Samuel Coleridge's poem entitled "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is written as a ballad, in the general form of the traditional ballad of medieval or early Elizabethan times. Coleridge uses the ballad stanza, a four-line stanza. He is able to achieve a richer, more sweeping sense of the supernatural through these expansions; he is able to move beyond the more domesticated kind of supernaturalism of the four-line stanza.
He starts with the usual ballad stanza in the first of the poem, in order to make the reader acquainted with the verse form and with the poetic ethos of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (Beer 34). These early stanzas seem to anchor the reader's mind. But in the twelfth stanza, the pattern changes to a a a b c b. By this time the reader has become at home in the poem. Interestingly, the change occurs, certainly by Coleridge's deliberate intent, at the point in the poem when the Wedding-Guest makes his last major protest to the Mariner. The action of the voyage is about to begin. One example of the variation of the ballad form is that Coleridge throughout the poem will occasionally insert a line that does nothing to further the story (see stanza three, Part II) but that enriches the emotional texture of the poem. Humphry House writes that Coleridge's attraction to the ballad form was probably owing in great measure to the liberation it afforded him from the confines of modern life, a freedom it gave him to move spaciously within the unbounded areas of imaginative creation (103).
My own reading and outside research make it quite clear that there is certainly behind the character of the Mariner in the poem the traditional story of the Wandering Jew. The story ...
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...es not make explanations usually for what he does, at least not in the terms that humans would consider intelligent, one may find himself living in a world where his best efforts at rationality are foolish, considering the terms in which the God Who Acts is acting. There is through all of the Bible the theme of God's wisdom making man's wisdom foolish. And in "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," Coleridge is apparently haunted by this fact.
Beer, J. B., Coleridge the Visionary (New York, 1962).
Bodkin, Maud, Archetypal Patterns in Poetry (London, 1934).
House, Humphry, Coleridge (London, 1953)
Lowes, John Livingston, The Road to Xanadu (Boston, 1964).
Warren, Robert Penn, "A Poem of Pure Imagination," in
edition of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (New York,
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