Perhaps what is most strange about The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is not its uniqueness, which makes it seem strange, but its transparency. It is about what it says it is about. An epigraph, marginal glosses, and a moral at the end state the poem’s ideas so clearly that one may try to second-guess them. A reader may also argue that the poem succeeds in its stated aim—to teach lessons of the spirits, of guilt, of expiation, and of love for all of God’s creations—and that the poem’s oddity is instrumental in this success. Without the novelty of the tale, the ancient and simple lessons would be easier to ignore.
The epigraph by Thomas Burnet states that “[f]acile credo” (I believe with ease, or I may easily believe) there are many invisible beings in the universe. Burnet next points out that, while it is also easy to get bogged down in questions regarding such creatures, and therefore, implicitly, create an attitude of cynical skepticism, it is spiritually enriching to contemplate the invisible realm and thereby to imagine a greater and better world. Such thought gives one better perspective on the trivial concerns of daily life. Such contemplation, Burnet concludes, is not intended to lead away from truth. This epigraph may be interpreted, in the context of the poem, to state the following ideas: First, there is a spiritual realm, and its mysteries are to be respected although not fully understood. The Mariner makes...
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