The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge Addresses Humanity’s Relationship to the Natural World
To the same extent that the Ancient Mariner entrances the Wedding-Guest with his ‘glittering eye,’ Samuel Taylor Coleridge sought to draw his audience in to The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere (1798). The poem, written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, is constructed using various elements associated with the traditional ballad form of poetry. These elements, including the literary form the words take, the narrative style and the subject matter encourage the reader to associate the content with pre-modernity. However it is through the allegorical aspect of the ballad form that the ambiguity of emphasis on both modernity and pre-modernity in relation to nature is most pronounced. A later version of the poem further expands upon this, but simultaneously changes the nature of this relationship.In The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1834), the final revision of the poem, many differences to the original are evident. As an effect of modernising the archaic diction, adding marginal glosses and omitting certain passages, Coleridge largely removed the pre-modern critique of society. In turn, a moral interpretation is imposed on the reader. By assessing the differences between the two ballads, the idea that nature is above human perception is evident. It is in this vein that Coleridge not only addresses, but enacts, humanity’s relationship with the natural world in the nineteenth century.The Ancyent Marinere (1798) is written distinctly in the form of the traditional ballad. By adhering to certain strictures typical of the ballad form, the poem places emphasis on the past. This looks back to the Western folklore culture and explicitly attributes its themes to pre-modernity. The literary form used by the Ancyent Marinere (1798) is based loosely on short ballad stanzas and a regular rhyme scheme:The wedding-guest sate on a stone,He cannot chuse but hear:And thus spake on that ancient man,The bright-eyed Marinere. The effect of the heavily accented syllables and pronounced rhyme scheme produces a chant-like effect that ‘draws the reader in’ just as the wedding guest was. The diction, exemplified above in the words ‘sate’ ‘chuse’ and ‘Marinere’ were archaic even in the nineteenth century. Through this structure, the poem shares an affinity with the traditional ballad form, which was passed on orally from ‘listener to listener, culture to culture.’ More characteristics of the ballad are displayed in the style of narrative that is used. In the Ancyent Marinere (1798) minimal descriptive detail in setting and characters is given. A ‘long grey beard and … glittering eye’ are the only traits of the Mariner which are commented on, even the characters’ names, the ‘Ancient Mariner’ and ‘the wedding-guest,’ are vague. In describing only the immediate action within the Mariner’s story, Coleridge opens the poem up to the reader’s interpretation. This quality further likened the Ancyent Marinere (1798) to the traditional form of the ballad. Using this traditional form, each speaker would impress upon the ballad his or her own personal vision of the story.The subject matter of the nautical, the supernatural and superstition associated with the ballad form was utilised by Coleridge as he critiqued both pre-modernity and modernity within the Rime of the Ancyent Marinere (1798). Coleridge achieved this through exploiting the ambiguous nature of these themes, which he conveyed through imagery and allegory.The nautical theme is not only typical of the traditional ballads and therefore encouraging of a view of a pre-modern era, but it also alludes to the maritime expansion occurring during the nineteenth century. This nautical theme is shown through diction which is actually a fusion of words from travel books, traditional ballads and the works of Chaucer, Spenser and Chatterton. As people mobilised, they became more detached from their backgrounds. In conjunction with the onset of the Industrial Revolution, respect for nature was changing as people of the nineteenth century placed value on the evolving technology and transport. When the ship is stranded in the ocean and the Mariner recalls “Alone, alone, all all alone/ Alone on the wide wide Sea” Coleridge implies how vulnerable humanity is in relation to the natural world. This was to comment on the growing view of man’s superiority over nature. This example is one way in which the ballad sets ambiguous morals critiquing both pre-modernity and modernity.This ambiguity in interpretation of the moral develops further through the themes of superstition and the supernatural, which are also themes consistent with the traditional form of the ballad. The Ancient Mariner (1798) creates this effect through the allegory of the albatross.Through the Mariner’s superstitious conceptualisation of the albatross, the allegory is directed at the unreliable superstitions of pre-modernity. The relationship between the albatross and the people on the ship is also a metaphor for the relationship between all of humanity and the natural world in Coleridge’s time. This conflicting relationship was evident in modernity as the Industrial Revolution conflicted with the ideology of the Romantic movement in the nineteenth century. The albatross is initially ‘hail’d in God’s name’ as it breaks through the ice surrounding the ship. It is then mistaken for ‘the fiends that plague thee thus’ and shot by the Mariner. He then admits to having done ‘an hellish thing’ as he had ‘killed the Bird/ that made the Breeze to blow,’ the breeze being the saviour which released the boat from the ice. This view of nature is further complicated as the people aboard the ship proclaim ”Twas right… such birds to slay/ That bring the fog and mist’ as the sun comes out. This changing attitude towards the albatross, which is quite removed from the events attributed to it, is representative of the capricious relationship humanity had with the natural world in and the nineteenth century. It is also notable it was the breeze that caused ‘The Ice [to] split with a Thunder-fit.’ Coleridge implies that only nature can contend with the natural world. Although the men on the ship conceptualise the bird as the yielder of power over events, the reader can see that not one solitary part of nature that reigns supreme. Rather the conditions are controlled by forces of nature in a way that is beyond human conception. It is through this idea that the ability for nature to be viewed as something to be feared and awe-inspiring simultaneously is explained. It can be concluded that The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere (1798) uses the traditional form of the ballad as a vehicle to highlight the capricious relationship between humanity and the natural world in Coleridge’s time and that of pre-modernity. However, Coleridge did not stop there. Between 1800 and 1834 he published a further five versions. By the sixth publication, the archaic diction had been modernised, marginal glosses were added and various other parts of the poem were changed. This final version of the poem is entitled The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1834) The result of these revisions is that the ambiguity in meaning of the poem is altered. After the publication of the initial Rime of the Ancyent Marinere (1798) critics made comment on the deviance of the Ancyent Marinere (1798) from the conventions of the time and the characteristics of the imminent Romantic era. In order to conform to the cultural norms Coleridge modernised the language. ‘The Marineres gave it biscuit-worms/ And round and round it flew’ was changed to ‘It ate the food it ne’er had eat/ And round and round it flew.’ The modernised spelling and vocabulary changed the degree of ambiguity in the Ancient Mariner (1834) as it toned done the emphasis on pre-modernity. It minimised the strangeness and grotesqueness of the poem. The Ancient Mariner (1834) omits certain lines for this reason also. ‘His bones were black with many a crack/ All black and bare, I ween’ becomes ‘A gust of wind sterte up behind/ And whistled thro’ his bones.’ The latter version is less typical of the ballad form and reflects the more natural and less grotesque elements associated with Romanticism. While it still conformed to the traditional ballad form, the removal of the archaic diction made the emphasis on a critique of nineteenth century much more explicit.The most prominent difference between the two versions of the poem was the addition of marginal glosses to the Ancient Mariner (1834). By adding these glosses, an interpretation of the moral was imposed upon the poem. There has been much discussion about this addition over the years. There was a great deal of pressure placed on Coleridge to adhere more to the stylistic tendencies of Romanticism. The first gloss decribes the wedding guests as ‘three gallants.’ This imposes a prejudice upon the characters in defining their clothing and social class. In offering a description of characters and circumstances in this more explicit manner, the reader’s judgement is shaped accordingly and therefore room for ambiguity in moral or interpretation is diminished. This is substantiated by the view that ‘the activity of the reader’s eye, skipping back and forth between the margin and the text, performs the work once left to the imagination.’ It is therefore apparent that in examining the different approaches to the traditional form of the ballad between the Ancyent Marinere (1798) and the Ancient Mariner (1834) that different morals are implied. In the first version, through its strict adherence to the traditional ballad form, an ambiguous critique of pre-modernity and modernity is insinuated. However it is through the final version of the poem humanity’s relationship to nature in the nineteenth century is revealed. In adapting the original Ancyent Marinere (1798) five times in response to criticism, Coleridge changes the moral within his poem and unwittingly enforces his own critique of humanity – that of man’s fickle relationship with it. From the different ways nature is portrayed, for example, through the metaphor of the albatross, through man’s relationship with it in response to the Industrial Revolution, and through the fact that Coleridge published six adaptations of the poem it is evident that nature is beyond human perception.
Coleridge’s Failure to Achieve Unity in Rime of the Ancient Mariner
“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is a striking example of how Samuel Taylor Coleridge failed to attain his vision of perfect poetic unity. The work in question leaves the reader with unanswered questions regarding its stated moral, its failure to adequately account for the reasoning behind its central action, and its vacillation regarding the mariner’s supposed atonement. Coleridge famously sought unity in life and art, yet in this poem he is remarkably unable to produce any semblance of such. He does, however, succeed in telling a story that instantly grabs the attention of the reader and sustains her attention long after the poem has been initially digested. Attaining unity within the poem is impossible primarily because it lacks a unifying moral to explain the appalling events taking place on the ship as described by the guilt-stricken mariner himself. The mariner’s states the moral for what has taken place in this way: “He prayeth well who loveth well / Both man and bird and beast. / He prayeth best who lovest best / All things both great and small, / For the dear God who loveth us, / He made and loveth all” (612-617). This moral explanation seems far too pat and simplistic to account for the harrowing events that have taken place and for the mariner’s exceptional sense of guilt. What kind of God would kill off the innocent, the mariner’s shipmates, instead of the one guilty of killing the albatross? What kind of “morality” is this? To what kind of God is the mariner referring? No satisfying unity exists between the mariner’s final reflections and the sin and guilt that led him to that moral conclusion.This lack of unity puts into question the poem’s entire meaning. Does the moral belong to Coleridge or only to the mariner? The author’s marginal glosses confound the question, as he echoes the morals as explained by the mariner; for instance: “…and to teach by his own example love and reverence to all things that God made and loveth.” The reader knows this is not the mariner speaking, so she can tentatively assume it to be Coleridge himself. If this is the case, then it is Coleridge offering the simplistic moral put forward by the mariner at the end of the poem; if true, this suggests that Coleridge was perhaps a lesser intellectual and poet than commonly believed. Creating a complex and highly entertaining story only to explain it sophomorically is not what one would expect of a a true literary great. However, other lapses of unity within the poem suggest that Coleridge may have still been in the process of writing the poem upon its publication, that it was merely published before he was able to conclude it more satisfactorily. For instance, the poem’s central event is never explained. As far as the reader can tell, the mariner’s decision to kill the albatross – traditionally regarded as a harbinger of good fortune for sailors – was an arbitrary one. This defining moment is described in just one and a half lines (“‘With my crossbow / I shot the albatross” (81-82)), as if Coleridge wanted to hurry beyond the story’s climax towards a deep exploration of its moral consequences. Without this kind of reflection, the reader cannot understand why so much death and psychic injury follows what apears to be a rather mundane trespass. One cannot appreciate the full weight of the mariner’s crime, nor care much about the mariner and his guilt at all, without knowing more about the mariner, his moral character and motivations. Coleridge fails to unite the crime adequately with its consequences; one learns of the death and guilt that follow without understanding why the action merits such punishment. The mariner’s quest for deliverance also demonstrates the lack of unity within the poem. After his blessing of the water-snakes, the mariner symbolically casts off his sin. “The self-same moment I could pray, / And from my neck so free / The albatross fell off and sank / Like lead into the sea” (288-291). Despite this supposed respite from his guilt, however, the mariner is still not done paying for his crime. “The man hath penance done / And penance more will do” (408-409). Even though he no longer must carry with him the burden of the albatross, he has not yet paid in full for his sins. Coleridge notes on the side that “The curse is finally expiated,” suggesting conclusion, but the mariner must continue to circle the globe, re-telling his story in what appears to be a vain attempt to achieve salvation. Great discontinuity exists between the mariner’s supposed release from culpability and his compulsion to continue telling his tale. Coleridge’s desire for unity is firmly rejected in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Unresolved questions leave the reader dissatisfied with the poem despite the work’s strong qualities, e.g. plot, rhyme, and meter. The disconnect between successful components and failed ones is itself evidence for the poem’s lack of unity. Ultimately, the poem lacks enough harmony for the reader to make even an attempt at judging it a success or failure overall.
Fusing Confessional and Pulpit: Analysis of a Romantic Ballad
As a time that marked radical changes in the way that poetry was written, the Romantic period of English Literature produced many works still celebrated and studied today. It was during this period that Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote one of the most noteworthy works of English literature, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. The following paper will explore the structure and subject matter of this chilling ballad of supernatural penance for atrocities committed at sea as they relate to the Romantic period of English literature. It will also reveal the two major themes of the work, equal treatment and guilt, and how they relate to the poet’s own life, as well as to the political and social changes taking place during this turbulent period in English history.The structure of Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is similar to other Romantic poems in several ways. First, it is a ballad, a poetic genre that rose to a major literary form during the Romantic period. Coleridge combines strong end-rhymes, primarily following an abcb rhyme scheme with internal rhymes, with a ballad meter of alternating lines of iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter. This causes the poem to be read much as traditional oral ballads were sung. The following stanza provides an example: “The sun came up upon the left, / Out of the sea came he! / And he shone bright, and on the right / Went down into the sea” (25-28). The musical quality provided to the poem through its rhyme and meter keeps the reader’s attention by setting it apart from the dull rhythm of everyday speech. It also makes the poem flow smoothly, thereby making it easier to read. Coleridge’s removal of the archaic spellings that dominated the work when it first appeared in “Lyrical Ballads” also adds to its reading ease (Abrams 1580). Coleridge may have originally used these spellings in accordance with the Romantic theme of Medieval Revival, and then later deleted them because their difficulty detracted from the poem’s meaning. He also added glosses written in 17th century English, as demonstrated by his attachment of the “-eth” suffix to the verbs in the following line: “And lo! The Albatross proveth a bird of good omen, and followeth the ship” (71-73). The language of these glosses does not detract from the poem’s meaning, as the lexicon and syntax of this language would have been familiar to Coleridge’s audience. However, it does fulfill the author’s original intention with the archaic spellings by placing the reader in a faraway place and time, adding credibility to the supernatural and imaginative elements that are introduced later.Romantic poets also frequently wrote using first-person narratives. For the majority of Coleridge’s poem, the mariner offers a first-person account of what he faced at sea. Coleridge does, however, stray slightly from this format by providing us with a listener in the poem and a separate third-person story that allows us to witness this listener’s reactions. The addition of the story context may be attributed to Coleridge’s need to place the reader in the familiar joyful setting of a wedding, a setting that contrasts significantly with the dark tale he reveals. It also allows Coleridge to identify both narrator and listener, while allowing the reader, to whom the moral of Coleridge’s poem is addressed, to identify with the latter. The reader can identify with this listener’s feelings of fear towards the narrator and discomfort at his tale, as well as sympathize with his irritation at being taken from an atmosphere of joy and placed in a sobering atmosphere of vicarious misery. The mariner only stops one of three potential listeners, but doesn’t reveal the reason for his choice until the poem has nearly ended: “That moment that his face I see, / I know the man that must hear me: / To him my tale I teach” (588-590). This man has been individually singled out, and the reader consequently feels singled out to receive Coleridge’s moral as a consequence of his or her earlier identification with this character. Like its structure, the subject matter of the poem is common to the period in which it was written. During the Romantic period, poetry began to include less pure imitation, and more imagination (Abrams 1319). Coleridge’s poem demonstrates this imaginative quality by lacing a nautical tale with supernatural characters and events. He reveals the supernatural nature of his poem early on by having the mariner hypnotize the wedding guest, as demonstrated in the following lines: “The Mariner hath his will…He cannot choose but hear” (16, 18). Other supernatural elements, including a skeleton ship driven by Death and Life-in-Death, vengeful spirits and seraph-men, and curses continually appear throughout the remainder of the poem. In the following example, Coleridge describes the dead crew rising like zombies to aid their shipmate: “They raised their limbs like lifeless tools–/ We were a ghastly crew” (339-340). This example demonstrates Coleridge’s ability to describe these imaginative elements with what seems to the reader as chilling accuracy, relying on simple but colorful language to give these elements credibility. Another subject frequently treated by Romantic poets is that of nature: the landscape as a whole is personified, and parts of it are granted great significance on spiritual and other levels. By setting the poem at sea with major roles given to the weather and animals, Coleridge immerses his reader in the natural world. The following stanza shows Coleridge’s use of descriptive language to help his reader envision that landscape: “And now there came both mist and snow,/ And it grew wondrous cold:/ And ice, mast-high, came floating by,/ As green as emerald” (51-54). The descriptions of weather throughout the poem frequently set the mood and dictate events. The reader can envision the danger that awaits the narrator and his crew by the description of the ice and mist. Later, the hot sun and burning sea play a role in the agony and dehydration of the crew. The sea, depicted as expansive and silent, adds to the narrator’s isolation after he alone is chosen for Life-in-Death as payment for his crimes. Coleridge demonstrates the important role that nature plays in his poem by giving it human characteristics. Early in the narrative the sun is described as “he” rather than “it”: “Out of the sea came he!” (26). While it appears as though this personification may have been a consequence of merely needing a word to rhyme, it is continued throughout the poem, even where it does not offer that advantage. A few lines later, Coleridge compares the sound of the storm to that of a roaring beast. Through his use of personification, we are able to see the significance of nature, its effects on us, and our interactions with it. Animals, in particular, are granted a spiritual significance. The Albatross, when first described, is hailed by the characters “as if it had been a Christian soul” (65). This bird dines with, plays with, and keeps company with the members of the crew as if it too were human. This bird is loved by the spirit of the South Pole, who seeks revenge when it is killed. The reader views the Albatross not only as a bird, but also as an emblem of innocence representing all of God’s loving – but defenseless – creatures. Its death represents the destruction of nature, and the vengeance of the spirit represents the consequences of such destruction. While the poem corresponds in both structure and subject matter to other writings of its time, one of its two major themes relates not only to Romantic writing, but also to other major political and social events of the period. This theme presents the moral of the tale and allows Coleridge to take on the role of “Poet Prophet”: a poet who “puts himself forward as a spokesman for traditional Western civilization at a time of profound crisis” (Abrams 1320). Romantic authors who wished to better society through their writing frequently took on this role. The profound crisis of the Romantic period addressed by Coleridge in this poem was the poor treatment of the working class and the general disregard for the destruction of nature that followed the English Industrial Revolution. Many early Romantic writers sympathized with the French revolution, supported greater equality for the poor working masses after the English Industrial Revolution, and held nature in high regard (1316-1318). Coleridge shows his sympathy for these principles in the solution he presents to the problem: “He prayeth well, who loveth well/ Both man and bird and beast./ He prayeth best, who loveth best/ All things both great and small;/ For the dear God who loveth us,/ He made and loveth all” (612-617). This clearly pronounced moral asks the reader to consider how each man and beast is made equal, by the same creator, and to treat them accordingly. Although the main plot of the story reflects this moral by having the main character cursed for killing one of God’s creatures with no provocation, Coleridge still chooses to state it directly. This was perhaps intended to ensure that all readers receive his message, and that no one views the tale as merely an interesting story. Other elements of the story line support this contention. For example, the mariner’s feelings towards the water snakes within the poem change as he learns this lesson. Before he kills the albatross, he describes them as merely a cursed part of a rotting landscape, “The very deep did rot: O Christ!/ That ever this should be!/ Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs/ Upon the slimy sea” (123-126). After the curse is put upon him for the bird’s death and he is forced to endure the deaths of his shipmates, he begins to relate more to these creatures, comparing them to himself by stating, “And a thousand slimy things/ Lived on; and so did I” (238-239). In his final account of these snakes, he no longer regards them as filthy creatures of no significance: “I watched the water snakes/ …O happy living things! No tongue/ Their beauty might declare:/ A spring of love gushed from my heart,/ And I blessed them unaware” (282-285). Directly after this realization, his curse is lifted. It is clear that the mariner has learned his lesson, and is finally able to regard these creatures as a glorious part of the world around him. A final description from the narrator of the sky-larks brings the moral full circle, as the very type of creature that he first harmed is now regarded as something beautiful and spiritual: “I heard the sky-lark sing/ …and now it is an angel’s song” (359, 365).The deaths of the crew members also serve to further the moral, as Coleridge states in one of his summaries that “when the fog cleared off, they justified the same, and thus make themselves accomplices to the crime” (97-100). This part of the story reminds the reader that it is not enough to merely keep oneself from harming the innocent. Although the punishment the mariner receives – he is doomed to an existence of Life-in-Death in which his sins must constantly be accounted for – seems much worse, the crew also receives punishment for their acceptance of his crime. The reader is thus compelled to take a stand against others who would oppress the poor and harm God’s creations. Just as bystanders are not exempt from blame Coleridge’s poem, neither are those who consider themselves morally pure Christians. Coleridge underscores his characters’ religious beliefs through numerous references to Christ, God, angels, and the cross. The mariner also references the Holy Mother, frequently prays, and seeks to relieve the burdens of his sins through confession. The religious are capable of injustices towards nature and mankind, and Coleridge reminds them of this fact by forcing them to identify with the characters while providing them with a moral that speaks directly to their conscience through repeated references to God.While the theme of equal treatment is quite obvious, there is another theme that, while never directly stated, underlies the entire poem: the theme of guilt. Romantic poems employing the first-person narrative frequently reflected the poet’s own life and state of mind (Abrams 1319). This poem does as much for Coleridge, who is described as having “manifested early in life a profound sense of guilt and a need for public expiation” (Abrams 1575). The main character of this poem, like Coleridge, is racked with guilt for his cold-blooded killing of the innocent Albatross and the subsequent events that led to the death of his crew and the destruction of his ship. Also like Coleridge, our narrator is never fully freed from this guilt. When discussing the mariner’s fate, the latter of two spirits notes that “The man hath penance done,/ And penance more will do” (408-409). Even after the mariner is rescued and returned to his native land as a wiser, more loving man, he is still forced to pay penance to the spirit of the South Pole by relating his ghastly deeds and their consequences again and again. Perhaps writing this tale provides Coleridge with a similar experience – a continual expiation of his guilt through a written narrative. But even in this theme of guilt we are reminded of what caused it, for the narrator and the reader are both repeatedly forced to face the need for the equal treatment of all. In this tale, Coleridge combines elements of his own guilt-ridden life, the supernatural, and the natural world into a dark first-person narrative lyrical ballad. The elements of his work closely parallel the elements of other major literary works of the Romantic period, but also make a statement to his readers about a major crisis arising out the Industrial Revolution: the poor treatment of God’s creations.Works Cited:Abrams, M. H., et al., eds. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001. Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th ed. Ed. M. H. Abrams, et al. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001. 1580-95.
Rime of the Ancient Mariner As an Allegory
Samuel Coleridge is viewed as one of the most important poets of the Romantic period. Part of this distinction hinges on Coleridge’s beautiful, nature-themed poetry, but it also rests on his ability to infuse fantastical and haunting elements into his poems. His talent in mixing the natural with the supernatural is especially evident in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. This poem is so strongly infused with supernatural elements that Coleridge relies on allegory as a means of conveying the poem’s theme.Written in an archaic style, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is filled with fantastic, and often ambiguous, imagery and events. Like the allegorical Dante’s Inferno, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner details one man’s moral journey, or in this case, moral sea voyage. This voyage is divided into seven sections, each of which fall into the categories of sin, repentance, or redemption.The first section begins the story of the ancient mariner. Mysteriously showing up at a wedding, the mariner pulls a guest aside and begins to recite his story. The Mariner tells of a time in which he and a ship’s crew set sail from Scotland. A storm drove the ship to the south, where icy seas trapped the ship. At this time, an Albatross appeared next to the ship. It stayed with the sailors nine days, and they, viewing the bird as a symbol of good luck, were comforted. The ancient mariner sadly tells the guest that he, for no apparent reason, shot the albatross and killed it.The mariner’s mysterious tale takes on a clearer light when viewed allegorically. The beginning of the sea voyage parallels the beginning of a person’s life. The ice that entraps the ship represent the certain hardships that occur in life. The albatross takes on a very important role, for it represents nature. The comfort that the sailors get from the bird parallels the comfort Romantics believe may be found in appreciating nature. Finally, the ancient mariner’s thoughtless murder of the albatross comes to represent what Romantics viewed as a great sin – a cruel and thoughtless act committed by one who does not appreciate nature.The second section of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner details the events following the death of the albatross. At first incensed by the murder of they bird that they believed to have caused the ocean breezes, the crew forgets their anger when the fog lifts, even supporting the ancient mariner for killing “the bird that had brought the fog and mist.” Soon, however, the ship ventures its way into a “silent sea,” completely devoid of wind. Stranded in a salty sea, the sailors have no drinking water, and the mariner even points out the irony of this by saying, “Water, water, everywhere/ And all the boards did shrink;/ Water, water, everywhere/And not a drop to drink.” Convinced once again that the shooting of the albatross is the cause of their misery, the crew hangs the dead albatross around the ancient mariner’s neck as punishment. Obviously, the extreme suffering of the mariner and the crew represents both the consequences of sin and the price paid for not respecting nature.The third section introduces several fantastical elements into the story. The mariner says that he spots a ship in the distance. In a Draculaesque gesture, the mariner bites his arm, sucks the blood and yells to the crew that there is a ship. Heartened by the prospect of their certain rescue, the sailors joyfully grin. However, as the ship approaches, the ominous truth becomes clear. The ship’s hull is ghostly and torn apart, and the only crew are a man and a woman, whom the mariner refers to as Death and Night-mare Life-in-Death, respectively. The man and woman cast dice and while Death wins the lives of the crew, Night-mare Life-in-Death claims control of the ancient mariner. Immediately, the entire crew dies. Lonely and frightened, only the mariner is left alive, knowing that his sin is the cause of his shipmates’ deaths.The allegorical references in this section are rather clear. The ominous names of the man (Death) and the woman (Night-mare Life-in-Death) immediately reveal their awful roles in the poem. Furthermore, Coleridge says the woman has “skin as white as leprosy.” Not only does this imagery induce thoughts of illness and death, but it alludes to the outcast state of a leper, in this case, the mariner.The fourth section introduces the aspect of redemption into the poem. Alone and afraid, the mariner says he tried to pray, but his heart “as dry as dust” would not allow him to. Days passed, and one night, the mariner noticed the beautiful water snakes swimming in the moonlit sea. Thankful for their beauty, the mariner blesses the snakes. As soon as he does so, he finds himself able to pray. Upon praying, the albatross falls off the mariner’s neck. This moment clearly pinpoints the mariner’s redemption, for he has learned to appreciate the beauty of God’s creatures. The moment the mariner learns this, he is allowed to pray, and thus able to ease some of his burden. By praying, he relieves himself of his mark of shame, the albatross, signifying further the sailor’s redemption.In the fifth section, the mariner tells the guest that after praying, he slept. While sleeping, it rained upon him. Waking up, the mariner saw spirits inhabit the sailors’ bodies, and they began to man the ship and steer it home. The mariner heard two voices. One voice asked if he was the man who killed the albatross. The other, a softer voice, said that the mariner had done penance for his sin, and would do yet more penance.The fifth section continues the use of supernatural spirits to introduce the aspects of redemption and repentance. The rain symbolizes a reprieve from the harsh thirst the mariner had suffered; a reprieve perhaps from his punishment. The two voices seem to represent two differing opinions – one that the sailor had committed an unpardonable crime in killing the albatross, and the other entreating kindness by saying that the mariner had paid and would continue to pay for his sin.The sixth section continues the conversation of the two voices. They say that the moon overthrew the sea and freed the ship from the sea’s grip. The mariner awakens and discovers that a strong wind is bringing him towards his native country. He also sees that the dead crew is standing silently and staring at him, and states that he could not avoid their gaze or pray while they watched him. As the mariner begins to recognize the Scottish coastline, he hears a beautiful music. The music is coming from the men’s bodies as the seraphs leave them and fly to heaven. He then sees a small boat coming towards him, and thinks that he needs to find a priest to hear his confession. Says the mariner, “He [the hermit] will shrieve my soul, he’ll wash away/ The Albatross’s blood.”This section, despite its ghosts and eerie voices, introduces the first peaceful moments the mariner has had since his dreadful sin against the albatross. As the mariner continues to repent, his punishment ceases temporarily, and he is able to return home. However, his simplistic belief that a priest will relieve him of his guilt reflects that the ancient mariner has yet to learn the graveness of his crime.The seventh and last section begins by telling of the hermit’s holy ways. The mariner then tells of how the hermit, a boat pilot, and the pilot’s son rowed out to meet him. However, as they near the ship, the Mariner’s craft is suddenly caught in a whirlpool. It sinks quickly, leaving only the mariner afloat on the surface. The hermit picks up the mariner, and once they have reached land, the mariner tells the hermit of his sin. The hermit absolved the mariner, but gave him the penance of having to tell his tale to others throughout the world. The mariner states that he sees an individual and knows he must tell that person of his tale. In a clear statement of the poem’s theme, the mariner tells the guest that “He prayeth best who loveth best/All things great and small,” and leaves. The next day, the guest awakens feeling both wise and sad, the result of his newfound knowledge. Allegorically speaking, this section confirms the mariner’s redemption but leaves the reader with the knowledge that the mariner must still pay for his sin. Forgiveness for abusing God’s creatures, Coleridge seems to say, comes at a great cost. The harrowing and haunting tale of the mariner serves as a valuable lesson of this.
The Mariner’s Ancient Eye: Multiple Perspectives in Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
In a revision of his enduring poem Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Coleridge added a pointed Latin epigraph, perhaps to clarify what he hoped the poem would convey upon his readers. The added lines ask us to reevaluate our perceptions of man and nature, as what is easily perceived by man is far from the full truth. The epigraph seems to be a challenge to the poet, to lead us into the truth: “I easily believe that in the universe the invisible Natures are more numerous than the visible ones. But who will clarify for us the family of all these natures, the ranks and relationships and criteria and functions of each of them? What do they do? In what places do they dwell?” In the poem, Coleridge provides us a stunning narrative in which supernatural elements and awesome illustrations of natural beauty come together to explore such “invisible Natures,” but the poem stands out as much for its stellar use of narrative strategies as its inspiring aesthetic. Coleridge provides a gripping exploration of the questions proposed in the epigraph by giving the reader multiple perspectives on the Mariner’s tale, particularly from the eyes of the Wedding-Guest, the Mariner’s shipmates, and the Mariner himself. By employing these perspectives, Coleridge allows us to experience the full revelation of the Mariner’s tale, to identify the effects of those invisible Natures, and, ultimately, to compel us to redefine our relationship with the natural world.Coleridge begins The Rime of the Ancient Mariner quite deliberately, setting up the reader for intense retrospection and reevaluation. Focus is put on the Mariner’s secret knowledge, suggested by the constant focus on the Mariner’s “glittering eye” (3, 13) by which he holds the Wedding-Guest transfixed. The Mariner is also referred to as “bright-eyed” twice early on (20, 40), a conspicuous detail that gives us the sense he sees or has seen something crucial that he must share. The image of the wild-eyed Mariner is a physical expression of the urgency with which the Mariner forces his tale upon the unwitting Wedding-Guest, who must listen despite wanting to partake in the ceremony. By making the first conflict of the poem that of the Wedding-Guest, a bystander struggling to escape the ravings of a “gray-beard loon” (11), Coleridge invites us to assume the Wedding-Guest’s perspective in our own consumption of the Mariner’s tale. While such a narrative strategy risks removing the reader somewhat from the tale itself, Coleridge makes clear that the thoughts of one who has yet reevaluate his or her relationship with nature, as the Wedding-Guest does, is a crucial aspect of this poem. Later, we will be able to experience the Mariner’s tale from the perspective of the Mariner himself, but Coleridge allows us to imagine ourselves first as the Wedding-Guest because it is our place as readers to experience the epiphany of invisible Natures second-hand.The narrative strategy of placing the reader in the shoes of the Wedding-Guest affords Coleridge the luxury of immersing his audience in a richly calculated extended metaphor. We are aware that the Mariner only “stoppeth one of three,” suggesting that the message he is to impart is rare and in this way special. This rarity is, in fact, confirmed near the poem’s end, as the Mariner exclaims, “That moment that his face I see, / I know the man that must hear me” (588-89). Furthermore, at the wedding ceremony, we are drawn in by the glittery superficiality of the “merry din” (8), festivity that we will soon find nave and superfluous aside the wizened Mariner’s grave tones. It is precisely this kind of frivolity that is referenced in the Latin epigraph: “it is from time to time useful mentally to picture in the mind, as on a tablet, the image of a larger and better world, so that our minds, preoccupied with trivial matters of everyday life, does not shrink excessively and subside entirely into petty ideas.” Coleridge illustrates such pettiness with a depiction of the carefree procession: “The bride hath paced into the hall, / Red as a rose is she; / Nodding their heads before her goes / The merry minstrelsy” (33-36). The mindlessly nodding wedding-goers provide a stark visual contrast to the wild-eyed Mariner, for whom the mysteries of man and nature have been revealed, and who clearly knows a fuller reality than our own Wedding-Guest. Still, even in the face of his clueless guest, Coleridge provides clues as to the gravity of the Mariner’s tale of man and nature, as the Wedding-Guest “cannot choose but hear” not only because as he is held by the Mariner, but also as he “sat on a stone” (16). The mention of the stone in this extended metaphor begs us to think of the Mariner’s tale in the context of the relationship between man and nature, as such a detail suggests the two are inseparable.As we follow the Mariner’s tale through the Wedding-Guest’s eyes, we are compelled to imagine the Mariner’s tale as a received revelation. Thus, when the Wedding-Guest finally is allowed to speak, we understand his words as an expression of apprehension regarding his new knowledge: “I fear thee, ancient Mariner! / I fear thy skinny hand! / And thou art long, and lank, and brown, / As is the ribbed sea-sand” (224-27). The Wedding-Guest identifies the Mariner as innately connected to nature, signified by his sandy appearance. We also remember here that the Mariner originally held the Wedding-Guest with force in order to keep his audience captive, but now the Wedding-Guest makes reference to the Mariner’s “skinny hand.” What is significant about this observation is that it is clear the Wedding-Guest is seeing the world anew, as we are by following the shift from focus on the Mariner’s beard and eyes to his skin and hands. At the poem’s conclusion, we are more than just witness to the Wedding-Guest’s transformative moment: “He went like one that hath been stunned, / And is of sense forlorn: / A sadder and a wiser man, He rose the morrow morn” (622-25). Clearly, it is the intent of the poem to allow us to take part in such a revelation, and to leave the poem with a different perception of man and nature “the morrow morn.”A second perspective that Coleridge presents us is that of the Mariner’s superstitious shipmates. This perspective helps us to more directly reevaluate the relationship between man and nature than that of the Wedding-Guest, whose function seems primarily to help us understand the epiphany. These men strain to comprehend their own relationship with nature, and the idea of “invisible Natures” becomes first apparent in the their reactions to the Mariner’s slaying of the albatross. At first, they suppose the unjust killing of the “good omen” to likely end their good rapport with the winds: “Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay, / That made the breeze to blow! (95-96). However, when the fog subsides, they ally themselves with the Mariner’s crime. Coleridge writes, “Nor dim nor red like God’s own head, / The glorious Sun uprist: / Then all averred, I had killed the bird. / That brought the fog and mist” (97-100). These shifting attitudes suggest a desire to understand what is referred to in the epigraph as “invisible Natures,” and how one is to react to conflicts with the natural world. Unlike the Wedding-Guest, who can only experience the Mariner’s revelation vicariously, the Mariner’s shipmates are held directly responsible for the Mariner’s transgression, and their chosen allegiance with or against nature holds immediate consequences. By allowing the reader to imagine the inner conflict of the Mariner’s shipmates, Coleridge gives us a perspective of the Mariner’s revelation that balances the objectivity of an outside observer with the accountability of a direct participant.The perspective of the Mariner’s shipmates also helps us understand how man is inevitably immersed and inseparable from nature. Often the Mariner and his shipmates find themselves surrounded by nature and find their senses overcome by nature, as when the ship approaches mountains of ice: “The ice was here, the ice was there, / The ice was all around: / It cracked and growled, and roared and howled, / Like noises in a swound! (59-62).” We are compelled to imagine the reactions of fear of and even submission to nature that overcomes the shipmates as they realize their fate is no longer fully in their hands. Later, we again see the Mariner’s shipmates in helpless opposition to nature, engulfed in its fury: “Water, water, every where, / And all the boards did shrink; / Water, water, every where, / Nor any drop to drink” (119-22). The ice and water in these images are not so much passively oppressive, but brought alive by their action: the ice cracking and growling, and the water shrinking the boards of the ship. There is a sense of man’s being abandoned by nature in both situations, as if the shipmates were suddenly forced to contend with a parent who no longer cares for them. By allowing us such perspectives from the eyes of the Mariner’s shipmates, Coleridge gives us a sense of the detached, uncaring aspect of the natural world.But the perspective of nature taken by the Mariner’s shipmates is not always about abandonment from nature. In describing the storm driving their ship to the South Pole, Coleridge gives us imagery of the wrestling match between ship and winds that suggests a subservient relationship of multiple layers. “And now the Storm-blast came, and he / Was tyrannous and strong: He struck with his o’ertaking wings, / And chased us south along” (41-44). In these lines, we imagine ourselves as part of the crew of the ship, awed and humbled by the raw power of the stormy winds. Here, it is not enough that we merely respect the storm as a person, a “he,” but, in fact, we envision the storm as being tyrannical like a king, and battering the boat with wings like those of a great flying beast. The impersonality of the shipmate’s perspective of nature here gives us a sense of the human element being dwarfed by nature, resulting in an awe and respect one imagines of one’s distant superiors.Finally, we are shown the perspective of the Mariner himself, who displays a more personal, individualistic relationship with nature. After the Mariner’s shipmates die, the Mariner finds himself alone and burdened with nature’s looming anger at his misdeed. The Mariner exclaims, “I closed my lids, and kept them close, / And the balls like pulses beat; / For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky / Lay like a load on my weary eye, / And the dead were at my feet” (248-52). The repetition of the images of sky and sea emphasizes that the Mariner’s crime was one that pitted him against the natural world, and that the world is at his eye and the men at his feet suggests man is suspended in both the world of nature and the world of man. Furthermore, these lines once again focus on the Mariner’s eye, at this point describing it as “weary.” Coleridge uses this focus to make the perspective of the Mariner, as witness to such events, a main concern. As the tale progresses, the Mariner’s faculties for perception are reduced, and he can only hear the voices of the spirits discussing his fate. The ship glides northward at a supernatural speeds, and a voice tells us such motion is dependent to the Mariner’s state: “Fly, brother, fly! more high, more high! / Or we shall be belated: / For slow and slow that ship will go / When the Mariner’s trance is abated” (426-29). By focusing on the connection between the Mariner’s trance and the motion of the ship, and by furthermore giving us an understanding of the Mariner’s sin and the penance he does for the sin, Coleridge allows us to envision the more personal, intimate aspects of the relationship between man and nature.By giving us three distinct perspectives of the Mariner’s tale, that of the Wedding-Guest, that of the Mariner’s shipmates, and that of the Mariner himself, Coleridge allows us to more fully experience the revelation of discovering “invisible Natures.” Through the Wedding-Guest, we are able to observe the receipt and second-hand experience of the revelation. The perspective of the Mariner’s shipmates gives us images of the impersonal, detached nature of the natural world, and the Mariner’s own perspective allows us to understand the more personal connection between man and nature. Through these perspectives, we are better prepared to approach the questions and challenges proposed in the poem’s epigraph.
German Expressionism and German Romanticism as Exemplified by Nosferatu and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
“It is reasonable to argue that the German cinema is a development of German Romanticism, and that modern technique (cinematography) merely lends a visible form to Romantic fancies”, Lotte Eisner asserts. Both Romanticism (late 18th-19th Century) and Expressionism (early 20th Century) were reactions to a period of collectivist order and intellectual rigidity. Both were consoling movements that followed suppression of individualism. Romanticism favored feeling over reason, rejecting its predecessor, the Enlightenment ideal of balance and rationalism, offering the hysterical, the fantastical and the supernatural instead. Expressionism, then, was the settling dust that enveloped post-revolution German society, a frustrated desire for change that followed the rupture of World War I, and also a firm backlash to industrialization. If art were a precise representation of society’s psyche, F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) could have been released with Samuel Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798) and not appear anachronistic – forgiving the lag in development of the film medium, of course. The film and ballad typified their respective periods, and were both a bursting out from the binds of order and logic. It is this symmetry of the film and ballad, and the embodiment of their periods, that I hope to explore.Specifically, I will discuss how elements in both Nosferatu and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner are a reflection of the characters’ inner states; how the two periods treat nature as a theme; and lastly, how Romantic sentimentality has worked its way into Nosferatu.A distinct contribution to the Romantic movement was the Gothic romance – the latter a period that depicted mystical adventures of terrified heroes and heroines in the clutches of frightening, mysterious forces, exemplified by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (the forerunner of science-fiction) and Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto. These motifs, often partnered with horror, were captured in The Ancient Mariner when evil descended upon the Mariner’s ship, resulting in graphic devastation: “With throats unslaked, with black lips baked / We could nor laugh nor wail (185-186)”. These motifs are repeated in Nosferatu, where Orlok’s evil mesmerized Ellen while snuffing out life on his sojourn to meet her. The artistes of both periods looked to represent the personal and subjective; rejecting realism, logic and classical Newtonian cause and effect. This desire to bring out inner states resulted in supernatural motifs and dream-like states – often larger-than-life. The fantastic results from the expression of inner states because of “a ‘failed’ transformation… [where] the uncanniness with which the displaced and repressed elements irrupt into idyllic worlds and relationships” . It is possible to read the fantastic elements as manifestations of social concerns of their respective times. The surreal motifs function mainly as extensions of the characters’ minds in both the film and ballad.”Coleridge employs supernatural beings not for the gratuitous effects of terror gratia terroris but in order to project symbolically states and moods of the Mariner’s inner being.” The killing of the Albatross is Coleridge’s exercise on morality. The Mariner’s moral slip left him under the weight of guilt, prompting him to seek resolution with the help of external forces. These “forces” are really not external since they are projections of his troubled psyche: “Her skin was as white as leprosy / The Nightmare Life-In-Death was she (192-193)… I watch’d the water-snakes / They moved in tracks of shining white (274-275)”. The spectral apparitions that followed the ship of doom are reflections of the Mariner’s compunctions of conscience. These elements of the ballad project the character’s inner state and are not externalities having an effect on the character. We will see this motif repeated in Nosferatu twenty years later.Hutter escapes from the domesticity of Ellen for economic reasons, plunging into danger under a spell of greed. His reluctance to provide the love Ellen looks for is redundant once Orlok discovers the medallion with the picture of Ellen. Orlok, with his cryptic evil loom, assumes the role of the “provider” Hutter never was. Murnau portrays Hutter as castrated, ineffectual and weak. Orlok, on the other hand, possesses a potent sweeping power that mesmerizes Ellen. We may view Orlok as a latent side of Hutter, an alter-ego of the “man than he never was” but desires to be. This reading of the film is brought to life by the contrast in journeys made by Orlok and Hutter back to Ellen. Orlok is in full control of nature, traveling with ease on a ship and successfully exerting his evil powers over the vessel. Hutter, contrastingly, traverses mountains and streams, both on foot and on horse, which is a far more troublesome option compared to travel by sea. Orlok’s comfortable sojourn is Hutter’s wishful extension of a potent male alter-ego. Analyzing Orlok’s murders through his shadows brings us to draw the same conclusions. Orlok’s attempt at murdering Ellen may be an expression of Hutter’s repressed desire to kill his wife, but only through his effectual alter-ego. He is frustrated with his obvious inability to provide (his efforts with the flowers were greeted with anti-climactic fashion), and does not seem to love his wife in the traditional romantic way, as we may tell from his desire to leave her, and his uncomfortable rejection of her affection. The fact that only shadows commit the murders, and not Orlok in physical form, represents the suppression of the murderous thoughts, where only a shadow was allowed to escape Hutter’s mind. Accepting Orlok as the emboldened and achieving side of Hutter conveniently excludes Orlok’s diabolic intentions, which is a quality of Hutter not expected to be expressed. However, Elsaesser clearly explains that “the motif of the Double is indeed quite close structurally to the motif of the creature, emancipating itself from the creator and turning against him… interpretation of the Double, or shadows, [is the] symbolic representation of internal irrational forces at work”. Greed is the sin that motivates Hutter’s journey. These evil intentions, embodied by Hutter’s creation of Orlok, resulted in punishing consequences. Orlok turns against Hutter by winning over the woman Hutter wants so much to please, yet, ironically, never really loves. Knock, the driving force behind Hutter’s journey of self-discovery, is in turn under the manipulative spell of Orlok. This way, we are able to trace the source of Knock’s intentions back to Hutter’s alter-ego, Orlok. We are now able to appreciate Nosferatu as a chaotic intercourse of the internal emotions of one man, much like how the albatross, Life-In-Death, and the wedding guest were tools to probe the dark recesses of the Mariner’s psyche.Besides evincing the mental state of characters, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Nosferatu both thoroughly examine their period’s relation to nature. It was only during the Romantic period that walking in the woods was not perilous, but an opportunity to enjoy and ponder awesome views. Europe had become more civilized, safer, and its citizens now felt freer to travel for the simple pleasure of it. Romanticism cultivated a sentimental treatment of all subjects, including nature. The albatross embodied nature in The Ancient Mariner, and like the Romantic society’s embrace of nature, brought good fortune to the ship and was welcomed with joy. The killing of the Albatross is the Mariner’s sin against nature, and he is duly punished. Countless references to nature throughout the poem are not enough to set it apart as a “Romantic treatment of nature”. However, Coleridge uses the sun, moon, sand, sea, including a “hermit in the wood”, to express the Mariner’s mental states and how they evolve with the natural surroundings: “O happy living things! no tongue/ Their beauty might declare (283-284)”. Following a stanza of colorful animal sightings, the Mariner proclaims their beauty and happiness. By his blessing of the nature around him, the Mariner is finally redeemed and the spell begins to break. Coleridge personifies nature with a twist of supernatural, and fuses it with the Mariner’s sub-conscious, sealing The Ancient Mariner as a piece acutely reflective of Romanticism’s nature motif.The “nature” motif is not lost in Nosferatu. Murnau explores the interaction between humans and nature. First, he questions the legitimacy for cannibalism. We see Venus fly traps, Knock catching flies, and spiders with their webs of evil. If carnivorous activity is prevalent in the animal and plant kingdom, should we feel Orlok’s desire for fellow humans is evil or unjust? Second, the horses’ fear of the hyena parallels the trepidity of the villagers to Orlok’s omnipresent evil. Lastly, we see Hutter’s comfort in the wilderness: first, when he disregarded advice and traveled by night to Orlok’s castle, then again, when he journeys home to Ellen. Murnau is generous with footage of Hutter traversing bridges and trails, which represent relief from Hutter’s clustered concrete home. It is as if Murnau himself was drawing energy from the outdoors. This agrees with Paul Brian’s take on nature in Romanticism: “It is precisely people in urban environments aware of the stark contrast between their daily lives and the existence of the inhabitants of the wild who romanticize nature. “Like nature, sentimentalism was celebrated in the Romantic period. This is evident in the Ancient Mariner. We do not see the mariner in love or marriage, but, we may still read much from his brief encounters with the Hermit and the Wedding guest. Both friendships find their roots in the romantic belief in human connection and fate. The relationships between the mariner and the Hermit, and between the mariner and the Wedding guest, are not cynical and insincere, but are reassuring and deep. The Hermit senses danger while approaching the mariner’s ship, yet decides to push on: “Dear Lord! it hath a fiendish look- / (The Pilot made reply) / I am a-fear’d” – “Push on, push on!” / Said the hermit cheerily. (539-543)”. The Hermit eventually saves the mariner from his sinking ship. They share a deeper bond when the Hermit cleanses the mariner of guilt by asking the mariner to tell him the story of the albatross. This is an optimistic and cheerful take on human relationships, typical of the romantic period. Correspondingly, the Wedding Guest initially distrusts the mariner, but is touched by a connection he felt with him, and eventually listens to his story. (He holds him with his glittering eye–/ The Wedding-Guest stood still, / And listens like a three years’ child: / The Mariner hath his will, Lines 13-16) Midway through the mariner’s tale, he is afraid and becomes weary, yet he stays and eventually walks away a better person: “He went like one that hath been stunn’d, / And is of sense forlorn: / A sadder and a wiser man / He rose the morrow morn (623-26)”. These relationships exemplify the sentimental Romantic belief in the goodness of man.Nosferatu not only maintains the sentimental aspect of the Romantics but updates it to 20th century sensibilities. Romantic fiction had a penchant for tearful wallowing in the longings and disappointments of frustrated protagonists. By the 20th century, however, sentimentalism had been rejected – what the Romantic age prized as moving and beautiful was deemed false, exaggerated and even comical. Nosferatu mocks Romantic love, a notion set during the Romantic age as the foundation of a successful marriage, with the outwardly exuberant, yet, obviously empty, relationship between Hutter and Ellen. The opening sequence between the pair of “loveless lovers” throws a tad of cynicism on the notion of marriage. Then, even more bitingly, Ellen is mesmerized by, and finally offers herself to, Orlok instead. Overwrought expressions of love between Hutter and Ellen, and Hutter’s valiant efforts to protect Ellen, bring to life the atypical Romantic sensibilities. Yet, Murnau takes this romantic notion and injects his brand of sardonic humor, reducing the pair merely to anachronistic stage actors ripped out of a Romantic play.In conclusion, both German Romanticism and German Expressionism were rebellions against the stifling of individualistic intellectualism. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Nosferatu, two quintessential pieces of their age, capture the inward-looking quality of both periods, especially choosing to explore the psychological manifestations of characters within the art. Such sentiments also gave rise to a renewed interest in nature, embracing animals and the woods at the same time. Lastly, the outburst of Romantic emotionality left an optimistic slant on human interaction in the Ancient Mariner. However, under 20th Century sensibilities, Murnau captures that Romantic notion with a breath of cynicism instead.
A Warning Against Hubris
Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a tale in which one simple action leads to a tumbling of catastrophic events. When the Mariner shoots the Albatross, a bird who has brought him and his sailors good fortune, he does so without reason. In ancient Greek tragedies hubris, or excessive pride, often leads to the hero’s inevitable downfall. Further, in the Catholic faith, pride is one of the greatest sins a person could commit. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner illustrates how these beliefs are held in good faith. Without a reason given to justify the senseless killing of the bird, one can insinuate that the Mariner’s senseless killing of the bird could only be through pride. His self-pleasure of bringing down a great creature was fleeting, as punishment soon bore down upon the sailors. Through his excessive pride, ungratefulness, and ignorance of other’s wishes, the Mariner brought disaster upon himself and his crew.
In the beginning of the tale, the Mariner stops a wedding-guest to tell him the story of his defeat, as he is compelled to do. In the story, the Mariner is sailing through an area of mist and ice after being pushed by a storm. The crew was having great difficulty until an Albatross appeared, which cleared the fog and broke the ice to safely guide the ship through the sea. As the Mariner states, “The ice did split did split with a thunder-fit; / The helmsman steered us through! / And a good south wind sprung up behind…” (Norton 445). The Albatross, a great sea-bird, was determined to be a bird of good omen, and was received joyously by the crew. However, the Mariner did not heed their gratitude:
“God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus! —
Why look’st thou so?” —
With my cross-bow
I shot the Albatross. (Norton 445-446)
In the passage above the wedding-guest is commending the Mariner on his good fortune; however, the Mariner cuts him off in one simple line. He did not provide an explanation for his actions or a reasonable cause as to why he would kill such a bird. It seems to be an insensible act, to slay a creature that has helped them survive. However, the Albatross is a great, rare sea-bird and to slay a great creature is an act worth boasting. Thus, against the wishes of his crew, he shot the Albatross in hopes of achieving glory and status.
The Mariner’s crew was outraged at the killing of the Albatross. They cried out in against the crime committed:
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.
Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay
That made the breeze to blow! (Norton 446).
The crew saw what the Mariner did not: that the slaughter of a creature who had aided them in their journey was a horrendous crime. However, soon after the Albatross is killed the fog clears; this causes them to doubt the very belief they held so strongly: “’Twas right, said they, such birds to slay / That bring the fog and mist” (Norton 446). Justifying the crime against a righteous creature named the crew as partners in the crime. Thus, one must hold fast in one’s beliefs, for if one wavers, the doubt may cause one’s downfall.
Shortly after, the ship is plagued by a drought and the sea begins to crawl with slimy creatures. The crew begins to fear that the slaying of the Albatross brought evil upon them. They attempted to place the blame on the Mariner by forcing him to hang the dead Albatross around his neck: “Instead of the cross, the Albatross about my neck was hung” (Norton 447). This simple act of hanging the Albatross around his neck like a crucifix is significant. The act of wearing a crucifix is to show faith; the Albatross hangs around the Mariner’s neck in a grotesque imitation of faith. In reality, he wears the Albatross as an admission of pride and because his crew could not accept their own blame. It can even be taken further to imply that Coleridge is attempting to portray the Mariner as a mock Jesus figure. Just as Jesus Christ bore the sins of his people, the Mariner is bearing the sins of his crew. In this way, the crew hopes to escape judgment.
However, the distribution of blame did not work. It soon becomes apparent that the blame that one holds for a crime cannot be erased or handed off, for soon a ship captained by the spirits Death and Night-mare Life-in-Death appear and one by one the entire crew dies. The Mariner describes this horror, “And every soul, it passed me by, / Like the whizz of my cross-bow!” (Norton 449). It is interesting to note that the Mariner compares the shooting of the Albatross with his cross-bow to the departing of the souls of his crew. The simile made here implies that the Mariner does associate the death of his sailors with his crime against the Albatross, and here is where the reader first realizes that the Mariner does feel guilt for his crime. This is further confirmed when he states, “And never a saint took pity on / My soul in agony” (Norton 449). Since the Mariner actually committed the slaughter, he bears the worst punishment. While his crew is dying all around him, he does not, but is forced to live with his guilt. To illustrate the depth of his guilt, the Mariner states, “And a thousand thousand slimy things / Lived on; and so did I” (Norton 450). However, in his guilt he appreciates the water-snakes and blesses them, and this small act redeems him. The Albatross that he bore around his neck like a grotesque trophy slipped from his neck and into the sea, like chains being lifted from around him.
When the Mariner wakes, his dead crew rises and begins to steer the ship. However, their bodies do not contain the souls that they bore previously; instead, the bodies are commanded by angelic spirits. The ship moves through the water with a supernatural force. After the Mariner faints, he hears to voices explaining the situation. He hears:
“Is it he?” quoth one, “Is this the man?
By him who died on cross,
With his cruel bow he laid full low
The harmless Albatross. (Norton 453-454) Again, the voice references Jesus Christ as the one who died on the cross in order for the reader to see the Mariner as a grotesque comparison to the Jesus. A second voice warns, “… ‘The man hath penance done, / And penance more will do” (Norton 454), implying that the Mariner’s torment is not yet over.
The Mariner’s suffering continues after he reaches land. By some compulsion, he tells his story to everyone that he meets: “And till my ghastly tale is told, / This heart within me burns” (Norton 458).
The reader could insinuate that this particular punishment is given to the Mariner to serve as a warning to others. Through the repeated telling of his tale, the Mariner shames himself. Again and again the Mariner must admit to his wrongdoing and reiterate what happened to his crew due to his hubris. The very admittance of the crime is the opposite of pride, and for that reason it is a fitting punishment. Furthermore, the spirit could have given this punishment to the Mariner to instill more awareness into others. This is illustrated when the Mariner finishes telling his tale to the wedding-guest and he left the wedding stunned. Coleridge states:
He went like one that hath been stunned,
And is of sense forlorn.
A sadder and a wiser man,
He rose the morrow morn. (Norton 459)
In this stanza, it is apparent that the Mariner’s tale served as a warning. The wedding-guest learned from the Mariner’s mistake and grew wiser; he is less likely to make the same mistake as the Mariner. Perhaps hubris can only be counteracted through shame, as that is the only way one can truly negate an internal vice. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’s central theme of pride can serve several different purposes. It can serve to warn against the excessive arrogance, the desire for glory, the ignoring of other’s desires and beliefs, and the passing of blame from one person to the other. Through the tragic tale of the Mariner and his crew, the reader can infer that humility and gratitude are always good virtues to possess, one must always be respectful of another’s wishes, and pride can only be negated by shame. The Mariner’s tale teaches the reader many important lessons, and perhaps that is why Coleridge chose to write it down: to serve as a warning against hubris.
The Intermedial Hermeneutics of Dore’s Illustrations to Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: Plate #9
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is without a doubt considered to be a lyrical masterpiece and a cornerstone in Coleridge’s writing career. The epic seven part poem was originally published in 1798 as a part of Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems collection.  Originally The Rime of the Ancient Mariner featured archaic language and was somewhat criticized for its ambiguous writing. This in turn led to a revised version of the poem being printed in 1817. In his revisions Coleridge added marginal glosses to the poem which aid in guiding the reader’s interpretation of the work. Today it is the 1817 version of the poem that is the most prevalent, and it is this version that Gustave Doré created illustrated plates for in 1876. Doré made 38 plates depicting scenes from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner which were published in the 1876 edition.
By adding illustrations to the poem new intermedial modalities were introduced. The poem by itself is descriptive and paints iconic imagery through its flowery lyrics, making good use of invoking the reader’s senses. Doré’s illustrations further enhance, primarily, the sensorial and semiotic modalities already present within the poem by adding physical iconic signs. Because of this the reader is given a clearer image of the narrative throughout the poem and by viewing the iconic depiction they create new hermeneutic deductions from the plates presented alongside the text. This paper will be focusing upon analyzing one of these plates, namely plate # 9 “I had done a hellish thing” and how it relates to the poem. However in order for this to be done some context is needed.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a tale of an old wizened mariner retelling the story of his youth to a young wedding guest. As such the retelling of the tale acts as a framing device for the main narrative; how the young mariner and his shipmates committed a heinous act against nature and how he sought redemption. On a voyage the mariner’s ship was flung far south where they became lost in a sea of ice. Fortunately for them, an albatross helped guide them out. But upon escaping the icy waters the mariner kills the albatross, thinking that it is a bird of ill omen. At first his crewmates condemn him, but seeing as the weather actually does improve they change their mind and applaud him instead. Not long after they realize the error of their ways and the ship is becalmed as punishment for killing the albatross. The mariner is kept alive by unnatural forces as one by one the crewmen die cursing him. While in the depths of despair and torment the mariner finds beauty in the creatures of the sea and in blessing them also begins to redeem himself from his deed. Benevolent spirits then aid him in returning home, where he now must travel and share his tale to those deserving.
Plate # 9 “I had done a hellish thing” depicts a scene shortly after the mariner has killed the albatross and his crewmates condemn him for killing the bird “That made the breeze to blow”. In this plate Doré depicts the mariner standing high upon the mast, facing outwards with arms suspended between a pair of rope ladders. The mariner’s head is downcast, his face cast in shadow. His posture suggests a deep introspection or regret over the hellish thing he had done. In the background we see a sea of tumultuous waves, their own churning and restlessness mirroring the mental state of the mariner who is now condemned by the crew. This is further implied as the title for the plate is quoted from the first line in the following verse:
“And I had done an hellish thing,
And it would work ’em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.
Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay
That made the breeze to blow!”
The woe of his crew mates plagues the mariner, and the accompanying marginal gloss continues to drive this home. The gloss is very clear in conveying the ire of the other sailors.
But Doré’s plate also conveys an aspect that Coleridge’s lyrics lack. In the plate we see the ancient mariner standing in an iconic pose, reminiscent of the crucifixion of Christ. This adds a new dimension to the poem and opens the door to a religious aspect that the lyrics alone lack. But this raises questions as well, should this religious interpretation be so prominent? In order to answer this it is important to consider the poems wirkungsgeschichte, its previous interpretations and how they have influenced later interpretations. As such Jauss’ concept of a horizon of expectations could be relevant to keep in mind, where the reader should consider how the text relates to its history of reception both diachronically, synchronically and in relation to other literature of its time. Taking this into consideration the religious aspect that Doré enhances with his plate can be examined closer. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner does originally contain religious overtones, but it speaks of them in relation to romantic ideals that both Coleridge and Wordsworth had begun ushering in with their poetry. One such message that the poem conveys is implying that the life of a bird is of equal value to that of a man, as both are God’s creations. Thus one can ponder if Doré’s interpretational contributions are predicated upon the poem’s synchronic views or if they are in fact an iconic projection of Doré’s own society and times. The illustrations accompanying The Rime of the Ancient Mariner are primarily based upon diachronic interpretations perpetrated by Doré. And this is neither something good nor bad, but it is important that this be kept in mind by the reader who is seeking their own interpretations of Coleridge’s work. Doré’s plates lend the poem new avenues of interpretation, but they also unconsciously pass a history of interpretation upon the reader, thereby influencing future attempts at decoding its messages.  Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems, London, 1798. Wikipedia,”Early Critisims” on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rime_of_the_Ancient_Mariner#Early_criticisms on 2016-11-12. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Illustrations by Gustave Doré, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner [ebook], University of Adelaide, South Austrailia, 2014 , retrieved from https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/c/coleridge/samuel_taylor/rime/ on 2016-10-24. Lars Elleström,”The Modalities of Media: A Model for Understanding Intermedial Relations” from Media Borders, Multimodality and Intermediality, 2010, pg. 35ff. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Illustrations by Gustave Doré, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner [ebook], Part the Second, 3rd verse, 3rd line. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Illustrations by Gustave Doré, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner [ebook], Plate # 9 “I had done a hellish thing”. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Illustrations by Gustave Doré, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner [ebook], Part the Second, 3rd verse. Hans Robert Jauss and Elizabeth Benzinger, ”Literary History as a Challenge to Literary Theory”, from New Literary History, Vol. 2, No. 1, 1970, pg. 19. Hans Robert Jauss and Elizabeth Benzinger, pg. 23.
Coleridge’s Use of Precise Observations of the Natural World to Convey Wider Thematic Ideas in His Poetry
Coleridge, in common with other romantic artists such as Wordsworth and Keats revolted against the artificial eighteenth century philosophy of a dislocation between man and nature. Coleridge developed an extremely analytical, passionate and spiritual interest in nature and the idea of ‘the one life’. His belief that nature is “the eternal language which… God utters” fuels a vast, and unquestionably, eclectic collection of precisely observed images and themes which almost always focus on the natural world and are used to explore wider issues in his poetry.The hypnotic rhythm of the Circassian Love-Chaunt created by a mixture of two regular rhyme schemes used intermittently throughout the poem helps to capture the sense of equilibrium, tranquillity and beauty Coleridge believed could be found in nature. Equally the repetition of the word “Lewti” five times in the opening two stanza’s as well as the repetition of natural imagery such as the “rock” and the “stream” adds a sense of a natural monotonous charm to the poem suggesting an air of peacefulness and restfulness. The muted colours in the poem suggested by clouds of the “palest hue” as well as the “grey” and “flushed” landscape surrounding the clouds heighten the sense of tranquillity. Conversely, these muted images are directly contrasted with bolder images such as the “rich and amber light” of the moon shining through the cloud. There are almost an identical number of references to both the muted and the vibrant images in Lewti which creates a feeling of equilibrium in the poem further emphasising the natural balance and beauty of nature. In Sonnet to a River Otter the persona remembers in a rather paradoxical way “what happy and what mournful hours” he had by a brook. Once again there is a feeling of equilibrium and balance created by contrasting images. However, the suggestion of beauty in something much more mundane, such as the “native brook” as opposed to Lewti who is an Arabian princess gives the impression that we are not just looking at the subjects but a more universal idea of a unifying beauty throughout the entire natural world. It is precisely this underlying interest in the beauty and natural equilibrium (which many eighteenth century industrialists threatened to ruin) that lies at the heart of poems such as Lewti. The paradoxical statement by the “ancient mariner” that there is “water, water every where, / nor any drop to drink” adds to the sense of a paradoxical natural world and the “beauty and the happiness” of the “slimy things” the mariner notices whilst at sea creates a similar paradoxical image. The inclusion of the word agony to describe the soul of the mariner is once again paradoxical as the word can mean both mental anguish and pleasure. This double meaning in describing the “soul” of the mariner symbolises the fact that the balance in nature is at the heart of the natural world as the soul is an important part of the mariner. Coleridge chooses to focus in a precise and detailed way on one subject, which becomes symbolic of a wider natural world. Through his use of equally balanced contrasts, both in terms of imagery and style, he is able to suggest a natural world that although often conflicting is always in perfect equilibrium.Equally, through his precise observations of the natural world, Coleridge was able to explore the Eternity of nature. Kubla Khan’s language hints at this timelessness with quasi-superlative language that describes the caverns as “measureless” and the forests as “ancient”. The importance of these images is heightened by the fact they are mentioned within the first stanza. Furthermore, by mentioning specific antiquated names such as Xanadu and Kubla Khan, which are fairly obscure, Coleridge is able to suggest that human creation is not like the infinity of nature. By keeping the natural subjects in the poem unspecified and stereotypical, “green hill”, “caves of ice” we feel a sense of timelessness in nature.Furthermore, there is a hypnotic regularity in the entire poem and in particular the first stanza. Coleridge alliterates the last two words of each of the first five lines, “Kubla Khan”, “dome decree”, “sunless sea” giving the poem a bombastic, yet regular rhythm. Short exclamations such as “but oh!” and “a savage place!” coupled with excessively long exclamations created through enjambment “as holy and enchanted as e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted by a woman wailing for her demon lover!” Consolidate this feeling of ‘ebbing and flowing’ which is reminiscent of time ticking irregularly away and creates a sense of the infinite. Similarly, the Ancient Mariner reflects this timelessness through the regularity of the way in which he tells his story. He speaks within a rhyme scheme that becomes an almost comical ‘nursery rhyme’ in places due to the regularity and inexorable rhythm of the couplets. The use of the word “ancient” consolidates this idea of eternity as it is a word usually used for inanimate and often only natural subjects as does the vastness of the ocean he is marooned on. Furthermore his attention to detail in his story suggests he has told it many times and detailed observation such as his description of the albatross, “at first it seemed a little speck, /And then it seemed to mist” helps us realise this isn’t just one story about the nemesis of the natural world being told at one precise moment in time but a timeless story of nature and the natural world.Furthermore, the Mariner’s unkempt yet charismatic appearance suggested to the reader through a repeated focus on his “glittering”, “bright” eyes and his appearance as a “greybeard loon” and particularly his “long grey beard”, suggests subtly that he has become a ‘spokesman for nature.’ The Mariner’s timelessness in direct contrast to the deaths of all the other crew members helps suggest the eternity of nature he has become symbolic of.The eternity of nature is actually looked at in a rather paradoxical way because by focusing briefly on events or single images that are symbolic of a wider natural world Coleridge creates a sense of the infinite shown through specific examples. This is perhaps also another example of Coleridge suggesting the paradoxes within the natural world by suggesting something infinite with a specific event or image.Once again, in a slightly paradoxical sense, the poetry focuses on an idea of ‘religion in nature’, a view held by many romantic poets, notably Wordsworth. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner takes many religious images and ‘naturalises’ them. In part the third the mariner says “I beheld/ A something in the sky”, which has subtle connotations of the star the three wise men followed. However, the “something” is in fact an albatross and like the star in the bible story the albatross is a key symbol in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. “LIFE-IN-DEATH” and “DEATH” “were casting dice” for the souls of the crew and once again this mirrors with a natural (or arguably supernatural) twist the soldiers who diced for Jesus’ clothes after his death on the cross.Ultimately the ancient mariner becomes less arrogant and shifts his perspectives, having repented for his sins and this has echoes of the Christian message except through his killing of the albatross the mariner’s crime is directly against nature rather than a perceived ‘God’. However, the suggestion of religion in nature becomes slightly less attractive when we see that ultimately the mariner is not forgiven for his sins unlike the Christian message of a forgiving God.In the examination of religion in nature, the poems also focus closely on the power and nemesis of the natural world. The Mariner and his entire crew are tortured by the mistake of the mariner to kill the albatross. The poem hinges around the line “I shot the ALBATROSS” which is made to seem significant by the fact the line is shorter than the other lines in the stanza, ends “part the first” and contains the word “albatross” in capital letters. Similarly the “pleasure dome” in Kubla Khan, which through its description as “stately” appears very grandiose, is dwarfed by the biblical, apocalyptic language that describes the natural world the dome is surrounded by, “romantic chasm”, “ancestral voices”. Furthermore, the description in the poem is extremely sensual and covers all the senses. The sensuous description of the natural images gives them an all-consuming and extremely powerful presence echoing the suggestion by Coleridge of the power in nature. The “sunless sea” and the “gardens bright” are both striking visual images, our ears are filled by the sound of the “woman wailing and the “damsel” who is “singing of mount Abora”. “The incense-bearing tree” awakens our sense of smell. Equally the suggestion of the “earth breathing” and the fact the persona has “drunk the milk of paradise” ensures that our we both feel and taste the powerful language used to describe the natural world where Kubla Khan built “a stately pleasure dome.”Coleridge’s poetry relies entirely on a detailed analysis of nature in order to present and further examine his bigger ideas such as ‘religion in nature’. More specifically however, Coleridge relies on a ‘zoom effect’ to scan the general scenery and then focus in on one small natural subject at a time, which in turn becomes symbolic of nature as a whole.
Morals in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: Appreciation of Life
Anna Barbauld may have believed that The Rime of the Ancient Mariner had no moral, but Coleridge is correct when he insists that “the poem had too much” (qtd. in Coleridge 6: 272). The moral of his ballad is to appreciate all forms of life. To develop this theme, Coleridge utilizes imagery and symbolism to create an implicit partnership between Life-in-Death and the Moon. The purpose of their partnership is simple; they both serve to punish the Mariner for his crime. In the end, their goal is to teach him a lesson that he will never forget.To understand how they achieve this goal, one must first examine how the Moon sets up the premise of the theme. When the Moon is first seen, the Albatross is still alive and the Mariner remarks, “Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white / Glimmered the white moon-shine” (77-78). Even with the mist and fog, the imagery here is pleasant. Glimmered has a positive connotation that implies beauty, whereas white is a pure color that often represents innocence. One realizes that in this scene, the Mariner and his crew have the Moon’s blessing because they receive the bird with hospitality. Though it appears the Moon is not concerned either way, it becomes clear that she is when there is a shift in the visual language. Once the Mariner shoots the Albatross, the pleasing imagery turns menacing to reveal the Moon’s disapproval of the Mariner’s actions. Now, the Mariner notices, “The death-fires danced at night; / The water, like a witch’s oils, / Burnt green, and blue and white” (128-130). Though the Moon is not mentioned directly, common knowledge dictates that the moon typically appears at night and the Mariner must have a source of light to see this. He bestows the death-fires, which sailors of this time period believed to be a sign of disaster. Instead of glimmered, the water burnt, a word that uses the image of fire to create a sense of pain. Plus, the word oil portrays the water as greasy and repulsive. The imagery of this scene is crucial because it highlights the differences of when the Albatross was alive and when it was killed. This can also be inferred from the supplementary information on the side that declares, “And the Albatross begins to be avenged” (260). At this point, one is aware that the Moon is not pleased because the Mariner shot the Albatross, but the reason for caring about the bird is still unknown. When Life-in-Death is introduced, the reason is revealed and the central theme progresses.
Although Life-in-Death and the Moon do not interact directly, their subtle partnership is depicted with the juxtaposition of beauty and terror. Life-in-Death’s beauty is one of the first aspects the Mariner notices as he describes her red lips and golden hair. However, he quickly adds, “Her skin was as white as leprosy,” (192). The contrast of beauty and terror here is significant to the theme because of what they symbolize. Life-in-Death’s red lips and golden hair are all traits of the living, whereas white skin is akin to a corpse and leprosy was most likely fatal in this time period. Coleridge is equating beauty with life and equating everything horrific with death. Similar parallels are drawn between Life-in-Death and the Moon to emphasize this theme. Later, the Mariner refers to the Moon as her for the first time and notices that she is moving. After mentioning that she abides no where he muses, “Softly she was going up, / And a star or two beside— / Her beams bemocked the sultry main” (265-267). Compared to Life-in-Death, the Moon is also depicted as feminine with words such as softly and bemocked, as if the dry, unappealing landscape could not compare to her beams. Coleridge also mentions her freedom and ability to move because that is how her beauty is symbolic for life; corpses cannot move by themselves, unless possessed by a spirit. Either way, they do not have the freedom of movement, which is another reason to appreciate life. Again, the Moon has the horrific traits that Life-in-Death possesses as well. As soon as Life-in-Death wins the Mariner’s soul, the Sun immediately disappears and the Moon takes his place. The Moon is an image of terror as the Mariner recalls, “The horned Moon, with one bright star / Within the nether tip / One after one by the star-dogged Moon,” (209-211). During this age, this impossible image of a lunar eclipse with one star in the shadow of the Moon was a sign of impending evil and evil is typically associated with death. Now, by looking at how Life-in-Death’s and the Moon’s beauty symbolizes life, compared to the horrific images that represent death, the theme slowly begins to build. One sees that life is beautiful and death is not, but that does not lead to the conclusion that life should be cherished. It is the seemingly careless actions of Life-in-Death that draw that conclusion. She wins over the Mariner’s soul through a game of dice and though stealing a soul seems monumentous, Coleridge spends one or two lines describing her victory. This act may seem random, but once compared with the crime of the Mariner, one realizes that this is the Mariner’s punishment. The Mariner shoots the Albatross for no given reason. Life-in-Death randomly kills his crew and takes the Mariner’s soul for no reason stated. When the Mariner notes that the souls flew by “like the whizz of (his) cross-bow”, one can infer that this is about killing the Albatross. Now the finality of the message becomes clear; the Mariner did not appreciate the Albatross’s life and he is punished for it. Through imagery and symbolism, one sees that the Moon and Life-in-Death do not condone life being murdered. This is why they punish the Mariner. The Moon sets up the question of why life should be appreciated and Life-in-Death provides the answer; it is because one will be punished otherwise. Which, finally, ties back into the theme of appreciating all forms of life. The reason for appreciating all forms of life is not necessarily to avoid punishment, but the threat of being punished by Moon and Life-in-Death is what stresses the importance of this appreciation and makes it one of the main morals in the story.