Critical Analysis of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

Tthe original version of the poem in the 1797 edition of Lyrical Ballads did not consist of the side notes. But the explanatory notes confuse, rather than clarify, the poem as a whole. While there are times that they explain some unspoken action, there are also times that they interpret the material of the poem in a way that seems at odds with or irrelevant to, the poem itself. For instance, in the second part, we find a note regarding the spirit that followed the ship nine fathoms deep: “one of the invisible inhabitants of this planet, neither departed souls nor angels; concerning whom the learned Jew, Josephus, and the Platonic Constantinopolitan, Michael Psellus, may be consulted.” A question that has bewildered scholars since the first publication of the poem in this form is that What might Coleridge have meant by introducing such figures as “the Platonic Constantinopolitan, Michael Psellus,” into the poem and by implying that the verse itself should be interpreted through him. There is certainly an element of wittiness in Coleridge’s scholarly glosses, a bit of parody aimed at the writers of serious glosses of this type. For example, phrases such as Platonic Constantinopolitan might seem consciously silly.

Critics have made many inventive attempts to do just that and have found in the poem a number of interesting readings, ranging from Christian parable to political allegory. But these interpretations are dampened by the fact that none of them seems essential to the story itself. One can accept these interpretations of the poem only if one disregards the glosses almost completely.

A more interesting, though still uncertain, reading of the poem maintains that Coleridge intended it as a commentary on the ways in which people interpret the lessons of the past and the ways in which the past is, to a large extent, simply unknowable.

By filling his out-dated ballad with elaborate symbolism that cannot be interpreted in any single, definitive way and then framing that symbolism with side notes that pick at it and offer a highly theoretical spiritual-scientific interpretation of its classifications, Coleridge creates tension between the ambiguous poem and the unambiguous notes, exposing a gulf between the “old” poem and the “new” attempt to understand it. The message would be that, though certain moral lessons from the past are still comprehensible and other aspects of its narratives are less easily grasped.


Poetic Devices in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

The poem is rich in poetic devices. One of the poetic devices used in this poem is Irony. It is reflected in the lines “Water, water everywhere, not any drop to drink.” Where the appearance of the eye is compared to a curse and wake left by sea snakes is compared to fires, the poet makes use of Metaphor. Comparison of the passing of a soul to the sound of a shot arrow, Comparison of the sky and sea to a weight on the eye, Comparison of reflected sunbeams to frost, Comparison of the bride to a rose, Comparison of water to witch’s oils and Comparison of the motionless ship and ocean to paintings all are examples of the figure of speech namely Simile. Synecdoche is reflected in the lines “The western wave was all a-flame”, where the wave refers to the ocean.

The Theme of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

The poem makes clear the following: Man is a sinful creature, but improvement awaits him if he regrets his wrongdoing and performs repentance. This theme manifests itself as follows: After the ancient mariner obligates a sin by killing the impediment, guilt chases him in the form of bizarre normal and paranormal occurrences. During one frightening experience, he has a change of heart and repents his offense. After pleading guilty to the Recluse, he carries out a forfeit, which is to travel the world to tell his tale to strangers. The poem also has a theme that Human beings should respect all of God’s creation and all of his creatures, comprising the albatross and even sea snakes. In doing so, people show their respect for the Creator Himself. Coleridge clearly makes the point that beyond the restrictions of the known world are many strange and fearful sights that voyagers will come across.

The Tone of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

The poem is divided into seven parts. Most of the stanzas in the poem have four lines while several have five or six lines. In the four-line stanzas, the second and fourth lines usually rhyme. In the five and six-line stanzas, the second or third line usually rhymes with the final line. The poem is about a man on a voyage by ship, who in one thoughtless and atrocious act, changes the course of his life and death.  The Mariner faces an inner struggle over the crime he has committed and must comprehend his actions and perform his repentance.  He must also learn to abandon his negative views and openly accept all of Gods’ creatures.  The cruise then turns out to be an expedition of learning important lessons in liability, recognition, mercy, and sorrow.

Central Idea of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

Through stages of penance, repentance, absolution, and redemption, Coleridge is able to depict the central idea of salvation in ‘The Rime of Ancient Mariner’.  Humans are able to gain access to the favor of God only by realizing that the monsters around him are beautiful in God’s eyes and that he should love them as he should have loved the Albatross. The Mariner’s encounter with a Hermit will spell out this message obviously, and the reader will learn why the Mariner had stopped the Wedding Guest to tell him this story.


The poem concludes by saying that Suffering is sometimes the only way to change someone’s habits for good. In the poem “The Rime of Ancient Mariner” it is established that pride is sometimes the most important and basic sins which have been getting humans into trouble.

By relating himself with the Ancient Mariner, Coleridge understands that he, and in addition, all writers are distressed by their gift for storytelling. It is, in fact, a curse. The poem occurs in the natural, physical world namely the land and ocean. The Ancient Mariner addresses respect for the natural world as a way to remain in good standing with the spiritual world since, in order to respect God, one must esteem all of his creations. This is why he valorizes the Hermit, who sets the model of both prayers and living in harmony with nature. In his final advice to the Wedding Guest, the Ancient Mariner sustains that one can access the sublime, the image of a greater and better world, only by seeing the value of the ordinary, the unimportant things of daily life.

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