The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge over 200 years ago, this long poem still has lessons for us today. It's a story about wanton destruction of the natural world - represented here by the Mariner shooting an Albatross - the terrible consequences this brings, and how the curse only lifts when the Mariner learns to love the wild creatures around him.
It is an ancient Mariner
It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
'By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?
The Bridegroom's doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin;
The guests are met, the feast is set:
May'st hear the merry din.'
He holds him with his skinny hand.
'There was a ship,' quoth he.
The Mariner tells how the ship set sail
The ship is driven beyond the equator to the ice and mists of the southern seas
The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,
And southward aye we fled.
And now there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold:
And ice, mast high, came floating by.
As green as emerald.
At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God's name.
The Mariner shots the albatross
The Mariner's act brings terrible misfortune on the ship and crew
Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.
And every tongue, through utter drought,
Was withered at the root;
We could not speak, no more than if
We had been choaked with soot.
Ah! well a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.
A ghastly ship draws alongside. On board, two death-like figures are casting dice.
Are those her sails that glance in the sun,
Like restless gossameres!
Are those her ribs through which the sun
Did peer, as through a grate?
And is that Woman all her crew?
Is that a DEATH? and are there two?
Is DEATH that woman's mate?
Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was white as leprosy,
The Night-Mare LIFE-IN-DEATH was she,
Who thicks man's blood with cold.
The naked hulk alongside came,
And the twain were casting dice;
'The game is done! I've won, I've won!'
Quoth she, and whistles thrice.
The crew curse the Mariner
The stars were dim, and thick the night,
The steersman's face by his lamp gleam'd white;
From the sails the dews did drip -
Till clombe above the eastern bar
The horned Moon, with one bright star
Within the nether tip.
One after one, by the star-dogged Moon,
Too quick for groan or sigh,
Each turn'd his face with a ghastly pang,
And cursed me with his eye.
Four times fifty living men,
(And I heard nor sigh nor groan)
With a heavy thump, a lifeless lump,
They dropped down one by one.
The Mariner is alone on the seas
Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.
I looked upon the rotting sea,
And drew my eyes away;
I looked upon the rotting deck,
And there the dead men lay.
The moving Moon went up the sky,
And no where did abide:
Softly she was going up,
And a star or two beside -
Her beams bemock'd the sultry main,
Like April hoar-frost spread;
But where the ship's huge shadow lay,
The charmed water burnt always
A still and awful red.
The spell begins to break
Beyond the shadow of the ship,
I watched the water-snakes:
They moved in tracks of shining white,
And when they reared, the elfish light
Fell off in hoary flakes.
O happy living things! No tongue
Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gushed from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware:
The self same moment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea.
But the torment continues
The dead crew man the ship
The helmsman steered, the ship moved on;
Yet never a breeze up blew;
The mariners all 'gan work the ropes,
Where they were wont to do;
They raised their limbs like lifeless tools -
We were a ghastly crew.
The body of my brother's son
Stood by me, knee to knee:
The body and I pulled at one rope,
But he said nought to me.
The ship approaches the home harbour; the pilot is guided by a strange light
Each corse lay flat, lifeless and flat,
And, by the holy rood!
A man all light, a seraph-man,
On every corse there stood.
This seraph-band, each waved his hand:
It was a heavenly sight!
They stood as signals to the land,
Each one a lovely light.
"Dear Lord! It hath a fiendish look"-
(The Pilot made reply)
"I am a-feared" - "Push on, push on!"
Said the hermit cheerily.
The ship is sunk
The Mariner concludes his tale
I pass, like night, from land to land;
I have strange power of speech;
That moment that his face I see,
I know the man that must hear me:
To him my tale I teach.
The Mariner whose eye is bright,
Whose beard with age is hoar,
Is gone: and now the Wedding Guest
Turned from the bridegroom's door.
He went like one that has been stunned,
And is of sense forlorn:
A sadder and a wiser man
He rose the morrow morn.