In Coleridge's poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (lines 582-90), what must the Mariner continue to do for the rest of his life?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," the old seaman restrains a guest on the way to a wedding and relates his nautical tale of woe. On a voyage to the Antarctic, the Mariner kills an albatross along the way, and bad luck suddenly falls upon the crew, who forces him to wear the dead bird around his neck as a reminder of his crime. Eventually, the entire crew dies except for the now accursed Mariner; he survives the hard journey, and when the dead albatross falls from his neck, the curse is lifted. However:

This heart within me burns.
I pass, like night, from land to land;
I have strange power of speech;
That moment that his face I see,
I know the man that must hear me:
To him my tale I teach. 

As penance, the Mariner must roam the earth and tell his story to all who will listen.

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

Failure to make atonement will cause the Mariner unending suffering until he tells the story once again.

Read the study guide:
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

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