Ancient Mariner

Ancient Mariner
Part VII
Carry over questions….
• Why is the Hermit on the Pilot’s boat?
• Why a Hermit & not a priest?
• Can he absolve (shrieve) the Mariner’s sin &
alleviate his burden?
First Stanza (514-518)
This Hermit good lives in that wood
Which slopes down to the sea.
How loudly his sweet voice he rears!
He loves to talk with marineres
That come from a far countree.
• Irregular Stanza (5 lines)
• Internal & End Rhyme
• Subtle Consonance of the ‘s’
• Imagery: distinctly favorable.
Wholesome & pure.
• Apparently, this Hermit
likes to greet ships.
Though, it is an odd
hour to do so. Has he
suspected something
odd about this vessel?
• “lives in that wood”
suggests that he is an
ascetic or a mystic. He
lives in the natural
world, not the
institutional church.
Stanza 2 & 3 (519-526)
He kneels at morn, and noon,
and eve—
He hath a cushion plump:
It is the moss that wholly hides
The rotted old oak-stump.
The skiff-boat neared: I heard
them talk,
'Why, this is strange, I trow!
Where are those lights so many
and fair,
That signal made but now?'
Conventional 4 line stanzas
Polysyndeton: conjunctions in first
Metonymy: Holiness & devotion
of the Hermit are established.
“Kneels” suggests prayer.
“Moss” on the “stump” is his
cushion. Suggests his simplicity &
his connection with the natural
world. May also take a shot at
the pomp & decadence of the
conventional church.
“Trow” = I suppose
Hermit observes that the
escorting angels are no longer
“strange” may actually
constitute understatement.
Stanza 4
'Strange, by my faith!' the Hermit
'And they answered not our cheer!
The planks looked warped! and see
those sails,
How thin they are and sere!
I never saw aught like to them,
Unless perchance it were
Irregular stanza
Repetition of “strange”
“cheer” may allude back to the
cheer from the ship’s launch, albeit
Continued subtle “s’ consonance.
One can be certain the
Hermit has seen a few
odd sights in his life. This
one is a source of
“wonder” to him, as per
the gloss.
The condition of the ship
is ghastly & gothic.
A description of the
boat emerges through
the Hermit’s observation.
Clearly, this is not a
functional boat.
Stanza 5
Brown skeletons of leaves that lag
My forest-brook along;
When the ivy-tod is heavy with snow,
And the owlet whoops to the wolf
That eats the she-wolf's young.'
• Continuation of the Hermit’s
description: enjambment
• Irregular stanza
• Consonance of “l” sound
• Alliteration of ‘w’ sound.
• “Ivy-tod” = Ivy bush
• Imagery is that of the
natural world.
• The decay of the
ship’s sails is likened to
the death of foliage in
the fall.
• A predatory scene
from the natural order
of things is depicted:
an owl preying on a
wolf’s young. Suggests
that something has
preyed upon the ship.
But is it natural?
Stanzas 6, 7, 8
'Dear Lord! it hath a fiendish look—
(The Pilot made reply)
I am a-feared'—'Push on, push on!'
Said the Hermit cheerily.
The boat came closer to the ship,
But I nor spake nor stirred;
The boat came close beneath the
And straight a sound was heard.
Under the water it rumbled on,
Still louder and more dread:
It reached the ship, it split the bay;
The ship went down like lead.
Regular stanzas.
Pilot speaks. Evokes the name of God
at the sight of the “fiendish” ship. For
him to be frightened (“afeared”) is
Juxtaposition: the Hermit’s enthusiasm
contrasts the Pilot’s fear & trepidation.
Anaphora present in 1st and 3rd line.
Mariner remains silent. WHY?
Sound once again a key sensory
element in the poem.
Who or what is responsible for the
“dread” evokes the tone associated
with the sound, in case there is any
doubt that it is fearsome.
A simple but definitive & alliterative
simile. The boat sinks “like lead.”
Stanza 9 & 10
Stunned by that loud and
dreadful sound,
Which sky and ocean smote,
Like one that hath been seven
days drowned
My body lay afloat;
But swift as dreams, myself I
Within the Pilot's boat.
Upon the whirl, where sank the
The boat spun round and round;
And all was still, save that the hill
Was telling of the sound.
Irregular stanza: emphasizes the
extremity of the scene
Repetition: “dreadful” is reinforced
The simile is ironic, as the Mariner is
very much alive (life in death). He
is not permitted to die, in spite of
the danger of the conditions.
Ambiguity surrounds the transition
of the Mariner into the boat. How
did he get there?
Simile: “swift as dreams” suggests
there is a surreal quality to these
Alliteration: “w” and “s” sounds
The action of the boat sinking is
sudden, dramatic, and quick.
