Coleridge's Poems

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner - Part IV

[Sidenote: The Wedding-Guest feareth that a Spirit is talking to him;]

"I Fear thee, ancient Mariner!

I fear thy skinny hand! 225

And thou art long, and lank, and brown,

As is the ribbed sea-sand.

I fear thee and thy glittering eye,

And thy skinny hand, so brown."--

"Fear me not, fear not, thou wedding-guest! 230

This body dropt not down.

[Sidenote: But the ancient Mariner assureth him of his bodily life, and proceedeth to relate his horrible penance.]

Alone, alone, all, all alone,

Alone on the wide, wide sea!

And never a saint took pity on

My soul in agony. 235

[Sidenote: He despiseth the creatures of the calm.]

The many men, so beautiful!

And they all dead did lie:

And a thousand thousand slimy things

Lived on; and so did I.

[Sidenote: And envieth that they should live, and so many lie dead.]

I looked upon the rotting sea, 240

And drew my eyes away;

I looked upon the rotting deck,

And there the dead men lay.

I looked to heaven, and tried to pray;

But or ever a prayer had gusht, 245

A wicked whisper came, and made

My heart as dry as dust.

I closed my lids, and kept them close,

And the balls like pulses beat;

For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky 250

Lay like a load on my weary eye,

And the dead were at my feet.

[Sidenote: But the curse liveth for him in the eye of the dead men.]

The cold sweat melted from their limbs,

Nor rot nor reek did they:

The look with which they looked on me

Had never passed away.

An orphan's curse would drag to hell

A spirit from on high;

But oh! more horrible than that

Is a curse in a dead man's eye!

Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse,

And yet I could not die.

[Sidenote: 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.]

The moving Moon went up the sky,

And nowhere did abide:

Softly she was going up,

And a star or two beside--

Her beams bemocked the sultry main,

Like April hoar-frost spread;

But where the ship's huge shadow lay,

The charmed water burnt alway

A still and awful red.

[Sidenote: By the light of the Moon he beholdeth God's creatures of the great calm.]

Beyond the shadow of the ship,

I watched the water-snakes:

They moved in tracks of shining white,

And when they reared, the elfish light

Fell off in hoary flakes.

Within the shadow of the ship

I watched their rich attire:

Blue, glossy green, and velvet black,

They coiled and swam; and every track 280

Was a flash of golden fire.

[Sidenote: Their beauty and their happiness.]

[Sidenote: He blesseth them in his heart.]

O happy living things! no tongue

Their beauty might declare:

A spring of love gushed from my heart,

And I blessed them unaware: 285

Sure my kind saint took pity on me,

And I blessed them unaware.

[Sidenote: The spell begins to break.]

The selfsame moment I could pray;

And from my neck so free

The Albatross fell off, and sank 290

Like lead into the sea.