A Look into Samuel Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of The Ancient Mariner’ Ties to Religion
The Romantic period is known for its artistic, musical, and intellectual movement, and during the 1800s Samuel Coleridge used religion to show the purpose of all human activities throughout his poetry. ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ and ‘Aids to Reflection’ have a significant focus on Coleridge’s use and thoughts of religion, while staying true to his poetry style. It has been argued that religion is not an important factor in poetry, which is possible with other poets. However, it is important to implement religion in poetry because it explores political advancement, language, and prudence.
According to Christopher Stokes’ essay ‘My Soul in Agony’: Irrationality and Christianity in ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Stokes explains human perfectibility, particularly his thoughts of faith its connections to political advancement. Coleridge gave tribute to the original sin and acknowledged that humans carry an impulsive ability to responded to ethical calls, ‘not just individual demands, but the overarching demand to follow the Good’ (Stokes 16). In Christianity, Unitarianism is the belief that humans have the ability to be good under the right circumstances. Acknowledging the original sin, in The Rime, Coleridge portrays a pang of ‘unpurged Gothic guilt.’ According to Coleridge, The Rime expresses a wave of guilt through the poem. The poem’s use of guilt and expiation argues that one God expects human beings to carry obedience when was the creator of all. He held the power to make and change humans if he thought we were lacking the ability to obey. Knowing when one is confronted with guilt one is incapably to overcome a moral horror and Coleridge displayed this factor in The Rime. The actions of the Mariner show to hold fear after he shoots the Albatross and all the other men in the ship begin to die. The weather foreshadows what’s to come ahead for him.
One thing that I found interesting was how Coleridge was fascinated with mortal sin. Stokes analyzes Coleridge’s structure of writing and reason and brings forth Coleridge’s idea of Human perfectibility and the idea of how God would demand mortal knowing it would be impossible to fulfill. This idea connects to The Rime because just like Adam and Eve the mariner is punished for his action and carries a punishment for the rest of his life. In Aids to Reflection, Coleridge explains what he accepts and understands about faith and how he is not fully intelligible to the idea of reason. According to John Beer’s essay, The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Coleridge’s Aid to Reflection steers away from connecting hereditary punishment the reason for human beings evil actions. Coleridge states, ‘flimsy analogies drawn from the imperfection of human ordinances and human justice-courts.’ However, Stokes explains that Coleridge believed that guilt and the emotions that were attracted were both major factors when one was trying to find redemption from the original sin.
Coleridge’s use of religion throughout his poetry allowed him to connect to a larger audience. His questions and thoughts of religion were shown throughout his work. He showed his audience what his options were about biblical readings by tying biblical tales into his poetry and other writings. The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Volume 9: Aids to Reflection, takes a different approach in my research it takes the use of Coleridge’s language. Author John B. Beer expands on Coleridge’s concern with language. Thinking about religion meant reflecting not only on the words which employed but on ordinary speech as well. The use of language that the reader was familiar with allowed them to understand and connect to Coleridge’s work. The words and language they already know and are talked of at Church resonate with their values. The hierarchy among society’s separation of classes was nonexistent when it came to finding the meaning of a word and even now class does not change the definition of language.
In Coleridge’s poem A Spring Of Love, he reveals his views on prayers and blessing. He also explains his attitudes and values about the working of the religious imagination in his poetry. In J. Robert Barth’s article, ‘A Spring of Love’ and Blessing in Coleridge’s ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ he explains that prayer is a gift and the idea of how it should be received. I found that Barth was interested in the concept of mutual causality and used the example of husband and wife, ‘one cannot be a husband unless one has a wife or a wife without a husband. They confer that a state of being mutually upon one another. Nor can there be Narcissus to the contrary notwithstanding a friendship of one’ (1 Barth). The creator reaches out to the creature, and vice versa when the two meet there is a prayer. Barth explains this concept as a ‘supernatural act, prompted by God’ the idea that one is putting themselves into God’s hands.
Another example of Coleridge’s work which implemented religion was ‘Aids to Reflection.’ In this work, Coleridge hopes his audience will be more of the young intellectual aspiring to greater reflective spiritual discipline. Coleridge explains he wanted his preface to acknowledge the worth of the power of language and be able to set the difference between reason and understanding. He wants to be able to frame his reasons together in a Christian context. Overall, he brings forth the gravity of reflective thinking, and how this could cause self-thinking to end, seeing the drop of self-knowledge and the idea that it should be an individual’s overall purpose to hold reason to a higher standards. Coleridge stresses that the ultimate reality of life is religion. According to Coleridge, prudence is necessary for there to be moral and spiritual religion. Prudence allows holiness and virtues although it is seen lesser than morality it functions as a protector of virtue and a preventer. Another object was the spiritual religion, and how it was seen as the highest level of religion attainment. This level was seen as the primary concern with reason and the will. ‘For Coleridge, the will is the ultimate transcendent, transcending nature and the laws of cause and effect.’ A spiritual connection was tied to religious morality, which referred to the transformation of conscience and the heart of religious faith. Coleridge believed this was an essential factor in any spiritual connection.
