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The Rime of the Ancyent Mariner is a poem directly inspired by the events occurring in its author’s own life. Its fundamental message is powerfully conveyed across time and culture, and its textually “aesthetic dimensions” invites readers of all backgrounds to consider its literary quality.
Adopting an author-centred approach to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s, The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere, reveals powerful influences in the life of the author which he sought to expound to a wider and spiritually disillusioned audience, through his allegorical construction of the text. The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere reflects the author’s own personal battles with guilt and punishment, a powerful and recurring theme embedded in the behavioural psyche of any hierarchal member, such that even today, two hundred years after the text was originally written, its message still permeates throughout contemporary culture. Most prominent in the poem’s creation however, is the author’s awareness and recognition of audience as he conveys his message using the voice of the narrating Mariner, to the extent that viewing the text incites its reader to assume the position of the intended reader: the captivated wedding guest.
A fundamental force guides the Mariner on his journey of self-discovery and spiritual awareness. This force is espoused by a belief in which Coleridge placed his faith when authoring The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere. Coleridge’s intention was to inform the reader of the fundamental spiritual fabric which the author perceived as the source of all ethereal influence and intervention, and over which the reader as a member could sew his or her own spiritual and moral actions and thoughts. The poem’s protagonist demonstrates such an action when he shoots and kills the Albatross. His lack of guilt in committing this action inspires the punishment which he receives, a punishment which is only ended when he learns to appreciate the beauty shown by one of the spiritual fabric’s living manifestations, the Watersnakes. The difficulty in escaping from this punishment lies in its need to be achieved unwittingly; only a pure and selfless appreciation could free the Mariner.
Such a scenario reflects strongly the beliefs of the Romantic Movement to which Coleridge subscribed at his time of writing. Central to the period in which Romanticism flourished was the affirmation of the need for a freer and more subjective expression of passion and personal feelings.
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“As one body seems the aggregate of atoms numberless, each organised, so by a strange and dim similitude infinite myriads of self-conscious minds are one all-conscious spirit” destiny of Nations (Coleridge)
Inspired by his various psychological and pathological crutches, Coleridge constructs a powerful invitation for the reader to join him in his visions of truth, passion and love. The text alludes that beneath the veneer of our physically constructed selves lies an emotional power directing our actions and being directed by those of the world. Through the text, Coleridge demonstrates his belief in a collective human spirit, an inherited wealth of emotional and spiritual power if we have the emotional and spiritual temperance to accept it. Tis the sublime in man our noontide majesty, to know ourselves parts and proportions of one wondrous whole religious Musings (Coleridge)
Hinging this spiritual force to the text is the Mariner’s experience of guilt and punishment derived from his thoughtless and therefore magnified actions against the spiritual force. The very fact that the Mariner brazenly and unthinkingly took the life of the Albatross, gives confidence to the notion that such a hateful act is ingrained in the nature of the Mariner. It is for this reason that he is exiled from the collective spirit of which he was a part.
Attempting to convey this allegory to an audience ruled by rationality and simplicity, as was the case during Neo-Classical period from which Romanticism grew, was a challenge with which Coleridge was faced. Through the personification of the implied author as the Mariner in The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere, Coleridge stages the initial element in separating his conflicting beliefs from those of the Zeitgeist. Carrying on from this reader-author-text relationship is Coleridge’s need for his views to reach an audience. Coleridge’s description of the poem as a work of “pure imagination” goads the rationalists of his time to make sense of what might otherwise remain a sea of mystery, and the poem’s interplay between deliberate nonsense, didactic introspection and moral universalities would no doubt tickle the intellect of such people. In such a way, The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere serves as a tool for those asking questions, those wanting answers, and those seeking complacency. By adopting the needs of all three categories, the poem renders itself as an attractive object of study for a great majority of the educated population.
The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere provided its Neo-Classical audience with a brave new perspective of the metaphysical influences on their lives. Its deeply Romantic influence, inherent in its implicit and explicit meaning, carries with it a moral truth expounded by the Mariner in his narration of his adventure. Coleridge’s experiences, as the mainspring of the poem’s message, elevate the genre of the poem above mere fiction and saturate it with fundamental and unchangeable truths about the human condition.