Coleridge's Poems

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner - Part I


Facile credo, plures esse Naturas invisibiles quam visibiles in rerum universitate. Sed horum omnium familiam quis nobis enarrabit? et gradus et cognationes et discrimina et singulorum munera? Quid agunt? quae loca habitant? Harum rerum notitiam semper ambivit ingenium humanum, nunquam attigit. Juvat, interea, non diffiteor, quandoque in animo, tanquam in tabula, majoris et melioris mundi imaginem contemplari: ne mens assuefacta hodiernae vitae minutiis se contrahat nimis, et tota subsidat in pusillas cogitationes. Sed veritati interea invigilandum est, modusque servandus, ut certa ab incertis, diem a nocte, distinguamus--T. BURNET, _Archaeol. Phil_, p. 68.


[Sidenote: An ancient Mariner meeteth three Gallants bidden to a wedding-feast, and detaineth one.]

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, 5

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. 10

"Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"

Eftsoons his hand dropt he.

[Sidenote: The Wedding-Guest is spellbound by the eye of the old seafaring man, and constrained to hear his tale.]

He holds him with his glittering eye--

The Wedding-Guest stood still,

And listens like a three years' child: 15

The Mariner hath his will.

The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:

He cannot choose but hear;

And thus spake on that ancient man,

The bright-eyed Mariner. 20

"The ship was cheered, the harbor cleared,

Merrily did we drop

Below the kirk, below the hill,

Below the lighthouse top.

[Sidenote: The Mariner tells how the ship sailed southward with a good wind and fair weather, till it reached the Line.]

The sun came up upon the left, 25

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--" 30

The Wedding-Guest here beat his breast,

For he heard the loud bassoon.

[Sidenote: The Wedding-Guest heareth the bridal music; but the Mariner continueth his tale.]

The bride hath paced into the hall,

Red as a rose is she;

Nodding their heads before her goes 35

The merry minstrelsy.

The Wedding-Guest he beat his breast,

Yet he cannot choose but hear;

And thus spake on that ancient man,

The bright-eyed Mariner. 40

[Sidenote: The ship driven by a storm toward the south pole.]

"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, 45

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. 50

And now there came both mist and snow,

And it grew wondrous cold:

And ice, mast-high, came floating by,

As green as emerald.

[Sidenote: The land of ice, and of fearful sounds where no living thing was to be seen.]

And through the drifts the snowy clifts 55

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: 60

It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,

Like noises in a swound!

[Sidenote: Till a great sea-bird, called the Albatross, came through the snow-fog, and was received with great joy and hospitality.]

At length did cross an Albatross,

Thorough the fog it came;

As if it had been a Christian soul, 65

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! 70

[Sidenote: And lo! the Albatross proveth a bird of good omen, and followeth the ship as it returned northward through fog and floating ice.]

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, 75

It perched for vespers nine;

Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,

Glimmered the white moon-shine."

[Sidenote: The ancient Mariner inhospitably killeth the pious bird of good omen.]

"God save thee, ancient Mariner!

From the fiends, that plague thee thus!-- 80

Why look'st thou so?"--"With my cross-bow

I shot the Albatross.