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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What are two separate stanzas in Samuel Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" that represent Gothic elements of "mystery and suspense"?

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The entire poem is about suspense because of the way Samuel Taylor Coleridge frames it. The poem begins with the mysterious Mariner accosting the Wedding-Guest and insisting on telling his long, convoluted story. The guest demands to know why:

'By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,

Now wherefore stopp'st...

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The entire poem is about suspense because of the way Samuel Taylor Coleridge frames it. The poem begins with the mysterious Mariner accosting the Wedding-Guest and insisting on telling his long, convoluted story. The guest demands to know why:

'By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,

Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?

This mystery is not solved until the end, when the Mariner explains why he was compelled to tell his story. Sharing this cautionary tale is part of his perpetual penance for killing the Albatross:

And till my ghastly tale is told,

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.

Another important mystery is when the curse on the ship will be lifted. When the Mariner and his mates are on the ship, as long as the Albatross is flying around, they enjoy good winds and fair weather. After the Mariner shoots the bird, however, the wind dies. The crew tells the Mariner (“averred”) that it is his fault:

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.

They then hang the Albatross around his neck, and the mystery becomes twofold: will the wind pick up, and will he ever get rid of the burden of the dead bird? The suspense intensifies when a death-ship arrives and kills every man except the Mariner, leaving him alone on the ship's "rotting deck" with the corpses of his dead mates. The only living things around him are the water-snakes, swimming in the ocean. He initially fears the "thousand thousand slimy things" but then comes to see their beauty:

Blue, glossy green, and velvet black,

They coiled and swam; and every track

Was a flash of golden fire.

O happy living things! no tongue

Their beauty might declare:

A spring of love gushed from my heart,

And I blessed them unaware:

Sure my kind saint took pity on me,

And I blessed them unaware.

Thus, the suspense is lifted at the end of Part III because he sees the beauty in nature; at the "self-same moment [he] could pray" the Albatross falls off his neck.

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