What three elements of the Romantic Age are evident in Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The previous post was extremely thorough.  I would like to add one more element present in the poem.  The relationship with nature as being one where human beings must live in harmony with the creatures of consciousness is a profound one in the poem.  The killing of the albatross and the bad sense of karma that transpires because of it is not only radical for its time period, but one of the most profound elements of Romanticism.  Romantics believed in the natural setting, but they also stressed that there must be a synchronicity between humans and the world in which they inhabit.  At a time when individuals were appropriating the world in accordance to their own material subjectivity, such a belief was ahead of its time.  There is this social sensitivity that Coleridge is unabashed in showing and displaying, representative of Romantic thought and insightful in its essence.   It is through this act that the supernatural can happen and the revelation that humans are a part, not the whole, of the natural setting.

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Three elements of writing characteristic of the Romantic Age that are present in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner are a view of nature as a place of purity and peace in which God is manifest, an emphasis on dreams and visions, and a focus on emotion and feeling.

Romantics viewed nature as a pure and healing element, a place where God could be found. It is significant that when the albatross first appears, the sailors greet it "as if it had been a Christian soul (and) hailed it in God's name" (lines 64-65). Because it is part of nature, the albatross is treated with reverence and respect. When the Mariner kills the albatross, he has placed himself at odds with nature, and nature expresses this disharmony, with "slimy things (that) crawl with legs upon the slimy sea" (lines 122-123), and the water burning "like a witch's oils...green and blue and white" (lines 126-127).

Dreams and visions are often found in Romantic literature. During the darkest hours of his punishment, the Mariner sees a lurid picture of the sun shining through a skeleton ship, "as if through a dungeon grate...with broad and burning face" (lines 176-177). On the skeleton ship he envisions two ghostly figures playing with dice, one called "Death," and the other "Life in Death" (lines 184-191).

In Romantic literature, emotions are given great importance. As his penance for killing the albatross, the Mariner is doomed to endure bouts of agony which return "at an uncertain hour" throughout his life, which can only be alleviated by retelling his tale (lines 579-582). The person who must be the recipient of his recitation is also determined by feeling alone; the Mariner says, "The moment that his face I see, I know the man that must hear me" (lines 586-587). 

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lit24 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," was first published in the year 1798 in the "Lyrical Ballads."  The "Lyrical Ballads" was a result of the combined efforts of Wordsworth and Coleridge to completely break with the poetic tradition of the Neo Classical age.

In his Biographia Literaria Chapter XIV, Coleridge informs us of the origin of his masterpiece:

it was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least Romantic; yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith. ... With this view I wrote the 'Ancient Mariner'.

The three important features of the Romantic Age as seen in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner are:

1. The Supernatural Element: The poets of the neo classical age gave more importance to realistic descriptions of day to day life. The romantic poets like Coleridge however, concentrated on describing the supernatural world. The whole poem describes the supernatural and mystical experience of the "ancient mariner" in a mysterious manner:

This seraph band, each waved his hand: 
It was a heavenly sight! 
They stood as signals to the land, 
Each one a lovely light:

2. Love for Nature: The romantic poets like Coleridge unlike the poets of the neo classical age who confined themselves to urban settings were lovers of Nature. They delighted in describing Nature in all its glory:

Sometimes a-dropping from the sky 
I heard the sky-lark sing; 
Sometimes all little birds that are, 
How they seemed to fill the sea and air 
With their sweet jargoning!

For the desperate  and terrified "ancient mariner" alone and adrift on the ocean it is the natural sounds of the birds which offer him some hope and comfort.

3. Poetic form: The poets of the neo classical age used only one verse form in all their poems - the heroic couplet. Needless to say it resulted in artistic sterility and monotony. Coleridge uses a quatrain which rhymes a b c b for the most part of the poem  but varies the number of the lines in some of the stanzas and also the rhyme scheme:

Day after day, day after day,

We stuck, nor breath nor motion;

As idle as a painted ship

Upon a painted ocean.


Water, water, everywhere, (repetition)

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, everywhere,

Nor any drop to drink. (rhyme)

 

 

Under the keel nine fathom deep, 
From the land of mist and snow,    (6 lines)
The spirit slid: and it was he 
That made the ship to go. 
The sails at noon left off their tune, 
And the ship stood still also.
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hessenbub | High School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

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I do have to disagree in some points.

1. I would call it the 'ballad metre' (which was used for other reasons as well as the perfect description of the route [Magellan] which set a supposed timeset for the journey!)

2. There is no 'supernaturalism' in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner! There are different ghosts, angelic powers, 'seraph-men' (PERFECT quote!! did anybody look 'seraphs' up in the bible by the way?..THESE are higher angels who are the only ones who are able to take off guilt - useful for the Mariner that they appear in this specific situation...), a 'polar spirit' (who has its edge of authority at the 'line' (the equator) and at 'nine fathoms' (look up how deep that is for a spirit), LIFE-IN-DEATH, it's companion and other *ahem* 'supernatural' elements. I'm not even talking about 'supernatural' symbolism such as colours, the cross, the sea, the albatross or else. Ask for the difference between 'supernatural', 'preternatural', the 'occult' and maybe even the 'sublime'. Nature is spiritualised by Coleridge before 'religious powers' come into play...

3. If you would like to go further, download: www. inga-und-torsten.de/Examensarbeit.docx (it's my exam paper - don't bother about spelling mistakes and/or WORD-version-differences)

4. I do agree to the "Love of nature". Yes, I do.

5. I'd love to hear comments. Contact me: whatyouseeiswhatyouget@web.de

6. My favourite poem is 'Muse' by Jo Shapcott.

7. Your turn -

hessenbub's profile pic

hessenbub | High School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

I do have to disagree in some points.

1. I would call it the 'ballad metre' (which was used for other reasons as well as the perfect description of the route [Magellan] which set a supposed timeset for the journey!)

2. There is no 'supernaturalism' in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner! There are different ghosts, angelic powers, 'seraph-men' (PERFECT quote!! did anybody look 'seraphs' up in the bible by the way?..THESE are higher angels who are the only ones who are able to take off guilt - useful for the Mariner that they appear in this specific situation...), a 'polar spirit' (who has its edge of authority at the 'line' (the equator) and at 'nine fathoms' (look up how deep that is for a spirit), LIFE-IN-DEATH, it's companion and other *ahem* 'supernatural' elements. I'm not even talking about 'supernatural' symbolism such as colours, the cross, the sea, the albatross or else. Ask for the difference between 'supernatural', 'preternatural', the 'occult' and maybe even the 'sublime'. Nature is spiritualised by Coleridge before 'religious powers' come into play...

3. If you would like to go further, download: www. inga-und-torsten.de/Examensarbeit.docx (it's my exam paper - don't bother about spelling mistakes and/or WORD-version-differences)

4. I do agree to the "Love of nature". Yes, I do.

5. I'd love to hear comments. Contact me: whatyouseeiswhatyouget@web.de

6. My favourite poem is 'Muse' by Jo Shapcott.

7. Your turn -

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