The Rhime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
This poem is about the tale of an ancient mariner. The mariner is sharing his experience of a long voyage. The poem starts with the funny incident of the old sailor getting hold of young men so that he could get a receptive audience for his tale.
As many of you may have experienced, the young guys are ready to enjoy the wedding ceremony for which all have come but the old man is trying to tell them a long story of his past adventure. Such acts of telling the story of a bygone era by an elderly person usually appear quite boring to the people of younger generation.
Although the old man is unable to get hold of the young man by using the force of his frail hands, he is able to hold the listener’s attention by using the glitter in his eyes. The wedding guest is probably enchanted by the gleaming eyes of the old man and hence prefers to listen to him rather than going to attend the wedding.
The old man starts with narrating how the ship was given a cheerful send off and began sailing till it disappeared below the kirk, below the hill and finally below the lighthouse top.
Since the wedding guest does not seem to be interested in all those introductions about the voyage, he is beating his breast because he can hear the sound of bassoon and also comes to know that the bride had entered the hall.
The old man explains how the sun rose from the left everyday; which means that the ship was going towards south. After a journey of some days, a monstrous storm comes and strikes the ship as if a giant bird had struck with its huge wings.
The ship nevertheless continued to move ahead as if it was trying to chase the shadow of its enemy. The front portion of the ship was dripping with water and its mast was sloping. Finally, the ship was able to escape the storm.
After the storm, the ship had to face mist and snow. It was even more risky because huge icebergs floated from near the ship. Visibility was very poor which made it very difficult to navigate. Then an albatross came from somewhere as if it was sent by the God. The albatross enjoyed the food given by the sailors and whenever a sailor gave a call it came on the ship. No matter how the season was, the albatross came everyday at a fixed time; as if trying to enjoy the life on the ship.
But one day, the old sailor shot the albatross with his crossbow.
After the albatross was killed, the sunshine returned. The poet mentions that the sun was now setting on the left; which means that the ship was on its northward journey. The south wind was blowing and the voyage was more comfortable. But no bird came to the ship to feed on the leftovers.
The old sailor was feeling a sense of getting for having killed the albatross. Many sailors abused him for killing the bird which was believed to have made the winds blow. But some other sailors felt that it was the albatross which brought the mist and snow and hence it was right to kill the wretched bird.
After that, a lull came and they had to drop down the sail. It was a deathly silence all around. Now the sun looked bloody red at the noon. The ship was as still on the ocean water as a painted ship on a painted ocean. Water was everywhere around them but they did not have a single drop of water to drink.
The waves in the moonlight appeared as if the witch’s oils were burning to produce flames of various hues.
Everyone began to curse the old sailor because they believed that it was the killing of the albatross which brought all the misery to them. The old man was feeling that instead of a cross, the albatross was hung around his neck.