The Mariner tells the Wedding-Guest about the deaths of the two hundred other sailors aboard his ship—the entire crew except for him. After he kills the albatross, he brings a curse upon himself the and ship, and the men die. For a week, they are dead at this feet and all around him, but they do not "rot" or "reek." However, the look in their dead eyes torments him. He says it has "never passed away" from his memory. He calls it more "horrible" than an "orphan's curse," stating,
Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse,
And yet I could not die.
The implication is that dying is a mercy that is denied the Mariner because of his sin. The implication, too, is that the sailors curse him for causing their sufferings and deaths by killing the albatross.
However, after seven days, the torment of the curse lifts when the Mariner sees the beautiful water snakes. They are so lovely that he bursts out unthinkingly in praise, blessing them "unaware." After that, the Mariner can pray again, and the albatross falls away from his neck and into the sea. The Mariner is also able to sleep, something that had been denied his tormented soul and which he calls the "gentle sleep from Heaven." When he awakens, it rains, and he is able to quench his thirst. He begins to think he has died in his sleep and is a "blessed ghost," the opposite of a cursed spirit. Moreover, the dead men rise again, ending the torment of their morbid gazes and allowing the ship to finally sail onward.