Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Excerpt from "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

With sloping masts and dipping prow,
As who pursued with yell and blow
Still treads the shadow of his foe
And forward bends his head,
The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,
And southward aye we fled.

And now there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold:
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.

And through the drifts the snowy clifts
Did send a dismal sheen:
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken --
The ice was all between.

The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!

At length did cross an Albatross:
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God's name.

It ate the food it ne'er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
The helmsman steered us through!

And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariners' hollo!

In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
It perched for vespers nine;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
Glimmered the white Moon-shine.

"God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus! --
Why look'st thou so?" -- With my cross-bow
I shot the Albatross.

The Sun now rose upon the right:
Out of the sea came he,
Still hid in mist, and on the left
Went down into the sea.

This is a poem I read in high school and it stuck with me. I love the irony of everything: The mariner shoots the bird that gave his fellow seamen good-luck, the old mariner is the only one of his shipmates to survive even though he caused them all bad luck, the Bridegroom becomes sad on his wedding day, etc. I enjoy the foreboding tone of the poem because it deviates from most other poems, which are usually more whimsical. The darkness of it all is interesting because in the end it makes the characters stronger and wiser. The subtle rhymes allow the poem to be a story while also having a poetic flow at the same time. I like the dynamics between all the characters and their environment; how they all react to one another and respect the old mariner, and how they understand the sea as its own entity. The poem is filled with descriptive images and metaphors that allow readers to see and feel the mariner's story. The poem includes many other literary devices to enhance the story, such as the repetition of "the ice" to illustrate magnitude of ice. At last there is no closure because the mariner had passed on his sadness to the unsuspecting bridegroom, although there is a sense of satisfaction in knowing that he benefited from the experience.


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