Why is "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" a Romantic poem?

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Wordsworth and Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads was such an important milestone in the history of Romanticism that the Romantic period in England is sometimes dated from 1798, the year it first appeared in print. Wordsworth contributed many poems to the collection, and Coleridge contributed only one. That one, however, was a...

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Wordsworth and Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads was such an important milestone in the history of Romanticism that the Romantic period in England is sometimes dated from 1798, the year it first appeared in print. Wordsworth contributed many poems to the collection, and Coleridge contributed only one. That one, however, was a long, complex, and highly significant text: "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

Given the status of the Lyrical Ballads as a manifesto of Romanticism, it is hardly surprising that it has so many of the quintessential features of Romantic poetry. The lines are short, and the words are simple and direct. The poem concerns common people in heroic situations. The mariner is a social outcast, forcing society (in the persona of the wedding guest) to hear his message (for who is more socially included than a wedding guest?). The poem deals with elemental forces of nature and what happens when humankind fails to respect these forces. The atmosphere of the poem (in particular, the mariner's narration) is highly emotional and is intended to arouse strong emotions in the reader. All these factors mark the poem out as Romantic.

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"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is a Romantic poem in that it offers up a picture of nature as an organic whole. Coleridge passionately believed that each and every creature in God's creation was joined together in a primal unity. From the highest to the lowest, all of God's creatures have their part to play in his creation. Even the humble albatross has his place in nature, which it is no one's business to disturb.

This would explain why the mariner brings so much misfortune on himself and his fellow shipmates by killing an albatross. In doing so, he has disturbed the intricate fabric of God's creation. As the mariner is part of the same organic whole as the bird, in killing it, he is killing a part of himself. If just one part of this whole should suffer, then we all suffer. In killing the bird, the mariner has unwittingly undermined the balance of primal forces that exists in the natural world, and he must suffer before that natural balance is restored.

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Romanticism emerged as a sort of reaction against the Age of Reason and all of its characteristics. As such, the characteristics of Romanticism tend to be the opposite of Age of Reason characteristics. Where the Age of Reason leans toward logic and plausibility, Romanticism leans much more heavily toward the imaginative and fantastical. "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" fits those characteristics. Coleridge crafted a poem around an ancient mariner narrating about a ship adventure complete with undead sailors. (Coleridge was creating the Pirates of Caribbean motif long before Disney did it.) Romanticism also has a heavy focus on the importance of nature, and this poem has that element as well. It can be argued that everything bad that happened to the mariner and the rest of the crew resulted from mankind's killing of the albatross. Finally, Romanticism does also tend to focus on societal outcasts. People like tramps and beggars hold a special place of importance in Romantic literature, and that is exactly who the Mariner is. He is a man who wanders about looking for specific people to tell his amazing tale to.

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By Romantic Poetry, that means that it possesses qualities of the Romantic Era.  In Romantic poetry, the authors began doing new things.  First, they used common language.  Many of the poets used dialect, which brought in a whole new audience, not just the wealthy and educated.  Second, they used emotion in their writings.  The third one is what ties "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" to the Romantic period.  Nature was used more openly than ever before.  The theme of this poem is that we must respect nature in all of its forms.  This poem was written by Coleridge, and it was in the collection of poetry that he and Wordsworth put together (Lyrical Ballads).  Wordsworth was known as the Father of English Romanticism.

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