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 did the Mariner do to the albatross in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"?

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The Ancient Mariner tells the wedding guest in the final stanza of the first part of the poem of his thoughtless act which has such cataclysmic and bizarre consequences for him and the rest of the crew-

God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus!—
Why look'st thou so?”—With my cross-bow
I shot the Albatross!

The mariner then tells that he is punished by the rest of the crew for his mean and portentious act.

And I had done an hellish thing,
And it would work 'em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow

In a bid to assuage the evil spirit which the crew believe is now plaguing the boat, the mariner is made to bear the burden of the killing of the albatross alone -

Ah! well a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the Cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.


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After receiving the albatross as a sign of good luck, the sailors were out of luck shortly after when the wind speed began to succumb and slow down.  There are times in which mariners and sailors switch their omens around and second guess themselves as to its original meaning. In the case of the wind, the poor albatross was blamed for it, and the entrance of the albatross through the fog was now seen as an omen for something bad. 

In a moment of mad rage, one of the sailors kills the albatross. The other sailors cheered him at first by placing the albatross as a trophy around the sailor's neck while they jeered and cheered. However, calamities began to strike shortly thereafter as a result of their deed: They violated the sacredness of life and they disturbed the natural order of things. Animals are to be respected and they disrespected life. Therefore, a huge transformation will occur after this instance that will help them learn their lesson.

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