The Wedding-Guest's day takes an unexpected turn at the beginning of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” He is excited for the celebration and is on his way to the wedding when suddenly the Mariner stops him. The Mariner reaches out and holds him. He does not introduce himself but rather dives right into his story. “There was a ship,” he says.
The Wedding-Guest resists but soon finds himself held by the Mariner's “glittering eye.” He sits down and listens, unable to move or to do anything else. The Mariner must tell his story, having chosen his audience. The Wedding-Guest must obey.
The Mariner dives right into his tale of the ship, speaking of how it cheerfully departed from the harbor one sunny day. Then the ship encountered a storm and was blown into the icy waters. He tells all about the Albatross and how he shot the bird. He proceeds to speak of his strange supernatural experiences and his final salvation through prayer and love.
The Wedding-Guest listens through it all. The story must be told all the way from the beginning with “There was a ship” to the very end with the proclamation of God's love for all. Then the Wedding-Guest is finally released and turns away from the wedding celebration a “sadder and a wiser man.”