The excerpt from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Explain how the lesson the Mariner has learned and must teach exemplifies the Romantic ideal that literature...

The excerpt from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Explain how the lesson the Mariner has learned and must teach exemplifies the Romantic ideal that literature should praise nature. 

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While you have not provided an excerpt, I can certainly help you with understanding how Coleridge's famous poem, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" exemplifies the Romantic ideal of praising, or more accurately, appreciating, nature. 

Let's begin with a definition of the Romantic (capital "R") movement. The era known as Romanticism originated in Europe and had its heyday from about 1800-1850. The movement itself was a backlash against the Enlightenment, whose adherents believed that all things were knowable and that there was ultimately no such thing as "mystery." In contrast, Romanticists believed in the far less concrete ideas that come from emotion and imagination; further, Romanticists believed that both imagination and emotion were ways to reach a state of transcendence (truths that lay outside the physical world). 

Here are the basic beliefs of Romanticists in regard to how they experienced and interpreted the natural world: "Romantic literature tends to emphasize a love of nature, a respect for primitivism, and a valuing of the common, "natural" man. Romantics idealize country life and believe that many of the ills of society are a result of urbanization. Nature for the Romantics becomes a means for divine revelation." Let's see how those beliefs play out in "Rime": 

Personification:  This is a literary device which is used to give human qualities to something non-human and/or the representation of a human quality in abstract form. We see this very early on, in lines 41-44: 

And now the STORM-BLAST came, and he
Was tyrannous and strong:
He struck with his o'ertaking wings,
And chased us south along.
"Tyranny" is something cruel and oppressive, usually related to government, something that leaders deliberately set out to do, imposing their will on their subjects. The wind here obviously does not have any agenda; it is created by, simply reacting, the scientific principles of nature. The wind here is also given characteristics of a bird of prey, chasing its quarry as it flaps its enormous wings, chasing the smaller, weaker humans along. Nature should be praised, according to the Romantics, for its vast and unpredictable power. 
The ice the crew encounters is often infused with elements of personification and the great respect the poet grants the forces of the natural world. For example, lines 59-62: 
The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!

While cracking ice does indeed make these sounds, the overall feeling is that this ice is alive and has an agenda as it "roared" and "howled." These natural forces take on the roles of characters, just like people, in the poem, and like people who exhibit great strength and power, the ice deserves to be praised for its awe-inducing abilities. 

Of course, the largest "natural" force of this Romantic poem is the albatross itself, evident in the huge bird's life and death. The bird goes about its business, unaware and unconcerned with the affairs of men, other than following where food might be had: 

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.
It ate the food it ne'er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
The helmsman steered us through!
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! (Lines 64-74)
Man's needless interference in the natural world ("With my cross-bow / I shot the ALBATROSS." 81-82) has unexpected ramifications, as the Ancient Mariner soon discovers:

And I had done a hellish thing,
And it would work 'em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.
Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay,
That made the breeze to blow! (Lines 91-96) 
The way the poet "praises" the natural world through the albatross is to remember the bird in his poem. Through the bird's death, the speaker comes to value all living things, and he tries to impart this hard-learned lesson to anyone who will hear him. 
Read the study guide:
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

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