Thoughts on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

image of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Gustave DoreI know what you’re thinking. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a poem about a crusty old sailor shooting an albatross. Okay, so that might be true… but there’s more to it than that. Really.

In case you don’t recall the poem, let me summarize. Essentially, a man is on his way to the wedding of an acquaintance and bumps into an elderly sailor who proceeds to talk his ear off. As the story progresses, the young man is progressively more engaged by the tale of woe until he forgets about attending the nuptials and settles in to hear the rest.

This is a story about superstitions and consequences. Without spoiling the content because as poems from the Romantic Period go, it really isn’t all that long (*eye roll*), the old sailor relates the events that occurred on a disastrous voyage. The poem also produced the infamous “albatross about my neck” reference that haunts us still today. Actually, I’m not sure that’s truly the origin of the phrase but we’ll just assume it is for simplicity. Frankly, I never thought about how awkwardly an albatross would be to wear down one’s shirtfront. They’re very large birds.

As poems go, epic and otherwise, the language is awkward but the form is easy to plow through. The imagery is florid and not always coherent. According to experts in the era of Romantic works (which I am not), the poem does not fit well with the expectations of the time. There are endless permutations, speculations, and arguments about what the poem “actually” means – I suspect this might have vastly amused Coleridge.

Should you care to hear it:

And in case you prefer the more modern rendition:

At any rate, you should pick up a copy and explore the sad tale told by the briny sailor. Oh, and incidentally, the young man never did make it to the wedding. After relating his story, the mariner wanders off and the wedding guest returns home, waking the next morning “a sadder and a wiser man.”

cover of Rime of the Ancient MarinerRead The Rime of the Ancient Mariner for yourself on the Literature Network or download a copy for your Kindle compliments of Amazon. Here’s a handy copy posted by the kind folks at Bartleby which includes simple English commentary as you read along. Since the poem contains language that was archaic even at the time it was written in 1797, this is not to be dismissed. Let me know what you think, okay? Share your thoughts below…

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  1. #1 by Jeri Walker-Bickett (@JeriWB)j on October 3, 2013 - 2:20 pm

    I loved reading this poem in the English lit class I took years ago. Go figure though, what most impressed on me was how he wrote Kubla Kahn after taking dose of opium. When writing it, he was interrupted and never captured the flow of the lines again.

    • #2 by Lesann Berry on October 3, 2013 - 4:36 pm

      I’m glad I could take you back to an enjoyable moment. I confess, I didn’t know about the opium thing but in retrospect, I think it explains a lot. I always loved Kubla Khan and hadn’t thought of it in years – I might have to read it again too. I can commiserate with losing the flow of the lines and never quite recapturing the same. *sigh* Thanks for taking the time to visit, and especially, to write a message. 🙂

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