THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER BY SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE This version created by Bob Hughes, January 2001. PART THE FIRST.
Michael J. Weeder has put all of Doré's illustrations online at the Enteract site (which I think is in Chicago).
It is an ancient Mariner, And he stoppeth one of three. "By thy long grey beard and glittering eye, Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?
"The Bridegroom's doors are opened wide, And I am next of kin; The guests are met, the feast is set: May'st hear the merry din."
He holds him with his skinny hand, "There was a ship," quoth he. "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!" Eftsoons his hand dropt he.
He holds him with his glittering eye-- The Wedding-Guest stood still, And listens like a three years child : The Mariner hath his will.
The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone: He cannot chuse but hear; And thus spake on that ancient man, The bright-eyed Mariner.
The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared, Merrily did we drop Below the kirk, below the hill, Below the light-house top.
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.
Higher and higher every day, Till over the mast at noon-- The Wedding-Guest here beat his breast, For he heard the loud bassoon .
The bride hath paced into the hall, Red as a rose is she; Nodding their heads before her goes The merry minstrelsy. The Wedding-Guest he beat his breast, Yet he cannot chuse but hear; And thus spake on that ancient man, The bright-eyed Mariner.
And now the STORM-BLAST came, and he Was tyrannous and strong: He struck with his o'ertaking wings , And chased us south along. With sloping masts and dipping prow, As who pursued with yell and blow Still treads the shadow of his foe And forward bends his head, The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast, And southward aye we fled. And now there came both mist and snow, And it grew wondrous cold: And ice, mast-high, came floating by, As green as emerald.
And through the drifts the snowy clifts Did send a dismal sheen: Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken-- The ice was all between. 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!
At length did cross an Albatross: Thorough the fog it came; As if it had been a Christian soul, We hailed it in God's name. It ate the food it ne'er had eat, And round and round it flew. The ice did split with a thunder-fit; The helmsman steered us through!
And a good south wind sprung up behind; The Albatross did follow, And every day, for food or play, Came to the mariners' hollo! In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud, It perched for vespers nine; Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white, Glimmered the white Moon-shine.
"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.Coleridge composed these "marginal glosses" in 1815-16, while living in Church Street, Calne, Wiltshire - in a cottage rented by his friends the Morgans (Bristol wine-shippers).
"-- Hartley fell down and hurt himself -- I caught him up crying and screaming -- and ran out of doors with him. -- The Moon caught his eye -- he ceased crying immediately -- and his eyes and the tears in them, how they glittered in the moonlight!"
The 1798 version was full of
British intellectuals at this time were rediscovering early
English literature - a major factor in the "gothic" movement.
A key text (which Coleridge owned) was Thomas Percy's "Reliques of Ancient English Poetry" (1765). like this, attracting a fair amount of negative comment (not least from Wordsworth).
"Eftsoons" ("straight away") is one of the few that survived.
"I think we may safely agree with Mrs Sandford [his source] that the instrument which caused the Wedding-Guest to beat his breast, and which incidentally struck out of the voyage the stretch from the Equator to the Cape, sounded first in the church at Nether Stowey."- Road to Xanadu, p. 213.
But first the nodding minstrels go With Music sweet for lordly bowers, The children next in snow-white vests. Strewing buds and flowers!This was first published in 1831 - but Coleridge says in his biography that he was working on it at the same time as the Mariner.
when the Sun shin'd pale upon them, the Snow giving the Air a bright reflection.
"We had continual squals of sleet, snow and rain, and the heavens were perpetually hid from us by gloomy dismal clouds."
"In short, one would think it impossible that any living thing could subsist in so rigid a climate; and, indeed, we all observed, that we had not had the sight of one fish of any kind, since we were come to the Southward of the streights of le Mair, nor one sea-bird, except a disconsolate black Albitross, who accompanied us for several days, hovering about us as if he had lost himself"(see "Road to Xanadu" p. 145, quoted in full on p. 226)
so made a mournfull sound afarre off, as if miserable howlings were heard there. Hereupon the Islanders think the souls of the damned are tormented in this Ice.
"About a month ago ... there was a storm of wind; during the whole night, such were the thunders and howlings of the breaking ice that they have left a conviction on my mind, that there are Sounds more sublime than any Sight can be."(Letter to his wife Sara, quoted in "Road to Xanadu" p. 137)
a great swounding and dazeling in our heads;
he that opened the doore fell down in a swound upon the Snow.;
otherwise without doubt we had dyed in a sudden swound. etc.
"a disconsolate black Albitross, who accompanied us for several days, hovering about us as if he had lost himself, till Hatley, (my second Captain) observing, in one of his melancholy fits, that this bird was always hovering near us, imagin'd, from his colour, that it might be some ill omen. That which, I suppose, induced him the more to encourage his superstition, was the continued series of tempestuous winds, which had oppress'd us ever since we got into this sea. But be that as is would, he, after some fruitless attempts, at length, shot the Albitross, not doubting (perhaps) that we should have a fair wind after it."(Quoted by Lowes in "Road to Xanadu", p. 226)
"The Mariners gave it biscuit worms"... which seems an odd lapse, and got the chop in the 1780 edition. However John Lowes discovered that the equivalent passage in Purchas -- Magellan's entry into the Pacific via Cape Horn ("he was in very truth 'the first that ever burst into that silent sea'") -- does indeed mention biscuit worms:
"having in this time consumed all their Bisket and other Victuals, they fell to such necessitie, that they were inforced to eate the powder that remayned thereof, being now full of Wormes."See "Road to Xanadu" p. 150.
"the ship burst out of the ice with such a noise, and so great a cracke, that they thought verily that they were all cast away"... and Commodore Phipps ("Voyage to the North-East")
"But the Omnipotent ... caused ... the ice to part in an astonishing manner, rending and cracking with a tremendous noise, surpassing that of the loudest thunder. At this very instant the whole continent of ice ... moved together in various directions, splitting and dividing into vast bodies"[and with sails all spread the ships came through].
"the fourteenth, it was faire weather, with a good South Wind, and then the Ice began to drive from the Land, whereby wee were in good hope to have an open water."Road to Xanadu, p. 149
"luminous circles are oftener seen [in Greenland] than anywhere, which are formed by the frost-smoke."
The Ancient Mariner first appeared in 1798, in "Lyrical Ballads", a collaboration between Coleridge and Wordsworth which they published anonymously ... they feared their reputations as "dangerous democrats" would prejudice the poems if they published them under their own names ... via Joseph Cottle - the Bristol Unitarian and radical, and lifelong supporter of Coleridge.
Coleridge revised it over many years. The present text is pretty much the one Coleridge published (under his own name) in 1817, in "Sybilline Leaves".
But still he holds the wedding guest-- There was a ship, quoth he-- 'Nay, if thou'st got a laughsome tale, 'Marinere, come with me.' He holds him with his skinny hand-- Quoth he, there was a Ship-- Now get thee hence thou greybeard Loon! Or my Staff shall make thee skip.
Listen, Stranger! Storm and Wind, A Wind and Tempest strong! For days and weeks it play'd us freaks-- Like chaff we drove along. Listen, Stranger! Mist and Snow, And it grew wondrous cauld; And Ice Mast-high came floating by As green as Emerauld.