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Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (text of 1834)


Argument

How a Ship having passed the Line was driven by storms to the cold Country towards the South Pole; and how from thence she made her course to the tropical Latitude of the Great Pacific Ocean; and of the strange things that befell; and in what manner the Ancyent Marinere came back to his own Country.

PART I
              1It is an ancient Mariner,
              2And he stoppeth one of three.
              3'By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
              4Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?

              5The Bridegroom's doors are opened wide,
              6And I am next of kin;
              7The guests are met, the feast is set:
              8May'st hear the merry din.'

              9He holds him with his skinny hand,
            10'There was a ship,' quoth he.
            11'Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!'
            12Eftsoons his hand dropt he.

            13He holds him with his glittering eye--
            14The Wedding-Guest stood still,
            15And listens like a three years' child:
            16The Mariner hath his will.

            17The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:
            18He cannot choose but hear;
            19And thus spake on that ancient man,
            20The bright-eyed Mariner.

            21'The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared,
            22Merrily did we drop
            23Below the kirk, below the hill,
            24Below the lighthouse top.

            25The Sun came up upon the left,
            26Out of the sea came he!
            27And he shone bright, and on the right
            28Went down into the sea.

            29Higher and higher every day,
            30Till over the mast at noon--'
            31The Wedding-Guest here beat his breast,
            32For he heard the loud bassoon.

            33The bride hath paced into the hall,
            34Red as a rose is she;
            35Nodding their heads before her goes
            36The merry minstrelsy.

            37The Wedding-Guest he beat his breast,
            38Yet he cannot choose but hear;
            39And thus spake on that ancient man,
            40The bright-eyed Mariner.

            41And now the STORM-BLAST came, and he
            42Was tyrannous and strong:
            43He struck with his o'ertaking wings,
            44And chased us south along.

            45With sloping masts and dipping prow,
            46As who pursued with yell and blow
            47Still treads the shadow of his foe,
            48And forward bends his head,
            49The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,
            50And southward aye we fled.

            51And now there came both mist and snow,
            52And it grew wondrous cold:
            53And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
            54As green as emerald.

            55And through the drifts the snowy clifts
            56Did send a dismal sheen:
            57Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken--
            58The ice was all between.

            59The ice was here, the ice was there,
            60The ice was all around:
            61It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
            62Like noises in a swound!

            63At length did cross an Albatross,
            64Thorough the fog it came;
            65As if it had been a Christian soul,
            66We hailed it in God's name.

            67It ate the food it ne'er had eat,
            68And round and round it flew.
            69The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
            70The helmsman steered us through!

            71And a good south wind sprung up behind;
            72The Albatross did follow,
            73And every day, for food or play,
            74Came to the mariner's hollo!

            75In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
            76It perched for vespers nine;
            77Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
            78Glimmered the white Moon-shine.'

            79'God save thee, ancient Mariner!
            80From the fiends, that plague thee thus!--
            81Why look'st thou so?'--With my cross-bow
            82I shot the ALBATROSS.

PART II
            83The Sun now rose upon the right:
            84Out of the sea came he,
            85Still hid in mist, and on the left
            86Went down into the sea.

            87And the good south wind still blew behind,
            88But no sweet bird did follow,
            89Nor any day for food or play
            90Came to the mariner's hollo!

            91And I had done a hellish thing,
            92And it would work 'em woe:
            93For all averred, I had killed the bird
            94That made the breeze to blow.
            95Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay,
            96That made the breeze to blow!

            97Nor dim nor red, like God's own head,
            98The glorious Sun uprist:
            99Then all averred, I had killed the bird
          100That brought the fog and mist.
          101'Twas right, said they, such birds to slay,
          102That bring the fog and mist.

          103The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
          104The furrow followed free;
          105We were the first that ever burst
          106Into that silent sea.

          107Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,
          108'Twas sad as sad could be;
          109And we did speak only to break
          110The silence of the sea!

          111All in a hot and copper sky,
          112The bloody Sun, at noon,
          113Right up above the mast did stand,
          114No bigger than the Moon.

          115Day after day, day after day,
          116We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
          117As idle as a painted ship
          118Upon a painted ocean.

          119Water, water, every where,
          120And all the boards did shrink;
          121Water, water, every where,
          122Nor any drop to drink.

          123The very deep did rot: O Christ!
          124That ever this should be!
          125Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
          126Upon the slimy sea.

