In "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," what might the albatross have symbolized in Coleridge's own life ?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This is a very interesting question. Clearly we cannot know for sure if Coleridge was actually sharing some of his own experiences through this marvellous poem, but perhaps we can speculate at some parallels that he may have unwittingly created. Samuel Taylor Coleridge is famous not only for his poetry but also for his addiction to opium, which of course helped inspire some of his work, most famously "Kubla Khan." Because of his addiction, Coleridge, like the Mariner, was often wracked with physical pain and spiritual guilt. In the letters that he wrote about his addiction, Coleridge shows himself to be filled with shame and often hovers on the verge of despair. However, he refused to give in to this despair as he believed that this would be an even greater sin. Like the Mariner, he ultimately placed his faith in God to preserve him.

The albatross seems to function in the poem as a symbol of guilt, and so perhaps we are able to draw this parallel into the life of the author of this poem. The "albatross" that Samuel Taylor Coleridge had hanging around his neck is his own opium addiction. Unfortunately, it was not as easy for the author to rid himself of his own albatross.

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