Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner Essay

Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner Essay

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Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner


In Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner the reader finds an enduring tale. Although the poem is nearly 200 years old it remains a popular piece by way of the novel juxtapositions and contradictions that are so eloquently described that the reader is both drawn in by the logic of the descriptions as well as fascinated by the complete unreality depicted in the poem. It is highly unlikely anyone could claim an understanding of the events told by the Ancient Mariner—the reader today, as well as in Coleridge’s time is akin to the man in the wedding party, listening to the Mariner’s tale with a mix of horror, astonishment and disbelief. However, also like this man we are compelled to continue reading (in his case listening) to the story and are left changed by it. Today’s reader is more profoundly affected by the intricacies of Coleridge’s ideas than the man confronted by an eerie old man in the poem. This reader found the juxtaposition of living versus non-living things particularly gruesome and compelling for it is the backbone of this and any horror(ific) story.

The poem begins by putting into conversation the Ancient Mariner, one already near death and the young wedding guest. The mariner is at points in the poem feared to be one already among the dead or spirit world as he tells his tale of a most surreal and fatal sea passage, whereas Coleridge chooses a wedding, an event where two lives are just beginning as one, and picks a young man who is described as listening to the story “like a three-years’ child.” (Line 19) A three year old being one who has just begun his life. By setting this scene with these two characters, Coleridge has already contrasted elements of t...


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...ot and come back to life to perform their functions, then die again and rise up once more

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is swollen with imagery of life, lifelessness, and death but not with any traditional descriptions. Coleridge is able to change the nature of death and life to fit his needs and the needs of his story. At the conclusion of the poem we the reader and the wedding guest are left “sadder and a wiser man” (Line 624) with lesson of what can happen if you are not good to your fellow creatures. While this moral holds true to the cause of the curse through the death of the Albatross it seems a strange ending to a much more morbid story. The blurring and crossing over of concrete concept is the real gift the reader is left to ponder. This talent for manipulation adds to the attraction of the poem and to the lengthened popularity of Coleridge’s works.

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