          127About, about, in reel and rout
          128The death-fires danced at night;
          129The water, like a witch's oils,
          130Burnt green, and blue and white.

          131And some in dreams assurèd were
          132Of the Spirit that plagued us so;
          133Nine fathom deep he had followed us
          134From the land of mist and snow.

          135And every tongue, through utter drought,
          136Was withered at the root;
          137We could not speak, no more than if
          138We had been choked with soot.

          139Ah! well a-day! what evil looks
          140Had I from old and young!
          141Instead of the cross, the Albatross
          142About my neck was hung.

PART III
          143There passed a weary time. Each throat
          144Was parched, and glazed each eye.
          145A weary time! a weary time!
          146How glazed each weary eye,

          147When looking westward, I beheld
          148A something in the sky.

          149At first it seemed a little speck,
          150And then it seemed a mist;
          151It moved and moved, and took at last
          152A certain shape, I wist.

          153A speck, a mist, a shape, I wist!
          154And still it neared and neared:
          155As if it dodged a water-sprite,
          156It plunged and tacked and veered.

          157With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,
          158We could nor laugh nor wail;
          159Through utter drought all dumb we stood!
          160I bit my arm, I sucked the blood,
          161And cried, A sail! a sail!

          162With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,
          163Agape they heard me call:
          164Gramercy! they for joy did grin,
          165And all at once their breath drew in.
          166As they were drinking all.

          167See! see! (I cried) she tacks no more!
          168Hither to work us weal;
          169Without a breeze, without a tide,
          170She steadies with upright keel!

          171The western wave was all a-flame.
          172The day was well nigh done!
          173Almost upon the western wave
          174Rested the broad bright Sun;
          175When that strange shape drove suddenly
          176Betwixt us and the Sun.

          177And straight the Sun was flecked with bars,
          178(Heaven's Mother send us grace!)
          179As if through a dungeon-grate he peered
          180With broad and burning face.

          181Alas! (thought I, and my heart beat loud)
          182How fast she nears and nears!
          183Are those her sails that glance in the Sun,
          184Like restless gossameres?

          185Are those her ribs through which the Sun
          186Did peer, as through a grate?
          187And is that Woman all her crew?
          188Is that a DEATH? and are there two?
          189Is DEATH that woman's mate?

          190 Her lips were red, her looks were free,
          191Her locks were yellow as gold:
          192Her skin was as white as leprosy,
          193The Night-mare LIFE-IN-DEATH was she,
          194Who thicks man's blood with cold.

          195The naked hulk alongside came,
          196And the twain were casting dice;
          197'The game is done! I've won! I've won!'
          198Quoth she, and whistles thrice.

          199The Sun's rim dips; the stars rush out;
          200At one stride comes the dark;
          201With far-heard whisper, o'er the sea,
          202Off shot the spectre-bark.

          203We listened and looked sideways up!
          204Fear at my heart, as at a cup,
          205My life-blood seemed to sip!
          206The stars were dim, and thick the night,
          207The steersman's face by his lamp gleamed white;
          208From the sails the dew did drip--
          209Till clomb above the eastern bar
          210The hornèd Moon, with one bright star
          211Within the nether tip.

          212One after one, by the star-dogged Moon,
          213Too quick for groan or sigh,
          214Each turned his face with a ghastly pang,
          215And cursed me with his eye.

          216Four times fifty living men,
          217(And I heard nor sigh nor groan)
          218With heavy thump, a lifeless lump,
          219They dropped down one by one.

          220The souls did from their bodies fly,--
          221They fled to bliss or woe!
          222And every soul, it passed me by,
          223Like the whizz of my cross-bow!

PART IV
          224'I fear thee, ancient Mariner!
          225I fear thy skinny hand!
          226And thou art long, and lank, and brown,
          227As is the ribbed sea-sand.

          228I fear thee and thy glittering eye,
          229And thy skinny hand, so brown.'--
          230Fear not, fear not, thou Wedding-Guest!
          231This body dropt not down.

          232Alone, alone, all, all alone,
          233Alone on a wide wide sea!
          234And never a saint took pity on
          235My soul in agony.

          236The many men, so beautiful!
          237And they all dead did lie:
          238And a thousand thousand slimy things
          239Lived on; and so did I.

          240I looked upon the rotting sea,
          241And drew my eyes away;
          242I looked upon the rotting deck,
          243And there the dead men lay.

          244I looked to heaven, and tried to pray;
          245But or ever a prayer had gusht,
          246A wicked whisper came, and made
          247My heart as dry as dust.

