"The Nightmare Life-in-Death Was She"

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 149

Context: The most dramatic section of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is Part III: a ship is becalmed, her men parched for lack of water, but the agony that will lead to the mariner's redemption has only begun. Out of a friend's dream, out of traditional tales of ghost-ships and of spectral characters dicing for men's souls, and out of other romantic narratives and poems, Coleridge compounded a mysterious skeleton ship and two ghostly passengers–Death and Life-in-Death–that decide the fate of the mariner: to live on while his shipmates die:

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Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was as white as leprosy,
The Night-mare LIFE-IN-DEATH was she,
Who thicks man's blood with cold.
The naked hulk alongside came,
And the twain were casting dice;
"The game is done! I've won! I've won!"
Quoth she, and whistles thrice.

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