The poem, The Rime of The Ancient Mariner, by S.T. Coleridge is about how the Ancient Mariner’s ship sailed past the Equator, and how it was driven by storms to the cold regions towards the South Pole; from there she sailed (the ship) sailed back to the tropical Latitude of the Pacific Oceans; how the Ancient Mariner cruelly and inhospitably killed a sea-bird called Albatross, and how he (the mariner) was followed by many and strange distresses; and also how he could come back to his own country.
Part 6: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Analysis
‘But tell me, tell me! speak again,
Thy soft response renewing—
What makes that ship drive on so fast?
What is the ocean doing?’
This is the first stanza of the sixth part of the poem, The Rime of The Ancient Mariner, wherein the ancient mariner talks about the two invisible voices whom he calls spirits and says that the first voice asked the other to tell it, in its soft voice, how the ship is sailing on, so fast, and what the ocean is doing.
Still as a slave before his lord,
The ocean hath no blast;
His great bright eye most silently
Up to the Moon is cast—
If he may know which way to go;
For she guides him smooth or grim.
See, brother, see! how graciously
She looketh down on him.’
In the above two extracts, the mariner says receives replies from the second voice, which says that the ocean is as submissive as a slave before his master. For it is not affected by any strong gust. His great bright surface is like his bright eye. And it is looking at the moon most silently as if to know how it should behave. For the moon guides the ocean to be either smooth or stormy. The second voice then asked the first to note how graciously the moon looks down on the ocean.
‘But why drives on that ship so fast,
Without or wave or wind?’
Therefore the first voice again asks the second as to what force drives the ship so fast, without a tide or a wind.
‘The air is cut away before,
And closes from behind.
In this part the second voice replies that the air in front of the ship is being cut to cause a vacuum. And the wind is pushing the ship onward from behind. That is how the ship is sailing fast, without a tide or a wind against the sails.
Fly, brother, fly! more high, more high!
Or we shall be belated:
For slow and slow that ship will go,
When the Mariner’s trance is abated.’
Addressing the other voice as “brother”, the second voice, in these lines, then told the first one that they had better fly higher and higher; else they would be late for their place. It added that when mariner came to himself, the ship would sail more and more slowly.
I woke, and we were sailing on
As in a gentle weather:
‘Twas night, calm night, the moon was high;
The dead men stood together.
When he (the mariner) regained consciousness, he found that the ship was sailing on as smoothly as in a fair weather. It was a calm night. And the moon was shining on high. The dead mariners were standing together.
All stood together on the deck,
For a charnel-dungeon fitter:
All fixed on me their stony eyes,
That in the Moon did glitter.
All of them stood together, on the deck. They looked ghastly, fitter to be thrown into an underground cell meant for the bones of the dead. All of them had fixed on him their eyes which sparkled in the moonlight.
The pang, the curse, with which they died,
Had never passed away:
I could not draw my eyes from theirs,
Nor turn them up to pray.
Yet the great pain and the cursing looks with which they had died never disappeared from their eyes. He could neither draw his eyes away from theirs, nor could turn his eyes upwards to pray to God.
And now this spell was snapt: once more
I viewed the ocean green,
And looked far forth, yet little saw
Of what had else been seen—
The mariner says that and now the rigour of this curse was broken. Once more he observed the green ocean he looked far into its expanse. But he noticed little of what he had seen earlier (he means the burning waters of the ocean, its slimy surface with crawling creatures, etc.)
Like one, that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.
He says he was like a man who walked fearfully, or rather dreadfully, along a lonely road, and who having once turned round was afraid of turning round again, and so walked on, believing that a terrible devil was closely chasing him.
But soon there breathed a wind on me,
Nor sound nor motion made:
Its path was not upon the sea,
In ripple or in shade.
But soon he (the mariner) felt that a gentle breeze was blowing on him. The breeze neither had a sound nor a motion. Its movement did not affect the surface of the ocean. For it did not cause any ripples in the water. Nor did it cause any change of shades in the sea-water.
It raised my hair, it fanned my cheek
Like a meadow-gale of spring—
It mingled strangely with my fears,
Yet it felt like a welcoming.
The mariner says that it ruffled his hair and fanned his cheeks, like a strong wind of the spring in a meadow. It strangely intensified his fears for a moment. Yet it finally cast a pleasant effect on him.
Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship,
Yet she sailed softly too:
Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze—
On me alone it blew.
The mariner says that the ship sailed on speedily, but quietly. The breeze blew pleasantly and pleasantly, but on me alone.
Oh! dream of joy! is this indeed
The light-house top I see?
Is this the hill? is this the kirk?
Is this mine own countree?
The mariner says that just then he noticed a pleasant sight of his dreams. He saw the light-house top, the hill, and the church, of his own country. And he asked himself joyfully whether they were not the things of his native land.
We drifted o’er the harbour-bar,
And I with sobs did pray—
O let me be awake, my God!
Or let me sleep alway.
The ship crossed the harbour bar. Filled with sobs of joy, he (the ancient mariner) prayed to God that he might either recover his consciousness in full or go to everlasting sleep.
The harbour-bay was clear as glass,
So smoothly it was strewn!
And on the bay the moonlight lay,
And the shadow of the Moon.
The mariner says the surface of the bay-water had been levelled by the calm weather so smoothly that the bay water was as clear as a glass. The moonlight lay upon it, and the reflection of the moon clearly reflected in it.
The rock shone bright, the kirk no less,
That stands above the rock:
The moonlight steeped in silentness
The steady weathercock.
He says that the hill, as well as the church that stood on it, shone bright. The motionless weather-cock of the church was bathed in white moonlight and made silent. That is the rock was shining bright, and the kirk was also not shining less. Through these lines, the poet says that the hill, no less than the church standing upon it, shone bright. The moonlight lay over the by and its surroundings. There was rule of silence all around. Even the weathercock stood still, since there was no wind at all.
And the bay was white with silent light,
Till rising from the same,
Full many shapes, that shadows were,
In crimson colours came.
The bay was silent and bathed in white moonlight. But presently he noticed several crimson-coloured shadow shapes rising from the mariners’ ship and extending over the bay.
A little distance from the prow
Those crimson shadows were:
I turned my eyes upon the deck—
Oh, Christ! what saw I there!
The mariner says he noticed that those crimson shadows meaning those rich deep red shadow were rising) extended over a little distance from the pointed front of the ship. So he had to turn his eyes towards the deck, and was dazed to see a strange sight there.
Each corse lay flat, lifeless and flat,
And, by the holy rood!
A man all light, a seraph-man,
On every corse there stood.
He says he saw each mariner’s dead body lay flat, and lifeless. Yes, it lay dead and flat, by the cross of Christ. Further, an angel, all bathed in light, came and stood by every dead body. The crimson shadows he had seen were the reflected images of those angels’ bodies.
This seraph-band, each waved his hand:
It was a heavenly sight!
They stood as signals to the land,
Each one a lovely light;
It was a band of seraphs. Each of them waved his hand towards him (the mariner) or towards the people on the shore. It was a heavenly sight. They stood as signals to the people on the shore. Each one of them was a lovely light.
This seraph-band, each waved his hand,
No voice did they impart—
No voice; but oh! the silence sank
Like music on my heart.
This was a host of seraphs. Each of them waved his hand towards the shore. But none of them uttered a word –Yes, no voice emanated from the mouth of anyone of them. But, ah, their very silence, like music, made a deep impression on my soul.
But soon I heard the dash of oars,
I heard the Pilot’s cheer;
My head was turned perforce away
And I saw a boat appear.
But soon the mariner heard the splashes of boat-oars. He also heard them the pilot’s shout of welcome. So, of necessity, he turned his head towards the shout and noticed a boat coming towards his ship.
The Pilot and the Pilot’s boy,
I heard them coming fast:
Dear Lord in Heaven! it was a joy
The dead men could not blast.
He noticed the pilot and his boy in the boat, and he heard them coming fast. Full of joy, he prayed to God in Heaven, thankfully. My joy was so intense that even the presence of the dead bodies on the deck could not spoil its effect.
I saw a third—I heard his voice:
It is the Hermit good!
He singeth loud his godly hymns
That he makes in the wood.
He’ll shrieve my soul, he’ll wash away
The Albatross’s blood.
This is the last extract of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner wherein the mariner says that he also noticed a third man in the boat. He also heard his voice. It was a familiar hermit who used to make pious hymns in the woods and sing them loudly with a fervent heart. He (the mariner) immediately thought that he would hear his confession, free his soul from the guilt, and wash away the curse of the sin of killing the Albatross.