          248I closed my lids, and kept them close,
          249And the balls like pulses beat;
          250For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky
          251Lay dead like a load on my weary eye,
          252And the dead were at my feet.

          253The cold sweat melted from their limbs,
          254Nor rot nor reek did they:
          255The look with which they looked on me
          256Had never passed away.

          257An orphan's curse would drag to hell
          258A spirit from on high;
          259But oh! more horrible than that
          260Is the curse in a dead man's eye!
          261Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse,
          262And yet I could not die.

          263The moving Moon went up the sky,
          264And no where did abide:
          265Softly she was going up,
          266And a star or two beside--

          267Her beams bemocked the sultry main,
          268Like April hoar-frost spread;
          269But where the ship's huge shadow lay,
          270The charmèd water burnt alway
          271A still and awful red.

          272Beyond the shadow of the ship,
          273I watched the water-snakes:
          274They moved in tracks of shining white,
          275And when they reared, the elfish light
          276Fell off in hoary flakes.

          277Within the shadow of the ship
          278I watched their rich attire:
          279Blue, glossy green, and velvet black,
          280They coiled and swam; and every track
          281Was a flash of golden fire.

          282O happy living things! no tongue
          283Their beauty might declare:
          284A spring of love gushed from my heart,
          285And I blessèd them unaware:
          286Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
          287And I blessed them unaware.

          288The self-same moment I could pray;
          289And from my neck so free
          290The Albatross fell off, and sank
          291Like lead into the sea.

PART V
          292Oh sleep! it is a gentle thing,
          293Beloved from pole to pole!
          294To Mary Queen the praise be given!
          295She sent the gentle sleep from Heaven,
          296That slid into my soul.

          297The silly buckets on the deck,
          298That had so long remained,
          299I dreamt that they were filled with dew;
          300And when I awoke, it rained.

          301My lips were wet, my throat was cold,
          302My garments all were dank;
          303Sure I had drunken in my dreams,
          304And still my body drank.

          305I moved, and could not feel my limbs:
          306I was so light--almost
          307I thought that I had died in sleep,
          308And was a blessed ghost.

          309And soon I heard a roaring wind:
          310It did not come anear;
          311But with its sound it shook the sails,
          312That were so thin and sere.

          313The upper air burst into life!
          314And a hundred fire-flags sheen,
          315To and fro they were hurried about!
          316And to and fro, and in and out,
          317The wan stars danced between.

          318And the coming wind did roar more loud,
          319And the sails did sigh like sedge,
          320And the rain poured down from one black cloud;
          321The Moon was at its edge.

          322The thick black cloud was cleft, and still
          323The Moon was at its side:
          324Like waters shot from some high crag,
          325The lightning fell with never a jag,
          326A river steep and wide.

          327The loud wind never reached the ship,
          328Yet now the ship moved on!
          329Beneath the lightning and the Moon
          330The dead men gave a groan.

          331They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose,
          332Nor spake, nor moved their eyes;
          333It had been strange, even in a dream,
          334To have seen those dead men rise.

          335The helmsman steered, the ship moved on;
          336Yet never a breeze up-blew;
          337The mariners all 'gan work the ropes,
          338Where they were wont to do;
          339They raised their limbs like lifeless tools--
          340We were a ghastly crew.

          341The body of my brother's son
          342Stood by me, knee to knee:
          343The body and I pulled at one rope,
          344But he said nought to me.

          345'I fear thee, ancient Mariner!'
          346Be calm, thou Wedding-Guest!
          347'Twas not those souls that fled in pain,
          348Which to their corses came again,
          349But a troop of spirits blest:

          350For when it dawned--they dropped their arms,
          351And clustered round the mast;
          352Sweet sounds rose slowly through their mouths,
          353And from their bodies passed.

          354Around, around, flew each sweet sound,
          355Then darted to the Sun;
          356Slowly the sounds came back again,
          357Now mixed, now one by one.

          358Sometimes a-dropping from the sky
          359I heard the sky-lark sing;
          360Sometimes all little birds that are,
          361How they seemed to fill the sea and air
          362With their sweet jargoning!

          363And now 'twas like all instruments,
          364Now like a lonely flute;
          365And now it is an angel's song,
          366That makes the heavens be mute.

          367It ceased; yet still the sails made on
          368A pleasant noise till noon,
          369A noise like of a hidden brook
          370In the leafy month of June,
          371That to the sleeping woods all night
          372Singeth a quiet tune.

