Introduction to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is among the author’s best-known works. The long-form ballad first appeared in the 1798 volume Lyrical Ballads, which Coleridge jointly published with William Wordsworth. Coleridge revised the poem for later publications.

The poem is largely narrated from the perspective of the eponymous mariner, who tells a wedding guest the story of a disastrous nautical voyage he once endured. Coleridge employs a songlike tetrameter ballad format, giving the poem a folkloric atmosphere. The diction is often archaic and fanciful, heightening the drama of the mariner’s tale.

“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is considered a seminal work in the history of British Romantic poetry, not least because it appeared at the dawn of the movement. With its imaginative scenes and evocative descriptions of nature, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” has become a touchstone of English poetry.

A Brief Biography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834), one of the leading figures in British Romanticism, was born and raised in a large family in the town of Ottery St. Mary. Bookish since boyhood, Coleridge immersed himself in his academic and literary interests at Cambridge, where he wrote verse and engaged in political discourse. His life took a pivotal turn when he met William Wordsworth in 1795. The two young poets set out to craft a fresh idiom, with a particular interest in the natural world and the role of the imagination.

The first fruit of this collaboration was Lyrical Ballads, a joint collection published in 1798 that marked the birth of the British Romantic movement. Lyrical Ballads contains Coleridge’s best-known poems, “Kubla Khan” and “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” “Kubla Khan” highlights Coleridge’s interest in the imagination, using fantastical and esoteric imagery to explore the workings of the creative mind. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” represents a fresh, vivid reworking of the traditional ballad form.

Later in his life, Coleridge turned his attention from poetry to philosophy and criticism. In this vein, he made important contributions regardings aesthetics and the imagination, and he helped introduce modern German philosophy to English intellectual circles. Coleridge’s late masterpiece is Biographia Literaria, a sprawling, interdisciplinary prose work published in 1817 that combines memoir, literary theory, and philosophy.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

In this poem, the mariner recounts the story of how he killed an innocent albatross that had been previously labelled as a good omen by the crew. The crew consequently fell into a series of...

Latest answer posted April 24, 2021, 11:54 am (UTC)

5 educator answers

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Arguably the most striking, overt, and effective supernatural elements in the poem are the characters of DEATH and LIFE-IN-DEATH. In part 3 of the poem, when the ship’s crew are stranded out of...

Latest answer posted April 26, 2021, 12:28 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The wedding guest begins his morning with the expectation of a good time. He is thinking only of the fun he will have at the wedding, and his thoughts are really rather shallow. However, he is...

Latest answer posted April 26, 2021, 1:58 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

At one level, it does seem like a cruel injustice that the Ancient Mariner survives the voyage while the rest of the crew perishes as a result of his crime. However, considering the ordeal that he...

Latest answer posted April 26, 2021, 3:01 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

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...

Latest answer posted April 26, 2021, 3:22 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The water snakes represent the beauty and blessedness of God's creation. The Ancient Mariner calls them "happy living things" as he watches them swim in the sea, their colors flashing with a...

Latest answer posted April 27, 2021, 12:30 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

In "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," a superstitious belief holds most sailors back from killing the albatross, because they believe the act will bring bad luck. When the Mariner disregards that...

Latest answer posted April 27, 2021, 1:04 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

After all the other sailors have died, the Mariner is left alone on his ship. It seems that there is no way that he can return home now. At this point, sea snakes surround the ship, and the Mariner...

Latest answer posted April 27, 2021, 2:27 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

After killing the innocent albatross—a bird seen as a good omen by his crew—the Mariner is forced to wear its body around his neck. This symbolizes his guilt and shame, originating from the...

Latest answer posted April 27, 2021, 3:16 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

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...

Latest answer posted April 27, 2021, 3:28 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

As the mariner tells the horrible story of all the crew dying, the wedding guest says, I fear thee, ancient Mariner! I fear thy skinny hand! The wedding guest says this because he fears that the...

Latest answer posted April 26, 2021, 11:54 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The albatross first appeared to the sailors when their ship was stuck in the ice. The narrator of the poem, the eponymous ancient mariner, says that when the albatross first appeared, it came...

Latest answer posted April 25, 2021, 12:54 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

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...

Latest answer posted April 25, 2021, 11:50 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

In "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," the eponymous mariner recounts how he killed an albatross that had supposedly brought good luck to his ship and fellow mariners. For killing the albatross, the...

Latest answer posted April 24, 2021, 12:36 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The eponymous ancient mariner was cursed for shooting and killing an albatross. This albatross supposedly brought the ancient mariner and his fellow sailors tremendous good luck. Before the...

Latest answer posted April 25, 2021, 11:44 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

When the ancient mariner killed the albatross, his fellow sailors were initially angry, but then, after blaming the albatross for nine successive evenings of fog and mist, they agreed that "'Twas...

Latest answer posted April 25, 2021, 11:31 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

In part 7, the mariner explains to the wedding guest why he tells his story. The mariner and the ship began to sail home—helped, in part, by the reanimated bodies of the sailors, now controlled by...

Latest answer posted April 25, 2021, 11:17 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" displays characteristics of both Romantic and modern poetry. The poem's Romantic elements stand out clearly. It contains, for...

Latest answer posted April 24, 2021, 5:25 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The mariner does not explain exactly why he shot and killed the albatross with his crossbow. When the albatross first came to the ship, the sailors thought it was good luck, for a good wind...

Latest answer posted April 24, 2021, 3:31 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Prayer and the connection to God that it symbolizes are major themes in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." In part 4 of the poem, the mariner looks around him at all the dead bodies, then turns his...

Latest answer posted April 24, 2021, 11:39 am (UTC)

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Summary