The Rime of the Ancient Mariner By: MaryaTopina, Danielle Yu, and Madison Trice
Background Information • Author: Samuel Taylor Coleridge • Genre: lyrical ballad (a mix of story-telling and intense expressions of subjective and emotional experience) • First published among other poems in “Lyrical Ballads” in 1798 • This collection of poems launched Britain’s Romanticism movement
SummaryParagraph 1 One day, three men are on their way to a wedding when an old sailor stops one of the wedding guests at the door. With the help of his hypnotizing gaze, the old sailor keeps the attention of the man, who has no choice but to listen to the Mariner’s gruesome tale. The Mariner explains that he was sailing with his crew in Antarctica when they got caught in an ice and fog storm. A kind albatross decides to show them the way out of the storm, but the Mariner decides to shoot the bird.
Summary ContinuedParagraph 2 • Soon the sailors do get out of the ice storm, and it becomes quite hot. The water supply runs out, an evil spirit haunts the ship, and slimy monsters crawl in the sea around them. The crew blames the Mariner for all that has happened, hanging the dead albatross around his neck so that he doesn’t forget. As the crew slowly dies of thirst, the Mariner spots a ship in the distance and calls out for assistance. However, the distant ship is controlled by Death and Life-In-Death. These two spirits kill all of the sailors besides the Mariner himself. Now sailing with a dead crew, he escapes death by unconsciously blessing the slimy water snake monsters surrounding the ship. His sins forgiven, the dead albatross slips off of his neck, thus breaking his curse.
Summary Continued (again!)Paragraph 3 The Mariner falls asleep, only waking up when rain starts falling all around. The dead corpses, filled with angel spirits, rise up and start going about their activities, piloting the ship. The Mariner loses consciousness once again, this time hearing two voices discussing that he still has more penance to do. Soon the ship enters the port. A rescue boat with a hermit in it appears to bring the Mariner safely back to shore. As they row back to the bank, the Mariner’s ship sinks. The old sailor feels a desperate need to tell his story to his rescuer, the hermit. The Mariner explains to the wedding guest that this is why he felt it necessary to stop the guest, since he was experiencing a great pain up until the story had been told. Once the Mariner leaves, the guest no longer desires to attend the wedding, and leaves, permanently marked by his experience.
Mood • The mood of this poem is anguished because the Mariner feels distressed throughout recalling his story to the wedding guest. Also, the wedding guest experiences feelings of anguish during and after listening to the Mariner’s story. For instance, the wedding guest “beat his breast, /Yet he cannot choose but hear;” (Stanza 9). This shows that the wedding guest is upset that he is held captive and has no choice but to listen to the old sailor’s story. By beating his chest, he is demonstrating that he longs to go to the wedding. Also, in the Mariner’s story, he mentions that the moment upon the ship was “A weary time! a weary time! /How glazed each weary eye,” (Stanza 29). By exclaiming so, the Mariner is depicting how upset he is over all the hardships they had to experience. Finally, when the Mariner had finished his story, the wedding guest “is of sense forlorn /A sadder and a wiser man,” (Stanza 77). The entire experience explained in the Mariner’s story caused the wedding guest to become distressed and full of sorrow. In conclusion, this poem depicts the Mariner’s and wedding guest’s feelings of anguish, making the entire poem’s mood anguished.
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