Symbols in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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In this essay, I will be examining some of the symbols in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem, 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.'; Symbols were very important in this poem. Without the symbols, 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'; would be simply a poem about an old mariner who is telling a story about killing a bird to a guest at a wedding. Of course, anyone who reads the poem can see that there is more to it than just a simple telling of a story.

The first symbol in the poem is the wedding that the guest and the Mariner are at. This is a highly significant detail, because Coleridge could have made the story telling take place at any setting, but he chose a wedding. Why? A wedding is a very religious, very happy occasion. Weddings in and of themselves symbolize new beginnings and happiness. The reason that Coleridge decided to have this horrid tale told at a wedding could be for any number of reasons. I feel that the setting was chosen because of the new beginnings implied. As the Mariner tells his tale, the guest is held captive and when the story is done, the guest becomes essentially a new man and goes off to live the rest of his life. Had the tale taken place at a funeral, the heavy feeling of ending would have destroyed the symbolism of new beginnings. Ending of life, of happiness, of everything. If this had happened, then the fact that he rose the next day would not have been as significant. Therefore, the wedding is a very important symbol throughout the poem.

The albatross is another significant symbol throughout the poem. It first appears in the first section of the poem, and it is a symbol of good omen for the sailors. The albatross is a white bird, which is probably the reason why many Christians of the time saw it as a holy symbol, which made it a good omen. In this poem, the albatross symbolizes good fortune. When the Mariner kills the albatross, for absolutely no reason, the good fortune that has come upon the ship leaves. Symbolically, the Mariner did not kill a simple seabird, but an omen of good fortune and luck, which is why all of the bad things happen to the sailors and the Mariner. The albatross goes from being a symbol of god fortune to one of guilt when it is hung around the Mariner's neck as a sign of what he has done.

'Instead of the cross, the Albatross

About my neck was hung.';

(ln. 142-43)

This macabr...

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... albatross, the blood that the Mariner sucks in order to announce the ship, the game between Death and Life-In-Death, the penance that the Mariner serves, and the cyclic nature of the poem are only a few of the symbols that add meaning and depth to the poem. If it were not for the symbols, the poem would simply be the story of a Mariner telling his tale to a hypnotized wedding guest, and then the poem would have no meaning to anyone. As it is, 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'; is a poem with great depth and meaning, with a lesson that can apply to everyone. When reading this poem, the reader can feel much like the wedding guest, entranced and hypnotized. This is because of the symbols. Even if the reader of the poem does not consciously perceive the symbols in the verse, the subconscious mind will catch them and understand the intrinsic meaning. The symbols in 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner are therefore the part of the poem that makes it so intense.

Works Cited

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. In Seven Parts" (1817 text) in Samuel Taylor Coleridge: A Critical Edition of the Major Works. Ed. H J. Jackson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.

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