as they used to do. But they used their hands and legs like lifeless tools. The fact was that we were a death-like crew.
In the latter lines, the mariner says that the body of his nephew worked beside him. He and I (the ancient mariner) were working at the same rope. Yet he did not speak to him at all.
‘I fear thee, ancient Mariner!’
Be calm, thou Wedding-Guest!
‘Twas not those souls that fled in pain,
Which to their corses came again,
But a troop of spirits blest:
Now, the Ancient Mariner’s appearance again looked fearful to the Wedding-Guest. So, addressing him, the latter tells that his appearance has again filled him (the wedding guest) with fear. Thereupon the Ancient Mariner tells him not to be afraid of him. He adds that the souls working on the ship were not the dead mariners’ souls that had fled their bodies in pain. As a matter of fact, they were a host of blessed spirits.
For when it dawned—they dropped their arms,
And clustered round the mast;
Sweet sounds rose slowly through their mouths,
And from their bodies passed.
In the last two lines of this extract of the mariner says that it became evident from the fact that at day-break they stopped working and gathered together around the mast. Then sweet sounds passed through their bodies and issued out of their mouths, slowly.
Around, around, flew each sweet sound,
Then darted to the Sun;
Slowly the sounds came back again,
Now mixed, now one by one.
Then each sweet sound traveled around and then shot forth towards the Sun. Gradually the sounds came back again; some of them came back having mixed together, and others returned one by one.
Sometimes a-dropping from the sky
I heard the sky-lark sing;
Sometimes all little birds that are,
How they seemed to fill the sea and air
With their sweet jargoning!
The mariner here says that sometimes he heard the sky-lark’s song dropping from the sky. At other times he heard the chirping of all the existent little birds. And they seemed to fill the atmosphere of the sea and the air with their sweet song of mixed notes.
And now ’twas like all instruments,
Now like a lonely flute;
And now it is an angel’s song,
That makes the heavens be mute.
He, in the following extract, says that then those sounds seemed like the music of all the musical instruments played on together. The next moment there was a single sound like that of a single flute. Another moment, the sound passed as an angel’s song that caused the heavens to be silent.
It ceased; yet still the sails made on
A pleasant noise till noon,
A noise like of a hidden brook
In the leafy month of June,
That to the sleeping woods all night
Singeth a quiet tune.
Continuing his narration, the mariner further says that then the music came to an end. But the sails of the ship also kept on making a sweet noise till noon. The noise was like that of a small stream hidden in the woods, and singing a quiet tune to the sleeping woods, all night in the month of leafy June.
Till noon we quietly sailed on,
Yet never a breeze did breathe:
Slowly and smoothly went the ship,
Moved onward from beneath.
The Ancient Mariner and his fellow men (other mariners) quietly sailed on till noon although no breeze blew at all. The ship sailed on smoothly and slowly, as if some force propelled it from under the bottom.
Under the keel nine fathom deep,
From the land of mist and snow,
The spirit slid: and it was he
That made the ship to go.
The sails at noon left off their tune,
And the ship stood still also.
In the above lines, the mariner tells that the spirit from the land of mist and snow had moved quietly nine fathoms deep under the bottom of the ship. And it was that spirit that caused the ship to sail on, without a wind. Now, at noon, the sails ceased making their noisy tune. And the ship came to a standstill.
The Sun, right up above the mast,
Had fixed her to the ocean:
But in a minute she ‘gan stir,
With a short uneasy motion—
Backwards and forwards half her length
With a short uneasy motion.
The mariner says that at the time the sun shone exactly over the mast. And it seemed that the sun had fixed the ship to the ocean. But in a minute it started moving again, with a short, unsmooth, motion. First, it moved forward, and then backward half her length, and then forward again, with the same uneasy motion.
Then like a pawing horse let go,
She made a sudden bound:
It flung the blood into my head,
And I fell down in a swound.
In the above extract, the mariner says that the ship then suddenly made a bouncing movement, like a pawing horse. The sudden movement made him feel giddy, and he fainted and fell.
How long in that same fit I lay,
I have not to declare;
But ere my living life returned,
I heard and in my soul discerned
Two voices in the air.
Here the mariner says that he does not know how long he remained in the swoon. But before he came to himself, he heard two voices in the air, as if he had a dream, and understood what they said.
‘Is it he?’ quoth one, ‘Is this the man?
By him who died on cross,
With his cruel bow he laid full low
The harmless Albatross.
The mariner in this extract says that one of the voices asked the other whether he was the guilty man. Then swearing by Christ, the voice added that with his cruel bow he had killed the harmless Albatross. In these lines, the mariner shows his repentance, and remorse for the killing of the innocent Albatross.
The spirit who bideth by himself
In the land of mist and snow,
He loved the bird that loved the man
Who shot him with his bow.’
The voice further said that the spirit that lives alone in the region of mist and snow loved the Albatross, while the bird loved him (the Ancient Mariner) who shot it dead with his arrow.
The other was a softer voice,
As soft as honey-dew:
Quoth he, ‘The man hath penance done,
And penance more will do.’
These are the last lines of the fifth part of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, where he says that he believes the speaker was the Spirit of Justice. The other voice was softer than the first one. It was as sweet as honey-dew. And it said that the man i.e. he (the mariner) had already done a good penance, and would do more in the future.
Readers who enjoyed the fifth part of this poem should also read some of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s other best-known poems. For example, ‘Kubla Khan,’ ‘The Knight’s Tomb,‘ and ‘The Pains of Sleep.’ The first of these is also quite well-known. In it, he describes Kubla Khan’s pleasure dome in a dream-like state. ‘The Knight’s Tomb’ is considered an allegory, one that focuses son an image of a blind boy. ‘The Pains of Sleep’ describes a period in the speaker’s life in which he’s plagued by terrible imagery and has trouble getting to sleep.