An echo off of the “hill” confirms
that the sound occurred, but what
follows is silence & “still(ness).”
Images related to the Pilot’s boat & the sinking of the ship
Stanzas 11 & 12
I moved my lips—the Pilot
And fell down in a fit;
The holy Hermit raised his eyes,
And prayed where he did sit.
I took the oars: the Pilot's boy,
Who now doth crazy go,
Laughed loud and long, and all
the while
His eyes went to and fro.
'Ha! ha!' quoth he, 'full plain I
The Devil knows how to row.'
They cannot believe he is alive.
The Hermit’s behavior is dramatic
counterpoint to the Pilot’s. Yet, both
the shrieking and the praying
dramatize the scene’s terror.
Their respective reactions inform the
reader as to how distorted the
appearance of the Mariner is, taking
the place of direct description.
Irregular stanza
Out of necessity, the Mariner takes
control of the boat.
The behavior of the Pilot’s boy is even
more dramatic than the reaction of
the Pilot & the Hermit. Again, the
Mariner’s appearance is rendered
terrifying without any direct
The association of the Mariner with
the “Devil” suggests both his physical
& moral condition.
Stanzas 13 & 14
And now, all in my own
I stood on the firm land!
The Hermit stepped forth from
the boat,
And scarcely he could stand.
The Mariner seems gleeful about
his return to “firm” land,
understandably. His glee is
contrasted by the Hermit’s
'O shrieve me, shrieve me, holy
The Hermit crossed his brow.
'Say quick,' quoth he, 'I bid thee
What manner of man art thou?'
The Mariner’s plea to be
“shrieve(d)” evokes his desperate
hope that what happened at
sea can be righted on land.
The Hermit’s reaction (“crossing
his brow”) suggests he made the
sign of the cross. He might do this
to protect himself from the
Mariner, whom he views as evil.
The Hermit is not certain that
what he sees is a man. Before he
can offer absolution, he must
confirm that he is not some other
order of spirit or reanimated
Was the Mariner shrieved?
Stanzas 15, 16, 17
Forthwith this frame of mine was
With a woful agony,
Which forced me to begin my tale;
And then it left me free.
Since then, at an uncertain hour,
That agony returns:
And till my ghastly tale is told,
This heart within me burns.
I pass, like night, from land to land;
I have strange power of speech;
That moment that his face I see,
I know the man that must hear me:
To him my tale I teach.
Transition Point
Alliteration: strong presence in the
This represents the first (presumably of
many times) that the Mariner is required
to tell his tale by what whatever agent
continues to punish him.
The supernatural power of this force is
indisputable based upon the
Repetition: “agony”
The “uncertain(ty)” of the “agony(‘s)”
return no doubt contributes to the
Simile: Why “like night” rather than “like
day”? His life is a shadowy & tortured
Repetition: the word “strange” has been
used many times in this section.
The Mariner speaks of the recognition
process by which he identifies his
listeners. There is no explanation of why.
Allusion: The Wandering Jew motif
emerges in this stanza.
Diction: The use of the word “teach” is
Stanzas 18, 19
What loud uproar bursts from that
The wedding-guests are there:
But in the garden-bower the bride
And bride-maids singing are:
And hark the little vesper bell,
Which biddeth me to prayer!
O Wedding-Guest! this soul hath been
Alone on a wide wide sea:
So lonely 'twas, that God himself
Scarce seemed there to be.
Irregular stanza
Alliteration: the “b” sound
The Mariner draws attention to the
wedding feast. In doing so, he
intends to contrast the joy of the
celebration with his on-going
penance. “biddeth me to prayer”
may suggest the Mariner is required
to pray. Or is it of his own free will?
Alliteration/consonance: “s” sound
The use of “O Wedding-Guest!”
may be suggestive of apostrophe.
However, his particular part of the
poem would be better
characterized as dramatic
monologue. (see next slide)
“God” is evoked. The reader is left
to wonder what role He has played
in the Mariner’s fate.
A dramatic monologue is a piece of spoken verse that offers great insight into the
feelings of the speaker. Not to be confused with a soliloquy in a play (in which the
character speaking speaks to him or herself), dramatic monologues suggest an auditor or
auditors. They were favored by many poets in the Victorian period, in which a character
in fiction or in history delivers a speech explaining his or her feelings, actions, or
motives. The monologue is usually directed toward a silent audience, with the speaker's
words influenced by a critical situation.
M. H. Abrams notes the following three features of the dramatic monologue:
1. A single person, who is patently not the poet, utters the speech that makes up the
whole of the poem, in a specific situation at a critical moment.
2. This person addresses and interacts with one or more other people; but we know
of the auditors' presence, and what they say and do, only from clues in the
discourse of the single speaker.