          373Till noon we quietly sailed on,
          374Yet never a breeze did breathe:
          375Slowly and smoothly went the ship,
          376Moved onward from beneath.

          377Under the keel nine fathom deep,
          378From the land of mist and snow,
          379The spirit slid: and it was he
          380That made the ship to go.
          381The sails at noon left off their tune,
          382And the ship stood still also.

          383The Sun, right up above the mast,
          384Had fixed her to the ocean:
          385But in a minute she 'gan stir,
          386With a short uneasy motion--
          387Backwards and forwards half her length
          388With a short uneasy motion.

          389Then like a pawing horse let go,
          390She made a sudden bound:
          391It flung the blood into my head,
          392And I fell down in a swound.

          393How long in that same fit I lay,
          394I have not to declare;
          395But ere my living life returned,
          396I heard and in my soul discerned
          397Two voices in the air.

          398'Is it he?' quoth one, 'Is this the man?
          399By him who died on cross,
          400With his cruel bow he laid full low
          401The harmless Albatross.

          402The spirit who bideth by himself
          403In the land of mist and snow,
          404He loved the bird that loved the man
          405Who shot him with his bow.'

          406The other was a softer voice,
          407As soft as honey-dew:
          408Quoth he, 'The man hath penance done,
          409And penance more will do.'

PART VI
FIRST VOICE

          410'But tell me, tell me! speak again,
          411Thy soft response renewing--
          412What makes that ship drive on so fast?
          413What is the ocean doing?'

SECOND VOICE

          414'Still as a slave before his lord,
          415The ocean hath no blast;
          416His great bright eye most silently
          417Up to the Moon is cast--

          418If he may know which way to go;
          419For she guides him smooth or grim.
          420See, brother, see! how graciously
          421She looketh down on him.'

FIRST VOICE

          422'But why drives on that ship so fast,
          423Without or wave or wind?'

SECOND VOICE

          424'The air is cut away before,
          425And closes from behind.

          426Fly, brother, fly! more high, more high!
          427Or we shall be belated:
          428For slow and slow that ship will go,
          429When the Mariner's trance is abated.'

          430I woke, and we were sailing on
          431As in a gentle weather:
          432'Twas night, calm night, the moon was high;
          433The dead men stood together.

          434All stood together on the deck,
          435For a charnel-dungeon fitter:
          436All fixed on me their stony eyes,
          437That in the Moon did glitter.

          438The pang, the curse, with which they died,
          439Had never passed away:
          440I could not draw my eyes from theirs,
          441Nor turn them up to pray.

          442And now this spell was snapt: once more
          443I viewed the ocean green,
          444And looked far forth, yet little saw
          445Of what had else been seen--

          446Like one, that on a lonesome road
          447Doth walk in fear and dread,
          448And having once turned round walks on,
          449And turns no more his head;
          450Because he knows, a frightful fiend
          451Doth close behind him tread.

          452But soon there breathed a wind on me,
          453Nor sound nor motion made:
          454Its path was not upon the sea,
          455In ripple or in shade.

          456It raised my hair, it fanned my cheek
          457Like a meadow-gale of spring--
          458It mingled strangely with my fears,
          459Yet it felt like a welcoming.

          460Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship,
          461Yet she sailed softly too:
          462Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze--
          463On me alone it blew.

          464Oh! dream of joy! is this indeed
          465The light-house top I see?
          466Is this the hill? is this the kirk?
          467Is this mine own countree?

          468We drifted o'er the harbour-bar,
          469And I with sobs did pray--
          470O let me be awake, my God!
          471Or let me sleep alway.

          472The harbour-bay was clear as glass,
          473So smoothly it was strewn!
          474And on the bay the moonlight lay,
          475And the shadow of the Moon.

          476The rock shone bright, the kirk no less,
          477That stands above the rock:
          478The moonlight steeped in silentness
          479The steady weathercock.

          480And the bay was white with silent light,
          481Till rising from the same,
          482Full many shapes, that shadows were,
          483In crimson colours came.

          484A little distance from the prow
          485Those crimson shadows were:
          486I turned my eyes upon the deck--
          487Oh, Christ! what saw I there!

          488Each corse lay flat, lifeless and flat,
          489And, by the holy rood!
          490A man all light, a seraph-man,
          491On every corse there stood.

