Meaning and Solved Questions of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner


Annotations of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

In the first stanza, it is seen that three young men are walking together to a wedding when one of them is arrested by a whined old sailor. The young Wedding-Guest angrily demands that the Mariner let go of him, and the Mariner submits. But the young man is spellbound by the ancient Mariner’s glittering eye and can do nothing but sit on a stone and pay attention to his weird story.

The Mariner says that he sailed on a ship out of his native harbor, below the hill, below the lighthouse top and into a sunny and cheerful sea. Hearing the beautiful music wandering from the direction of the wedding, the Wedding guest imagines that the bride has entered the hall, but he is still helpless to tear himself from the Mariner’s story.

The Mariner evokes that the voyage quickly darkened, as a giant storm rose up in the sea and careered the ship southward. Quickly, the ship came to a frigid land of mist and snow, where ice, mast-high, came floating by. The ship was shortened inside this labyrinth of ice. But then the sailors came across an Albatross, a great sea bird. As it flew around the ship, the ice cracked and split and the wind from the south drove the ship out of the freezing regions, into a vague stretch of water.

The Albatross followed behind it, a symbol of good luck to the sailors. The Mariner then confesses that he shot and killed the Albatross with his crossbow.

At first, the other sailors were uncompromising with the Mariner for having killed the bird that made the gentle wind blow. But when the fog lifted soon afterward, it was obvious that the bird had actually brought not the breezes but the fog. They now acknowledged the Mariner on his deed.

The wind pushed the ship into a silent sea where the sailors were quickly stranded, the winds died down, and the ship was as idle. The ocean solidified, and the men had no water to drink. At night, the water seared green, blue, and white with death fire. Some of the sailors dreamed that a spirit followed them underneath the ship from the land of mist and snow. The sailors accused the Mariner of their difficulty and hung the dead body of the Albatross around his neck like a cross.

As time passed, the sailors became so thirsty, their mouths so dry, that they were unable to speak. But one day, looking westward, the Mariner saw a tiny speck on the horizon. It set into a ship, moving towards them. Too weak to speak and notify the other sailors, the Mariner bit down on his arm, extracting the blood.

The sailors smiled, believing they were protected. But as the ship neared, they saw that it was a ghostlike, skeletal casing of a ship and that its crew contained two figures: Death and the nightmare Life in Death, who takes the form of a pale woman with golden locks and red lips, and thick man’s blood with cold. Death and Life in Death began to throw dice, and the woman won, at which point she whistled three times. This caused the sun to sink into the horizon and the stars to instantly appear. As the moon rose, chased by a single star, all except the Mariner dropped dead one by one. The souls of the dead men leaped from their bodies and rushed by the Mariner.

The Wedding Guest declares that he fears the Mariner, with his glittering eye and his skinny hand. The Mariner comforts the Wedding Guest that there is no need for dread as he was not among the men who died, and he is a living man, not a ghost.

Unaided on the ship, bounded by two hundred corpses, the Mariner was surrounded by the slimy sea and the slimy creatures that crawled across its surface. He closed his eyes, powerless to bear the sight of the dead men, each of who stared at him with the hatred of their final spell. For seven days and seven nights the Mariner endured the sight, and yet he was unable to die. At last, the moon rose, forming the great shadow of the ship across the waters, where the ship’s shadow touched the waters, they burned red. The great water snakes moved through the silvery moonlight, glittering. The snakes twisted and whirled and became beautiful in the Mariner’s eyes. He sanctified the beautiful individuals in his heart. At that moment, he found himself gifted to pray, and the carcass of the Albatross fell from his neck, sinking like lead into the sea.

Solved Questions of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

1. Why does the Mariner kill the Albatross?

The Mariner kills the albatross because he connected the lack of the wind with it.  At first, all the men thought the bird was good luck since a good wind blew and they moved quickly.  Then, the wind died and they accused the bird.  The sailors applauded when the Mariner killed the bird which is symbolic of animal abuse.  By killing the bird, he is disrespecting all of nature, a sin ever since the poem states:  all creatures great and small the Lord God created them all.

2. What is the message of the poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”?

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of Ancient Mariner” is a moral chronicle poem that sends the readers multifaceted messages. But this complexity mainly stands up due to the rich symbolism enclosed in the poem. In the poem, we see that a mariner stops a wedding guest and powers him to listen to a story in which he kills an albatross in the course of a journey he makes with other sailors in the sea. We come to know that the mariner feels he is cursed because of this. He is disturbed and harbors repentance for the wrong he did by killing the not guilty creature in blind faith or false notion.

3. What do “Death” and “Life-in-Death” stand for in Coleridge’s The Rime of Ancient Mariner?

It is evident that these two possibilities that appear on the ship and play a scary game of dice for the life of the Mariner represent what their names say they are. Death signifies complete death, and Life-in-Death denotes a state of death that exists in life. This is a state that the Mariner has to suffer because Life-in-Death triumphs the Mariner, whereas Death wins the life of the sailors, bringing about in their deaths. While clearly concentrating on their explanations and in particular the portrayal of Life-in-Death, it is evident that they are deeply reminiscent of what these figures embody. The fact that Life-in-Death wins the Mariner, and the way that we are presented with how the Mariner lives: doomed to wander the world and share his story, cheers to an overpowering compulsion. This shows the life-in-death that he has to withstand as his punishment.

4. What does the Albatross symbolize in the poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”?

The albatross, to sailors, is a sign of good luck, and sailors everywhere for centuries are very credulous people, so they look for signs.  In the poem, however, the albatross is the representation of the curse and the origin of the popular saying “hang an albatross around his neck”.  It is an encumbrance to be carried that you cannot avoid or end on your own.

To kill an albatross at sea brings instant bad luck, and casts a blanket over the mood of the men as they then expect something bad will happen, and of course, the point of the story is that something bad does happen and the crew and the boat are cursed.

5. How does the Mariner describe the movement of the ship as it sails away from the land?

The Mariner is very comprehensive and vibrant about the ship leaving the anchorage. The wedding guest is fascinated by the event. The ship moved south happily enjoying the relatively good weather at first. But after the Mariner shoots the albatross, he experiences both disgrace and blame.

6. How does Coleridge show the pain, the suffering and the repentance in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”?

The Mariner’s pain is shown in the penalty he obtains. He not only feels regret and guiltiness over his own ridiculous actions, but it forced to watch the pain and suffering of his shipmates, as they die one by one, until no one is left. His guilt is thus doubled, and the pain of that guilt shadows him for the rest of his life. The Mariner is further penalized through his inability to pray, to communicate with God and ask compassion, and absolution from the priest doesn’t give him relief. Thus, he relives his experience and pays penance, each and every time he relates the story. 

 

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