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What is the message of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"?

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nick7 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 28, 2013 at 12:31 AM via web

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What is the message of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"?

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Payal Khullar | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted May 28, 2013 at 4:56 AM (Answer #1)

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of Ancient Mariner is a moral narrative poem that sends the readers complex messages, and this complexity mainly arises due to the rich symbolism. In the poem, we see that a mariner stops a wedding guest and forces him to listen to a story in which he kills an albatross during a journey he makes with other sailors in the sea. We come to know that the mariner feels he is cursed because of this. He is disturbed and harbors remorse for the wrong he did by killing the innocent creature in “blind faith” or superstition.  

Consider the following lines from the poem,

He prayeth best, who loveth best 
All things both great and small; 
For the dear God who loveth us 
He made and loveth all...

These lines clearly state how important it is to love and respect all the creations of God. God loves all of his creations equally, whether they are great or small. The mariner shouldn’t have killed the albatross. This moral message is understood only in the end.

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nilanshu1973 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 25, 2014 at 5:43 PM (Answer #2)

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A sinner and a guity man has the the burden of the deed on his soul. The Mariner had killed the innoent bird Albatross, celebrated by some scholars as the pious symbol for Jesus.This killing of the bird haunted the man and his predicament is superbly  recounted in his encounter with the supernatural figure of 'Life in Death'. In his treatment of the supernatural, Colerdige has achieved the willing supension of disbelief. The protagonist's anguish is deciphered in the oft-quoted expression "Water, water everywhere. Not a drop to drink."  The Mariner comes out of this moral curse when he blesses the water snakes . Besides, the agggrieved soul of the mariner finds a much needed cathartic release when he finds a wedding guest whom he naarrates the whole tale in a very passionate manner.

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted November 25, 2014 at 6:01 PM (Answer #3)

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Another possible "message" in this poem is that of death, repentance, and resurrection. There is a considerable amount of Christian symbolism in the poem as well as outright allusions to Christianity, with many passages to suggest this is a theme of the work.

The albatross seems to be a Christ symbol:

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(63-66).

In Christianity, Christ was sent by God to save mankind, as this albatross was sent to save the ship. But the Ancient Mariner kills the albatross:

'God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus!—
Why look'st thou so?'—With my cross-bow
I shot the ALBATROSS (79-82).

Subsequently, the men die as the result of being trapped on the ocean with no winds.  The Ancient Mariner repents for his crime, and when he prays, the albatross, which had been hung around his neck as punishment for his sin, drops away, he falls to sleep, the winds come, and all the men return to life:

Oh sleep! it is a gentle thing,
Beloved from pole to pole!
To Mary Queen the praise be given!
She sent the gentle sleep from Heaven,
That slid into my soul (292-296).

Of course, a great deal more happens than this in the poem, and there is considerably more Christian symbolism and allusion, but even these selections are ample evidence to support a message of Christian death, repentance, and resurrection.

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