          492This seraph-band, each waved his hand:
          493It was a heavenly sight!
          494They stood as signals to the land,
          495Each one a lovely light;

          496This seraph-band, each waved his hand,
          497No voice did they impart--
          498No voice; but oh! the silence sank
          499Like music on my heart.

          500But soon I heard the dash of oars,
          501I heard the Pilot's cheer;
          502My head was turned perforce away
          503And I saw a boat appear.

          504The Pilot and the Pilot's boy,
          505I heard them coming fast:
          506Dear Lord in Heaven! it was a joy
          507The dead men could not blast.

          508I saw a third--I heard his voice:
          509It is the Hermit good!
          510He singeth loud his godly hymns
          511That he makes in the wood.
          512He'll shrieve my soul, he'll wash away
          513The Albatross's blood.

PART VII
          514This Hermit good lives in that wood
          515Which slopes down to the sea.
          516How loudly his sweet voice he rears!
          517He loves to talk with marineres
          518That come from a far countree.

          519He kneels at morn, and noon, and eve--
          520He hath a cushion plump:
          521It is the moss that wholly hides
          522The rotted old oak-stump.

          523The skiff-boat neared: I heard them talk,
          524'Why, this is strange, I trow!
          525Where are those lights so many and fair,
          526That signal made but now?'

          527'Strange, by my faith!' the Hermit said--
          528'And they answered not our cheer!
          529The planks looked warped! and see those sails,
          530How thin they are and sere!
          531I never saw aught like to them,
          532Unless perchance it were

          533Brown skeletons of leaves that lag
          534My forest-brook along;
          535When the ivy-tod is heavy with snow,
          536And the owlet whoops to the wolf below,
          537That eats the she-wolf's young.'

          538'Dear Lord! it hath a fiendish look--
          539(The Pilot made reply)
          540I am a-feared'--'Push on, push on!'
          541Said the Hermit cheerily.

          542The boat came closer to the ship,
          543But I nor spake nor stirred;
          544The boat came close beneath the ship,
          545And straight a sound was heard.

          546Under the water it rumbled on,
          547Still louder and more dread:
          548It reached the ship, it split the bay;
          549The ship went down like lead.

          550Stunned by that loud and dreadful sound,
          551Which sky and ocean smote,
          552Like one that hath been seven days drowned
          553My body lay afloat;
          554But swift as dreams, myself I found
          555Within the Pilot's boat.

          556Upon the whirl, where sank the ship,
          557The boat spun round and round;
          558And all was still, save that the hill
          559Was telling of the sound.

          560I moved my lips--the Pilot shrieked
          561And fell down in a fit;
          562The holy Hermit raised his eyes,
          563And prayed where he did sit.

          564I took the oars: the Pilot's boy,
          565Who now doth crazy go,
          566Laughed loud and long, and all the while
          567His eyes went to and fro.
          568'Ha! ha!' quoth he, 'full plain I see,
          569The Devil knows how to row.'

          570And now, all in my own countree,
          571I stood on the firm land!
          572The Hermit stepped forth from the boat,
          573And scarcely he could stand.

          574'O shrieve me, shrieve me, holy man!'
          575The Hermit crossed his brow.
          576'Say quick,' quoth he, 'I bid thee say--
          577What manner of man art thou?'

          578Forthwith this frame of mine was wrenched
          579With a woful agony,
          580Which forced me to begin my tale;
          581And then it left me free.

          582Since then, at an uncertain hour,
          583That agony returns:
          584And till my ghastly tale is told,
          585This heart within me burns.

          586I pass, like night, from land to land;
          587I have strange power of speech;
          588That moment that his face I see,
          589I know the man that must hear me:
          590To him my tale I teach.

          591What loud uproar bursts from that door!
          592The wedding-guests are there:
          593But in the garden-bower the bride
          594And bride-maids singing are:
          595And hark the little vesper bell,
          596Which biddeth me to prayer!

          597O Wedding-Guest! this soul hath been
          598Alone on a wide wide sea:
          599So lonely 'twas, that God himself
          600Scarce seemed there to be.

          601O sweeter than the marriage-feast,
          602'Tis sweeter far to me,
          603To walk together to the kirk
          604With a goodly company!--

          605To walk together to the kirk,
          606And all together pray,
          607While each to his great Father bends,
          608Old men, and babes, and loving friends
          609And youths and maidens gay!

          610Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
          611To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!
          612He prayeth well, who loveth well
          613Both man and bird and beast.

