Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Essay

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Essay

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is a poem about a lone sailor who survives a disastrous voyage at sea. Believing himself to be responsible for this tragedy he dooms himself to recount his tale to strangers. The most common interpretation of this poem is the religious view of crime and punishment. Early in the poem the Mariner shoots an albatross a symbol of good luck. Since it is a moral wrong to shoot the albatross, for you are supposed to love “all things both great and small”, the crew eventually was punished. The Mariner’s punishment was to live a “life-in-death” by repenting and telling his story. His shipmates were punished by death for their crime of praising the death of the Albatross. The Albatross is also supposed to represent Jesus and Jesus’s crucifixion when hung around the Mariner’s neck. While there is no denying the religious symbolism I argue that the moral: to love all things great and small is not Coleridge’s the true message. Coleridge was known to have suffered from various mental disorders such as depression. His own depression is reflected in his writing, specifically, in his character the ancient mariner. Coleridge is also a storyteller like the Mariner. They both tell their own stories and we must separate Coleridge’s story from the Mariner’s.
Though, first, we must make try to make sense of the explicitly stated moral:
He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all. (lines 614-617)
What the Mariner learns from his whole ordeal is that we should love all of God’s creatures. He seeks to spread this message around, but the “crime” does not fit the punishment. The death of an albatross does not...


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...est sad. It is due to the Wedding-Guest seeing what guilt can do to a man. We, as readers, are Coleridge’s Wedding-Guest. Coleridge writes a story within a story and makes us believe the Mariner’s story as Coleridge’s own. Though, by separating both stories from each storyteller we see that Coleridge’s story is about forgiving oneself from guilt. The Mariner was unable to do this ever since his youth and, thus suffered for the rest of his life.
















Works Cited
Coleridge, Samuel. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” The Broadview Anthology of British Literature The Age of Romanticism. Ed. Joseph Black ... [et al.]. 2nd ed. Buffalo: Broadview Press, 2012. 415-424. Print.
White, Harry. "Coleridge's Uncertain Agony." Studies in English Literature 1500-1900.Vol. 49, No. 4, The Nineteenth Century (2009): 807-39. JSTOR. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.

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