In the seven-part lyrical ballad by Samuel Taylor Coleridge entitled The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the main character recounts a horrifying story of his youth. The mariner sailed on a ship towards the south, when a storm sent it farther, to the South Pole. Later the ship’s crew sees an albatross, they recognize it as a good omen, and their journey seems to ease. The next day the mariner shoots the albatross, which does not bring immediate misfortune immediately. In contrast, the ship goes further into the sea, then the winds cease. The crew becomes furious with the mariner and hangs the bird around his neck, cursing him. In this windless trap, they encounter a ship ridden by gambling Death and Life-in-Death. Life-and-Death wins the mariner’s soul, and the rest die one by one. When the mariner musters his strength to pray, the albatross falls from his neck into the sea, angels take his crewmates, and the ship is sent towards the homeland. Upon approaching the shore, the mariner nearly drowns, but a Hermit saves him, motivating the mariner to tell his story to the world.
The poem covers the religious topics of sin and prayer. On the one hand, the catalyst of the whole life of suffering was the mariner’s sin. When the ship was in a fog, and the albatross appeared, it was miraculous, since they were far in the otherwise empty sea, possibly, it was a sign sent by God. Despite that, the mariner inexplicably shot the bird for no apparent reason, supposedly going against God. The mariner recognizes it saying: “He prayeth best, who loveth best / All things both great and small; / For the dear God who loveth us, / He made and loveth all” (Coleridge, para. 150). He believes that one should not kill a living thing without purpose, but instead love all God’s creatures. Notably, Life-in-Death received his soul, granting him a non-living bearing of his sinful action’s consequences.
On the other hand, when the mariner prayed, God mercifully relieved his sufferings by taking his crewmates’ bodies, which reminded him of his sin and sending the ship towards land. The mariner has to live with the consequences of his sin and retell his story to people he meets, but his prayer was answered even in the most hopeless circumstances. Therefore, the author warns readers about the retribution for the sins and illustrates how powerful prayer can be.
In my opinion, by telling the horrifying tale of the old mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge reminds the readers about the implications of sins and the power of prayer. It is easy to forget that actions have consequences and do something without consideration. However, one can learn from a grave and exaggerated example not to commit the same mistakes that the character did, or be prepared to carry the sin’s weight for the rest of one’s life. Another crucial idea is that prayer is powerful, and one is always connected to God, even in the darkest times. The mariner forgot that he almost lost his faith when his crewmates died, and he was alone in the sea. However, God never abandoned him, even showed him the signs of the divine presence, and gave him blessings despite the mariner’s crime. After reading this mystical and highly imaginative folk ballad, I feel a strong connection to God, which is the most significant impact the poem had on me. Apart from that, I recognize its distinguished tone and a song-like manner, and the author’s romantic view of the world.
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor (1798). The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, In Coleridge, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads. London: J. & A. Arch, Gracechurch-Street.