          614He prayeth best, who loveth best
          615All things both great and small;
          616For the dear God who loveth us,
          617He made and loveth all.

          618The Mariner, whose eye is bright,
          619Whose beard with age is hoar,
          620Is gone: and now the Wedding-Guest
          621Turned from the bridegroom's door.

          622He went like one that hath been stunned,
          623And is of sense forlorn:
          624A sadder and a wiser man,
          625He rose the morrow morn.

Notes

1] First published in Lyrical Ballads, 1798. Almost twenty years later Coleridge, in his Biographia Literaria (chap. XIV), gave an account of the occasion of the poem: "During the first year that Mr. Wordsworth and I were neighbours, our conversations turned frequently on the two cardinal points of poetry, the power of exciting the sympathy of the reader by a faithful adherence to the truth of nature, and the power of giving the interest of novelty by the modifying colours of imagination. The sudden charm, which accidents of light and shade, which moonlight or sunset diffused over a known and familiar landscape, appeared to represent the practicability of combining both. These are the poetry of nature. The thought suggested itself (to which of us I do not recollect) that a series of poems might be composed of two sorts. In the one, the incidents and agents were to be, in part at least supernatural; and the excellence aimed at was to consist in the interesting of the affections by the dramatic truth of such emotions, as would naturally accompany such situations, supposing them real. And real in this sense they have been to every human being who, from whatever source of delusion, has at any time believed himself under supernatural agency. For the second class, subjects were to be chosen from ordinary life; the characters and incidents were to be such, as will be found in every village and its vicinity where there is a meditative and feeling mind to seek after them, or to notice them, when they present themselves. In this idea originated the plan of the Lyrical Ballads; in which it was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic; yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith. Mr. Wordsworth, on the other hand, was to propose to himself as his object, to give the charm of novelty to things of every day, and to excite a feeling analogous to the supernatural, by awakening the mind's attention from the lethargy of custom, and directing it to the loveliness and the wonders of the world before us; an inexhaustible treasure, but for which, in consequence of the film of familiarity and selfish solicitude we have eyes, yet see not, and hearts that neither feel or understand. With this view I wrote The Ancient Mariner, and was preparing among other poems, The Dark Ladie, and the Christabel in which I should have more nearly realized my ideal, than I had done in my first attempt."

Wordsworth also has recorded an account of the inception of the poem: "The Ancient Mariner was founded on a strange dream, which a friend of Coleridge had, who fancied he saw a skeleton ship, with figures in it. We had both determined to write some poetry for a monthly magazine, the profits of which were to defer the expenses of a little excursion we were to make together. The Ancient Mariner was intended for this periodical, but was too long. I had very little share in the composition of it, for I soon found the style of Coleridge and myself would not assimilate. Beside the lines (in the fourth part)--"And thou art long, and lank, and brown,/As in the ribbed sea-sand--" I wrote the stanza (in the first part) "He holds him with his glittering eye--/ The Wedding-Guest stood still,/ And listens like a three-years child:/ The Mariner hath his will.--" and four or five lines more in different parts of the poem, which I could not now point out. The idea of shooting an albatross was mine; for I had been reading Shelvock's Voyages, which probably Coleridge never saw. I also suggested the reanimation of the dead bodies, to work the ship."

It should be noted that Coleridge revised most of his poems after their first publication; the poems printed here are taken from the 1834 text, which is the final outcome, in many cases, of a sustained creative process. The 1798 text of The Ancient Mariner was deliberately archaic in diction, and spelling; most of the archaisms were removed for the 1800 edition of Lyrical Ballads; the Malta voyage, 1804-6, produced some additional lines and increased precision of phrase; marginal glosses were added in Sibylline Leaves, 1817.

The argument belongs to the 1798 text only. In 1817 Coleridge replaced the Argument by an epigraph taken from Thomas Burnet's Archaeologiae Philosophicae. Translated it reads: "I can easily believe, that there are more Invisible than Visible Beings in the Universe; but who will declare to us the Family of all these, and acquaint us with the Agreements, Differences, and peculiar Talents which are to be found among them? What do they do and where do they live? It is true, human Wit has always desired a Knowledge of these Things, though it has never yet attained it. I will own that it is very profitable, sometimes to contemplate in the Mind, as in a Draught, the Image of the greater and better World; lest the Soul being accustomed to the Trifles of this present Life, should contract itself too much, and altogether rest in mean Cogitations; but, in the mean Time, we must take Care to keep to the Truth, and observe Moderation, that we may distinguish certain Things, and Day from Night."

