"Oh Sleep! It Is A Gentle Thing"

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 181

Context: For seven days and nights the Ancient Mariner lives in spiritual agony and despair among his dead shipmates–all because he slew an albatross. He envies the dead men, but cannot himself die. He tries to pray, but finds it impossible: "A wicked whisper came, and made/ My heart as dry as dust." Finally, the turning point in the poem is reached as the mariner becomes aware of the beauty and joy of the water snakes, "every track/ . . . a flash of golden fire," and feels a "spring of love" gush from his heart. He blesses the snakes, signifying a change in his attitude toward God's living creatures–an attitude he did not possess when he killed the albatross. At last he finds he can pray, and the albatross, that had been hung around his neck by his shipmates, falls into the sea. The process of healing begins; he sleeps:

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Oh sleep! it is a gentle thing,
Beloved from pole to pole!
To Mary Queen the praise be given!
She sent the gentle sleep from Heaven,
That slid into my soul.

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