Coleridge's Poems

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner - Part III

[Sidenote: The ancient Mariner beholdeth a sign in the element afar off.]

There passed a weary time. Each throat

Was parched, and glazed each eye.

A weary time! a weary time! 145

How glazed each weary eye,

When looking westward, I beheld

A something in the sky.

At first it seemed a little speck,

And then it seemed a mist; 150

It moved and moved, and took at last

A certain shape, I wist.

A speck, a mist, a shape, I wist!

And still it neared and neared:

As if it dodged a water-sprite, 155

It plunged and tacked and veered.

[Sidenote: 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.]

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,

We could nor laugh nor wail;

Through utter drought all dumb we stood!

I bit my arm, I sucked the blood, 160

And cried, A sail! a sail!

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked, Agape they heard me call:

[Sidenote: A flash of joy;]

[Sidenote: And horror follows. For can it be a ship that comes onward without wind or tide?]

Gramercy! they for joy did grin,

And all at once their breath drew in, 165

As they were drinking all.

See! see! (I cried) she tacks no more!

Hither to work us weal;

Without a breeze, without a tide,

She steadies with upright keel! 170

The western wave was all a-flame.

The day was well nigh done!

Almost upon the western wave

Rested the broad bright Sun;

When that strange shape drove suddenly 175

Betwixt us and the Sun;

[Sidenote: It seemeth him but the skeleton of a ship.]

And straight the Sun was flecked with bars,

(Heaven's Mother send us grace!)

As if through a dungeon-grate he peered

With broad and burning face. 180

Alas (thought I, and my heart beat loud)

How fast she nears and nears!

Are those her sails that glance in the Sun,

Like restless gossameres?

[Sidenote: And its ribs are seen as bars on the face of the setting Sun. The Spectre-Woman and her Deathmate, and no other on board the skeleton-ship.]

Are those her ribs through which the Sun 185

Did peer, as through a grate?

And is that Woman all her crew?

Is that a Death? and are there two?

Is Death that woman's mate?

[Sidenote: Like vessel, like crew!]

Her lips were red, her looks were free, 190

Her locks were yellow as gold:

Her skin was as white as leprosy,

The Night-mare Life-in-Death was she,

Who thicks man's blood with cold.

[Sidenote: Death and Life-in-Death have diced for the ship's crew, and she (the latter) winneth the ancient Mariner.]

The naked hulk alongside came, 195

And the twain were casting dice;

'The game is done! I've won! I've won!'

Quoth she, and whistles thrice.

[Sidenote: No twilight within the courts of the Sun.]

The Sun's rim dips; the stars rush out;

At one stride comes the dark; 200

With far-heard whisper, o'er the sea,

Off shot the spectre-bark.

[Sidenote: At the rising of the moon.]

We listened and looked sideways up!

Fear at my heart, as at a cup,

My life-blood seemed to sip! 205

The stars were dim, and thick the night,

The steersman's face by his lamp gleamed white;

From the sails the dew did drip--

Till clomb above the eastern bar

The horned Moon, with one bright star 210

Within the nether tip.

[Sidenote: One after another,]

One after one, by the star-dogged Moon,

Too quick for groan or sigh,

Each turned his face with a ghastly pang,

And cursed me with his eye. 215

[Sidenote: His shipmates drop down dead.]

Four times fifty living men,

(And I heard nor sigh nor groan)

With heavy thump, a lifeless lump,

They dropped down one by one.

[Sidenote: But Life-in-Death begins her work on the ancient Mariner.]

The souls did from their bodies fly,-- 220

They fled to bliss or woe!

And every soul, it passed me by,

Like the whizz of my cross-bow!"