3. The main principle controlling the poet's choice and formulation of what the lyric
speaker says is to reveal to the reader, in a way that enhances its interest, the
speaker's temperament and character.
Apostrophe (Greek ἀποστροφή, apostrophé, "turning away"; the final e being sounded)
is an exclamatory rhetorical figure of speech, when a speaker or writer breaks off and
directs speech to an imaginary person or abstract quality or idea. In dramatic works and
poetry written in or translated into English, such a figure of speech is often introduced by
the exclamation "O".
It is related to personification, although in apostrophe, objects or abstractions are implied
to have certain human qualities (such as understanding) by the very fact that the speaker
is addressing them as he would a person in his presence.
Apostrophe is often used to convey extreme emotion, as in Claudius's impassioned
speech in Hamlet.
Stanzas 20 & 21
O sweeter than the marriagefeast,
'Tis sweeter far to me,
To walk together to the kirk
With a goodly company!—
To walk together to the kirk,
And all together pray,
While each to his great Father
Old men, and babes, and loving
And youths and maidens gay!
Tone: the poem takes on a decidedly
preachier & didactic quality as the
Mariner builds to his moral.
Some scholars think this stanza points
to Coleridge’s own marital troubles,
which are well-documented.
Regardless, it seems reasonable that
a lonely old man, deeply penitent for
his sins, would find a quiet church
service preferable to a party
(marriage feast). The Mariner may
also be bitter that part of his penance
precludes him from marriage & a
conventional life.
“Kirk” = church
Irregular stanza: 5 lines
Repetition: lines 603 & 605 (ABCCB)
Christian fellowship is promoted
actively in this stanza.
The Mariner sounds like a spiritual
man. Perhaps he was shrieved?
Stanzas 22 & 23
Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.
Gloss: And to teach, by his own example, love
& reverence to all things that God made &
He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
The Mariner begins his closing
statement & departure sequence.
Tone: the Mariner’s proselytizing
reaches it height.
It would seem to constitute a clear
& direct moral. All life is sacred.
Direct address punctuates that the
advice is for the Wedding-Guest to
The gloss suggests that the Mariner
‘teach(es)”, a word that came up
earlier in the section.
Ambiguity: Can “teaching” be
authentic when it occurs under
compulsion & duress? Wouldn’t it
be more powerful & compelling if
the Mariner did it of his own volition
& free will?
Is the Mariner’s on-going fate
consistent with the idea of a God
who “loveth all”?
Parallel Structure: lines 612 & 614
Repetition: “loveth” 4x underscores
the moral
Stanzas 24 & 25
The Mariner, whose eye is bright,
Whose beard with age is hoar,
Is gone: and now the Wedding-Guest
Turned from the bridegroom's door.
He went like one that hath been
And is of sense forlorn:
A sadder and a wiser man,
He rose the morrow morn.
The “eye” remains the
Mariner’s most distinguishing
characteristic right to his
departure. Although, it is now
simply “bright” rather than
The impact of the story on
the guest is clear. He is no
longer interested in the
wedding feast…buzz kill.
“He” refers to the guest, not
the Mariner.
Tone: the words “stunned”,
“forlorn”, “sadder”, & “wiser”
are central the closing of the
“forlorn” = deprived
“sadder” = soberer
Pure Poetry or Didacticism???
Lingering issues & questions…
“The absence of moral or intellectual core in the poem suggests that the more
comprehending parts of our minds should go to sleep while we read.”
“Mrs. Barbauld told me that the only faults she found with the Ancient Mariner were
– that it was improbable and had no moral. As for the probability – to be sure that
might admit some question – but I told her that in my judgment the poem had too
much moral, and that too openly obtruded on the reader.“
Critic I.A. Richards promotes an aesthetic or pure poetry reading in his 1950 evaluation.
We can assume that Coleridge is referring to the overtly didactic nature of the poem’s closing in this quote.
But does the moral of the Ancient Mariner really add up??
What is the Mariner’s crime?
Does his punishment fit the crime?
Does his punishment EVER end? How can you have a tell of crime & expiation when the
sinner is never fully forgiven?
Who is the REAL agent(s) of the Mariner’s punishment?
Does the punishment of the crew seem apropos? Their souls are evidently not judged
based upon the one choice to approve the Mariner’s behavior.
How can punishment assigned as result of a game of chance be fair? It seems purely
arbitrary. (Death & Life-in-Death)
Does the Mariner exhibit sufficient free will? Need he demonstrate free will at all?
• Inability to pray
• Blessing the water snakes “unaware”
• His compulsion to tell his tale
Does the punishment fit the crime? Only if
the bird is a symbol of something greater.
What is the Mariner’s crime? An act of
pure, willful pride.

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