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Aug 5, 2013

Rime of Ancient Mariner

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
The most supernatural poem of English literature, named The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a psychodrama concerned with the guilt and expiation of ‘a Cain-Like’ figure, the arbitrary ‘Murderer’ of an albatross “made the breeze to blow” which, appears through the fog ‘as it had been a Christian soul.” That is why:
“The mariner gave it biscuits –worms    
And round and round it flew  ……..                          
….. everyday for food or play     
Came to the Mariner……..”
The poem is told to the Wedding Guest by the Mariner “Alone, alone, all, all alone,/ Alone on a wide wide sea!/ And never a saint took pity on/ My soul in agony,” who is
“Like one that hath been stunn'd            
 And is of sense forlorn.”
In this natural setting are set the supernatural incidents. A terrible storm hit and forced the ship southwards. The “storm blast” was “tyrannous and strong” and struck the ship with “overtaking wings”. Then the sailors reached a calm patch of supernatural sea that was “wondrous cold” full of snow and glistering green icebergs” as tall as the ship’s mast:
“And now there came both mist and snow,        
And it grew wondrous cold.”
The sailors were the only living things in this frightening, enclosed world where the ice made terrible groaning sounds that echoed all around.
“The ice was here, the ice was there,    
The ice was all around.”
Coleridge often blends the real and unreal in order to create a supernatural world. Here we see the story at first is given a known, familiar setting but soon it passes into an unreal world. The reader is not disturbed by this smooth transition from the real to the unreal world but indulges himself in the “willing suspension of disbelief”.
From the moment the mariner kills the bird retribution comes in the form of natural phenomena. The wind dies, the sun intensifies and it will not rain. The ocean becomes “revolting”, “rotting” and “thrashing” with “slimy” creatures and sizzling with strange fires. Coleridge depicts tactfully how nature punishes supernaturally for killing its innocent member—before the sun was “bright” but now it has become “the bloody sun” in a “hot and copper sky”:
All in a hot and copper sky,         
The bloody Sun, at noon,            
Right up above the mast did stand,         
No bigger than the Moon.
The nature continues punishing the mariners in supernatural ways. The wind refuses to blow, and the sun’s relentless heat chars the men:
Day after day, day after day,      
We stuck, nor breathe nor motion;         
As idle as a painted ship               
Upon a painted ocean
This hot sun makes the mariners thirsty but they have no drinkable water.
Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
The throats became “unslaked” and “lips baked” under the hot sun.
We could not speak, no more than if     
We had been choked with soot.              
The shipmates, in their sore distress, throw the whole guilt on the ancient Mariner and in sign they hang the dead sea-bird round his neck.
‘Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.’
The suffering becomes even more painful when all his fellow men dropped down one by one and the soul of each passes by him with the sound like that of his arrow that killed the Albatross. “They dropped down one by one.” For seven days and nights the mariner remained alone on the ship:
Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse,
And yet I could not die.
His surroundings- the ship, the ocean, and the creatures within it are “rotting” in the heat and sun, but he is the one who is rotten on the inside.
Only when the mariner is able to appreciate the beauty of the natural world, he is granted the ability to pray. The moment he begins to view the natural world benevolently, his spiritual thirst is quenched. As a sign, the albatross- the burden of sin falls from his neck.
‘The Albatross fell off, and sank               
Like lead into the sea.’  
It finally rains and his thrust is quenched.             
‘My lips were wet, my throat was cold, 
My garments all were dank”
The ship suddenly began to move towards the native land of the old sailor. Ultimately the ship reached near the harbor. It sank suddenly and the old sailor was rescued from the disaster. Iin the end “The Game is done! I’ve won, I’ve won!” as “Four times fifty living men,/ With never a sigh or groan,/ With heavy thump, a lifeless lump/ They dropp’d down one by one.” Coleridge (also hint at the theme of the poem) clearly reflects his meditative mind when he says;
‘He prayth well, who loveth well              
Both man and bird and beast.’
He prayth best, who loveth best              
All things both great and small  
For the dear God who loveth us               
He made and loveth all.;
Wordsworth’s assertion that The Rime of the Ancient Mariner “contains many delicate touches of passion” is especially notable, given Derrida’s insistence that the concept of “passion” as it relates to a testifying subject implies not only “finitude” but also
“liability ….. imputability, culpability, responsibility” and “an engagement that is assumed in pain and suffering, experience without mastery and this without active subjectivity,”
About it, Derrida would say, only “chaos remains.”


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