In J.A. Stuart’s article The Augustinian “Cause of Action” in Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, he explains that Coleridge was concerned with two religious’ questions: “the origin of evil and the relation of faith and reason” (Stuart). Aids of Reflection displayed a permanent and theological connection to St. Augustine, the Platonist church father, whom which Coleridge had been influenced by. Coleridge left ideas of this inside his theological lectures, notebooks and in the “Biographia Literaria,” which pointed to St. Augustine’s ideas. His first ideas of Augustine’s theology was seen in his first explanation of the original sin, which he explained shortly after he completed The Rime. Later Coleridge made a statement about the original sin in 1798. He avoided any question about guilt and affirmed that his thoughts about sin connected to Augustine’s
Another idea Stuart also explored was the actions of the Mariner in The Rime, and his manifestation, which concluded with him shooting the Albatross, which lead him to an eternal state of sin. He explains throughout the action when the Mariner shoots the bond between him and the sin sparks. This gives reason to the Mariner’s action of sin which, he later frees himself from the connections and compulsion actions of original sin which make him inherently good and outspokenly beautiful. Coleridge reaffirmed In the Confessio Fidei, his conception of the original sin, ‘I believe… that an evil ground existed in my will, previously to any given act, or assignable moment in my conscious’ (Coleridge). Coleridge was consistent with his ideas of evil and where the origin of it all began, which connects to the scene of the Mariner shooting of the Albatross. The Mariner’s actions were impulsive, thoughtless, and abruptly careless, which are all threats that many human beings carry. Each factor is held within every human, which Coleridge agrees that this idea is the cause of the original sin. This idea supports why so many religions stress to their followers the importance of being good. Symbolically mythologies and other religions have used this idea to connect to teach redemption for any sin one had done which had started before Christianity.
In The Rime, Coleridge writes the departure of the boat and this scene gives the reader three different ideas. The first idea is that the departure holds no connection along with any other part of the poem with the original sin, which Coleridge later explains and gives distinctions. Secondly, he explains that Coleridge’s later works similar to The Rime, are up to interpretation if one included his previous works, which influenced and helped develop Coleridge’s developed theology. One example is when the ship had left the dock. In this part, the Mariner did not take action to deal with the consequences of his evil act. He did not seem to have even recognized their presence. His actions show how difficult it is for the human will to take control if one can’t stop and control its own evil acts. The presentation of him killing a quasi-Christian bird holds a symbolic connection because it does draws to the original sin and he stressed that ones actions are come down to holding reason and being unknowledgeable.
Humans are known for acting abruptly and without reason. In The Rime, Coleridge has the Mariner’s act in an impulsive way and shoots the Albatross. His actions were seen unexpectedly evil and did not hold any valid reason for his impulsive action. Coleridge wanted the Mariner’s telling of his actions to connect to the wedding guests have them understand the consequences if they acted so abruptly and without reason. This example connects to the biblical tale of Adam and Eve because they were both given a rule to not break and that was not to eat the apples from the tree of knowledge. Eve is said to be convinced by Satan in the form of a snake and bites the fruit. This causes mankind to end a paradise and knowledge of pain. I connected this to be seen as a curse to mankind similar to that as the Mariner. The Mariner although unaware of the curse that will be bestowed upon him will be given when he kills the Albatross. In both examples, the characters act unexpectedly. According to Stokes, ‘Coleridge had long considered much of the legal narrative of the Orthodox Christianity to be brutal and primitive, unworthy of a rationalized moral religion’ (16 Stokes). For many years it was said that the closer one was to God the more powerful one was. Throughout many years it was thought that the King was said to be a disciple of God and was chosen by him to rule over the people. The First Great Awakening stressed the importance of holding onto a personal relationship with God and the responsibility that came along with it. The new movement had then caused a powerful political dimension, and a growing number of preachers throughout the colonies a scriptural defense that awoke independence. Nonetheless, during The First Awakening, traditional Anglicanism remained powerful.
According to Lucyle Werkmeister’s Coleridge on Science, Philosophy, and Poetry: Their Relation to Religion, emotions is what allows us to understand what’s important. I found that emotion made a connection to the importance of literature in religion. Emotion is allowing oneself to know what is necessary and how it should be understood. Werkmeister explains that’s feelings can naturally connect to objects and can cause, ‘satiety and disrelish” because of these emotions take the place of another idea. Since humans have a difficult time learning from experience emotions are then attached to them. These emotions are used as a reminder of how important that experience was. One might take an example from Coleridge’s literature to see how one experience shifted an entire life. One example in The Rime is his cursed experience and how he must continue to retell his tale. His past is his curse and emotions are what he used to tell the tale. Without allowing the audience to see the connection of the speaker and his story it would cause the story to shift and show a disconnection from the reader and the audience. The connection between religion and the story is what connects the audience. It allows them to understand and share thoughts.
In the Collected Letters of Samuel Coleridge, he explains that everything must be tied to something. ‘All have obscure feelings that must be connected with something or other,’ said Coleridge. His ideas allowed non-concrete ideas to hold reason and gave religious thoughts a purpose. Coleridge insisted that faith and reason should be one. Where there is faith there should be a reason. One difference between many other religions and Christianity was that Christianity stressed on ‘objective reason.’ Werkmeister believed that science that supports religion creates a positive command. It is commonly known that if something is proven then it becomes a fact. Scientific facts that support religion is what helps support their reason. Although facts are essential, theories are what excites men and provide action. Theories provide a framework to better understand and formulate, future questions that can better challenge the facts. Some theories that line up with facts are what causes more people to investigate them. In the romantic period, various literary authors wrote stories that included various biblical references and other ideas from the bible. This idea gave them power and purpose to connect with their audience while they wrote in a style that found the importance of religion within.
The implication of religion in poetry is essential because it explores language, prudence, and political advancement. Though some readers might disagree, the use of religion has allowed the poet to create a connection with its readers. Poetry has also given reason to religion and allowed its audience to create its framework of the poem. Coleridge proves that religion can be tied to poetry and used effectively. Religion in poetry gives it a purpose and challenges its readers to look again.
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