Why did the mariner bless the water snakes?

The mariner blessed the water snakes because he was suddenly overcome with a feeling of respect and admiration for all of God's creation.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," the mariner killed an albatross as it flew over his ship. This act of cruel indifference revealed the mariner's apathetic attitude toward nature. In turn, this was also an act of disrespect toward God, as the creature was part of God's creation.

This poem has many religious messages, with the albatross sometimes being compared to Christ in its unjust death caused by human ignorance and callousness. The mariner's disrespect toward God's creation is something he had to acknowledge and amend in order to be freed from the curse of the albatross around his neck.

The mariner was finally freed from his curse after he found it within himself to respect God's creation fully. He did this by realizing the inherent beauty of creatures that superficially appeared to be ugly. The water snakes are described repulsively as being "slimy things," and yet the mariner was suddenly able to see their inherent, sublime beauty. This moment is described in the following passage:

O happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gushed from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware.

All things considered, the mariner blessed the water snakes because they were an inherent, beautiful part of God's creation. He did this "unaware," or unknowingly, which shows that this was a genuine feeling of love towards the water snakes. This symbolizes the transformation of the mariner into someone who unconsciously respects nature and God's creation.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial