Rime of Ancient Mariner Summary

Rime of Ancient Mariner Summary: The Poem “The Rime of Ancient Mariner” was written by S.T Coleridge.

Relating the horrific yet morally significant experiences of an old Mariner, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is a long and eventful sea voyage involving supernatural in a dramatic style. The poem is sheer fantasy. Though it is based on a supernatural and imaginative story, yet it proves the concept of “willing suspension of disbelief” because the audience is willing to “…listen like a three years’ child”. The poem is fascinating and captivates the readers with its rich imagery, colour, love of nature, music and dramatic style. First published within “Lyrical Ballads”, the poem is romantic in essence but in unlike other romantic poems it has certain moral aspects to profess and it invites the readers to contemplate upon the human side of their lives.

The poem begins in a dramatic style with an old Mariner who “stoppeth one of three” wedding guests. The wedding guest resists:

“The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin…”

The old Mariner begins to relate his sea voyage. “Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!”, says the guest. The old Mariner frees the guest but he does not move. The guest seems hypnotised. He sits there listening the tale of the old Mariner because “he cannot choose but hear”. The Mariner relates the journey: “The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared”. But soon “the STORM-BLAST came” and “chased us south”. “And now there came both mist and snow”. The ancient Mariner tells:

“The ice was here, the ice was there,

The ice was all around”.

The ship didn’t move any more. Then, an albatross came. “We hailed it in God’s name”. After it came, the ice split and the ship moved. Albatross came daily for food and play. But “I shot the ALBATROSS”.

The sun rose and set. The bird was no more. The Mariner says:

“And I had done a hellish thing,
And it would work ’em woe”.

People cursed him for this deed of cruelty. But when the fog ended with the death of the bird, they praised him: “Twas right…such birds to slay”. Later, the sun rose “in a hot and copper sky”. The wind stopped and the ship halted:

“As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean”.

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With the passing time, it became tougher and tougher for the Mariner and his crew.

“Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink”.

He could see slimy things in the sea. The crew believed that some devil was following their ship. They cursed the old Mariner for killing the bird and “the Albatross about my neck was hung”. Now the condition of the crew was very bad.

“There passed a weary time. Each throat
Was parched, and glazed each eye”.

They were dying with thirst. The old Mariner saw something in the distance. It appeared like a ship. The old Mariner says:

“I bit my arm, I sucked the blood,
And cried, A sail! a sail!”

The wedding guest is terrified: “‘I fear thee, ancient Mariner!”. He thinks the old mariner is dead. The Mariner assures him “fear not…this body dropt not down”. He says “Alone, alone, all, all alone” he lived like those “slimy things” in the sea. The Mariner tried to pray but he could not. He could see the rotting sea and the rotting deck. There were dead bodies all around him. The Mariner says:

“An orphan’s curse would drag to hell
A spirit from on high”.

And he could see curse in the eyes of the dead men about him, yet he “could not die”. It was an accursed condition for seven days and nights. When the Moon rose, he could see water snakes. Without knowing, the old Mariner praised their beauty:

“O happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty might declare”

The beauty of the snakes inspired love in his heart and he “blessed them unaware”. The Albatross around his neck fell off and dropped into the sea.

Further Reading for Rime of Ancient Mariner Summary and Text:

  1. The Text of The Rime of Ancient Mariner
  2. Poetry Foundation
  3. Wikipedia.org

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