illustration of the Ancient Mariner in the ocean with an albatross tied around his neck

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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

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"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" displays characteristics of Romantic poetry in its vivid descriptions of the natural world and emphasis on Christian spirituality, and it displays modern characteristics in its experiments in form and language.

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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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How does "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" exemplify the characteristics of the Romantic Period?

A fine question. "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" exemplifies the Romantic period through the following:
1) It created exotic and imaginary alternatives to known society.
2) It emphasized the power of poetry (the Mariner telling the story).
3) It accented the power of the image (the albatross!)
4) It accented the importance of emotion, and of individual action.
5) It happened in a symbolic dreamscape, one full of meaning.
6) It incorporate Gothic/horror elements, another period development (see Frankenstein for example).
7) It uses relatively ordinary speech, a conscious choice on the part of the Romantic poets.

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What makes "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" obviously from the Romantic Period? Give examples to support.

Rime is from the Romantic Era because of the aspects which define romantic literature.  These include the supernatural, the love of nature, the individual instead of the good of society as a whole, emotion vs. reason, and imagination vs. logic.

In Rime, supernatural occurs several times.  First, the mariner "holds" the wedding guest in a sort of trance for the telling of the story.  Also, the ghost ship appears without wind or current, the ship is sailed by angel-possessed bodies of the crew.

Nature is paramount with the killing of the albatross and the blessing of the sea snakes.  He also makes it a theme with the quote "all creatures great and small, the lord God made them all".

The mariner is the individual in this tale.  He survives, but is destined to seek out one individual at a time forever to whom he will tell his tale. It is usually a person who needs to hear the tale and learn the lesson.

There is much emotion in the poem as well--although the mariner never truly gets "emotional" there is anger from the sailors who suspect their bad luck is due to the mariner's murdering the albatross.  There is shock from the Pilot and the Pilot's boy about the mariner's appearance.

Imagination is evident as well.  There is much original material here encompassed in the frame story of the wedding guest being held hostage and missing the wedding in order to learn to respect all creatures in nature.

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How does the poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" display the characteristics of both Romantic and modern poetry?

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 instance, a strong sense of the supernatural. The mariner's experiences with the albatross, the death ship, and the powers and spirits of the sea are all supernatural and deeply Romantic, as is the poem's emphasis on descriptions of the natural world. The poet even personifies elements of nature, like the wind and water—yet another Romantic trend. Over all this lies a strong component of Christian spirituality. The albatross may be interpreted as a symbol of Christ, for instance, and the mariner finds salvation through prayer and learns that love of all creatures is the true meaning of life.

That said, however, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" also contains some modern elements that shift away from Romanticism. Coleridge, for instance, experiments with his poetic form, as many modern poets do. He varies his stanza lengths rather than keeping them consistent throughout, and his meter is sometimes rather loose and variable as well. Even his rhyme scheme varies significantly throughout the poem. Further, Coleridge inserts marginal glosses next to the primary text of the poem that offer a secondary perspective. He also deliberately plays with his language, using archaic forms to enhance the linguistic interest of the poem. These kinds of experiments are largely modern in nature.

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