[Marginal Note Begins]
An ancient Mariner
meeteth three
Gallants bidden to a
wedding-feast, and
detaineth one.
[Note Ends]

13] [Marginal Note Begins]
The Wedding-Guest
is spellbound by
the eye of the old
seafaring man, and
constrained to hear
his tale.
[Note Ends]

23] [Marginal Note Begins]
The Mariner tells
how the ship sailed
southward with a
good wind and fair
weather, till it
reached the line.
[Note Ends]

33] [Marginal Note Begins]
The Wedding-Guest
heareth the bridal
music; but the
Mariner continueth
his tale.
[Note Ends]

41] [Marginal Note Begins]
The ship driven
by a storm toward
the south pole.
[Note Ends]

55] [Marginal Note Begins]
The land of ice, and
of fearful sounds
where no living thing
was to be seen.
[Note Ends]

63] [Marginal Note Begins]
Till a great sea-bird,
called the Albatross,
came through the
snow-fog, and was
received with great
joy and hospitality.
[Note Ends]

71] [Marginal Note Begins]
And lo! the Albatross
proveth a bird of
good omen, and
followeth the ship as
it returned northward
through fog and
floating ice.
[Note Ends]

79] [Marginal Note Begins]
The ancient Mariner
inhospitably killeth
the pious bird of
good omen.
[Note Ends]

91] [Marginal Note Begins]
His shipmates cry
out against the
ancient Mariner, for
killing the bird of
good luck.
[Note Ends]

97] [Marginal Note Begins]
But when the fog
cleared off, they
justify the same, and
thus make themselves
accomplices in the
crime.
[Note Ends]

103] [Marginal Note Begins]
The fair breeze
continues; the ship
enters the Pacific
Ocean, and sails
northward, even till
it reaches the Line.
[Note Ends]

107] [Marginal Note Begins]
The ship hath been
suddenly becalmed.
[Note Ends]

119] [Marginal Note Begins]
And the Albatross
begins to be avenged.
[Note Ends]

131] [Marginal Note Begins]
A Spirit had
followed them; one
of the invisible
inhabitants of this
planet, neither
departed souls nor angels; concerning whom the learned Jew, Josephus, and
the Platonic Constantinopolitan, Michael Psellus, may be consulted. They
are very numerous, and there is no climate or element without one or more.
[Note Ends]

139] [Marginal Note Begins]
The shipmates, in
their sore distress,
would fain throw
the whole guilt on
the ancient Mariner:
in sign whereof they hang the dead sea-bird round his neck.
[Note Ends]

147] [Marginal Note Begins]
The ancient Mariner
beholdeth a sign in
the element afar off.
[Note Ends]

157] [Marginal Note Begins]
At its nearer
approach, it seemeth
him to be a ship;
and at a dear ransom
he freeth his speech
from the bonds
of thirst.
[Note Ends]

162] [Marginal Note Begins]
A flash of joy;
[Note Ends]

167] [Marginal Note Begins]
And horror follows.
For can it be a ship
that comes onward
without wind or tide?
[Note Ends]

177] [Marginal Note Begins]
It seemeth him
but the skeleton
of a ship.
[Note Ends]

183] [Marginal Note Begins]
And its ribs are seen
as bars on the face
of the setting Sun.
[Note Ends]

185] [Marginal Note Begins]
The Spectre-Woman
and Death-mate,
and no other on
board the skeleton
ship.
[Note Ends]

190] [Marginal Note Begins]
Like vessel, like crew!
[Note Ends]

195] [Marginal Note Begins]
Death and
Life-in-Death have
diced for the ship's
crew, and she
(the latter) winneth
the ancient Mariner.
[Note Ends]

203] [Marginal Note Begins]
At the rising of
the Moon,
[Note Ends]

212] [Marginal Note Begins]
One after another,
[Note Ends]

216] [Marginal Note Begins]
His shipmates drop
down dead.
[Note Ends]

220] [Marginal Note Begins]
But Life-in-Death
begins her work on
the ancient Mariner.
[Note Ends]

224] [Marginal Note Begins]
The Wedding-Guest
feareth that a Spirit
is talking to him;
[Note Ends]

230] [Marginal Note Begins]
But the
ancient Mariner
assureth him of
his bodily life,
and proceedeth
to relate
his horrible
penance.
[Note Ends]

