illustration of the Ancient Mariner in the ocean with an albatross tied around his neck

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
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Explain these lines from part 3 of the poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

See! see! ( I cried) she tacks no more!

Hither to work us weal;

Without a breeze, without a tide,

She steadies with upright keel!

 

The western wave was all a-flame,

The day was well nigh done!

Almost upon the western wave

Rested the broad bright Sun;

When that strange shape drove suddenly

Betwixt us and the sun. 

The mariner sees a ship approach his ship without wind or tide. He and his crew believe that it is supernatural, but as the ship gets closer, they see that it carries Death and Life-in-Death who are playing dice for the souls of the sailors. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Essay Questions: 1. What do you think Coleridge meant when he wrote: "Love seeketh only Self to please,/To bind another to Its delight"? (lines 52-3) 2. In what ways does Coleridge's poem remind you of Dante's Inferno? How about Milton's Paradise Lost? 2. "

Expert Answers

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In the lines preceding this quote, the mariner and his men see a ship in the distance. Dying of thirst, they think this might be a good sign. This is why the mariner cries out "Gramercy" which means "great thanks" from the French "grand-merci." However, the mariner realizes that the ship approaches without a breeze or tide. This is physically inexplicable so the mariner and his men might surmise that this is something supernatural. 

The western wave was all a-flame. 

The day was well nigh done! 

Almost upon the western wave

Rested the bright broad Sun; 

When that strange shape drove suddenly

Betwixt us and the Sun. 

In these lines, the mariner notes the setting sun in the west. The red, yellow, and orange colors of the sunset blanket the horizon where the sun and ocean meet. As the sun sets, the day is almost over, "well nigh (near) done!" The strange ship continues its approach until it is between the sun and the mariner's ship, effectively eclipsing what little light of the day is left. In the subsequent lines, the mariner learns that this is a supernatural ship. It carries Death and Life-in-Death who are playing dice for the ship's crew. 

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