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Explain these lines from "The Rime of Ancient Mariner'': And I had done an hellish...

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rozh | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted February 23, 2013 at 7:18 PM via web

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Explain these lines from "The Rime of Ancient Mariner'':

And I had done an hellish thing

And it would work 'em woe:

For all averr'd, I had kill'd the bird

That made the breeze to blow.

Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay

That made the breeze to blow!

Nor dim nor red, like God's own head

The glorious sun uprist:

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 24, 2013 at 6:48 AM (Answer #1)

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This stanza comes in the second section of the poem after the Mariner has shot the fateful albatross and it is clear that the slaying of this innocent bird has consequences that cause the other sailors to immediately turn on the mariner and argue that he has done a "hellish thing." The albatross in Section I of the poem is seen almost as a good luck charm to the sailors, as the following quote explores:

And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariner's hollo!
 
Not only does the albatross come to be identified as a sort of mascot to the sailors, but he is also associated with the coming of a "good south wind" that clearly is seen as being beneficial to the ship as a whole as it seeks to make its journey. The way that the albatross is linked to these favourable wind conditions is asserted in the line "I had killed the bird / That made the breeze to blow." To kill that bird, that symbol of good luck, makes the Mariner a "wretch," not only because he has jeopardised the success of the voyage as a whole but also because there will no doubt be personal consequences, as the rest of the poem makes absolutely clear. The way in which the sun is described as acting in strange ways makes it clear that the significance of the Mariner's slaying of the albatross cannot be understated.

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