236] [Marginal Note Begins]
He despiseth the
creatures of the calm,
[Note Ends]

240] [Marginal Note Begins]
And envieth that
they should live, and
so many lie dead.
[Note Ends]

253] [Marginal Note Begins]
But the curse liveth
for him in the eye
of the dead men.
[Note Ends]

264] [Marginal Note Begins]
In his loneliness and
fixedness he yearneth
towards the
journeying Moon,
and the stars that
still sojourn, yet still
move onward; and
every where the
blue sky belongs to
them, and is their
appointed rest, and
their native country
and their own natural homes, which they enter unannounced, as lords that are
certainly expected and yet there is a silent joy at their arrival.
[Note Ends]

272] [Marginal Note Begins]
By the light of the
Moon he beholdeth
God's creatures of
the great calm.
[Note Ends]

282] [Marginal Note Begins]
Their beauty and
their happiness.
[Note Ends]

285] [Marginal Note Begins]
He blesseth them
in his heart.
[Note Ends]

288] [Marginal Note Begins]
The spell begins
to break.
[Note Ends]

297] [Marginal Note Begins]
By grace of the holy
Mother, the ancient
Mariner is refreshed
with rain.
[Note Ends]

309] [Marginal Note Begins]
He heareth sounds
and seeth strange
sights and commo{\-}
tions in the sky and
the element.
[Note Ends]

314] fire-flags: presumably a reference to the aurora australis.

327] [Marginal Note Begins]
The bodies of the
ship's crew are
[inspirited, S.L.] and
the ship moves on;
[Note Ends]

345] [Marginal Note Begins]
But not by the souls
of the men, nor by
dæmons of earth or
middle air, but by a
blessed troop of
angelic spirits, sent
down by the
invocation of the
guardian saint.
[Note Ends]

377] [Marginal Note Begins]
The lonesome Spirit
from the south-pole
carries on the ship
as far as the Line,
in obedience to the
angelic troop, but
still requireth
vengeance.
[Note Ends]

393] [Marginal Note Begins]
The Polar Spirit's
fellow-dæmons, the
invisible inhabitants
of the element, take
part in his wrong;
and two of them
relate, one to the
other, that penance
long and heavy for
the ancient Mariner
hath been accorded
to the Polar Spirit,
who returneth
southward.
[Note Ends]

422] [Marginal Note Begins]
The Mariner hath
been cast into a
trance; for the
angelic power causeth
the vessel to drive
northward faster
than human life
could endure.
[Note Ends]

430] [Marginal Note Begins]
The supernatural
motion is retarded;
the Mariner awakes,
and his penance
begins anew.
[Note Ends]

442] [Marginal Note Begins]
The curse is finally
expiated.
[Note Ends]

464] [Marginal Note Begins]
And the ancient
Mariner beholdeth
his native country.
[Note Ends]

482] [Marginal Note Begins]
The angelic spirits
leave the dead bodies,
[Note Ends]

484] [Marginal Note Begins]
And appear in their
own forms of light.
[Note Ends]

514] [Marginal Note Begins]
The Hermit of
the wood,
[Note Ends]

527] [Marginal Note Begins]
Approacheth the
ship with wonder.
[Note Ends]

535] ivy-tod. "Tod" is an archaic word meaning "bush" or "mass of foliage."

546] [Marginal Note Begins]
The ship suddenly
sinketh.
[Note Ends]

550] [Marginal Note Begins]
The ancient Mariner
is saved in the
Pilot's boat.
[Note Ends]

574] [Marginal Note Begins]
The ancient Mariner
earnestly entreateth
the Hermit to
shrieve him; and the
penance of life
falls on him.
[Note Ends]

582] [Marginal Note Begins]
And ever and anon
through out his
future life an agony
constraineth him to
travel from land
to land;
[Note Ends]

610] [Marginal Note Begins]
And to teach, by
his own example,
love and reverence
to all things that God
made and loveth.
[Note Ends]


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: The poetical works of S.T. Coleridge, ed. Henry Nelson Coleridge (London : W. Pickering, 1834). PR 4470 E34 VICT Rare Books.
First publication date: 1798
RPO poem editor: Kathleen Coburn, R. S. Woof
RP edition: 3RP 2.426.
Recent editing: 2:2002/5/24

Composition date: 1797 - 1798
Rhyme: varying


Other poems by Samuel Taylor Coleridge