December 07, 2021

#08-162: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The Crew ties the albatross around thee Ancient Mariner's neck

Note: Coleridge's eerie story of an old man doomed to wander the earth telling his tale or "rime" has left a number of expressions scattered about in our language.

Get Ready: Do you believe in luck? Do you believe that some actions can change a person's luck?

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who wrote Kubla Khan, was also known for his weird, mystical poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

The poem begins when the old, grey-bearded Mariner tells his tale to another guest at a wedding. He starts the story when his ship departs on a journey. The voyage is lucky at first, but the ship soon reaches the Antarctic. When it's stuck in an ice jam, an albatross--a great sea bird--appears, and seems to guide the crew out of trouble. It lands on the ship, and the delighted crew feeds it. But for some unexplained reason, the Mariner shoots it.

The crew is angry, believing the bird had brought them luck. But after his death the weather begins to clear, and they think perhaps the albatross actually had brought the fog and mist as well. Soon, however, the spirits of the region pursue the ship and crew, becalming it near the equator. Supplies run short (whence we get the line, "Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink"), and the men blame the Mariner for this torment.

As punishment, they force the Mariner to wear the corpse of the albatross hanging from his neck, where a cross is usually worn; "an albatross around one's neck" still means "an annoying burden."

The ship encounters a ghost ship, crewed by a skeleton (Death) and a deathly pale woman ("Life-in-Death"). They gamble for the souls of the ship's crew. Death wins the lives of the others, but Life-in-Death wins the Mariner's, which she considers more valuable than all the rest. As Death takes the others one by one, the Mariner goes on--not alive, but not dead either--for his killing of the albatross.

As he begins to see the beauty in the sea creatures around him, where before he saw only "slimy things," he is able to pray, and the albatross at last falls from his neck. Rain falls, and the dead crew, now possessed by good spirits, rises again to man the ship.

The Mariner at last wakes from his trance as his homeland comes into sight. As his ship sinks, a rescue boat comes; a boy in the boat thinks the Mariner is the Devil.

Driven by guilt, he must now wander the earth telling his story, and teaching this lesson:

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. Antarctic
  2. becalming
  3. burden
  4. mariner
  5. mystical
  6. rime
  7. torment
  8. trance
  9. weird
  10. whence

  1. supernatural; spiritual
  2. from where
  3. a sailor
  4. unearthly; uncanny
  5. suffering; misery
  6. the state between sleeping and waking
  7. the southern region of the earth
  8. taking away the wind
  9. an old spelling of "rhyme"
  10. load; obligation

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for December 7, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. g; 2. h; 3. j; 4. c; 5. a; 6. i; 7. e; 8. f; 9. d; 10. b