Coleridge's Poems

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner - Part VI


'But tell me, tell me! speak again, 410

Thy soft response renewing--

What makes that ship drive on so fast?

What is the ocean doing?'


'Still as a slave before his lord,

The ocean hath no blast; 415

His great bright eye most silently

Up to the Moon is cast--

If he may know which way to go;

For she guides him smooth or grim.

See, brother, see! how graciously 420

She looketh down on him.'


[Sidenote: The Mariner hath been cast into a trance; for the angelic power causeth the vessel to drive northward faster than human life could endure.]

'But why drives on that ship so fast?

Without or wave or wind?'


'The air is cut away before,

And closes from behind. 425

Fly, brother, fly! more high, more high!

Or we shall be belated:

For slow and slow that ship will go,

When the Mariner's trance is abated.

[Sidenote: The supernatural motion is retarded; the Mariner awakes, and his penance begins anew.]

I woke, and we were sailing on 430

As in a gentle weather:

'T was night, calm night, the moon was high,

The dead men stood together.

All stood together on the deck,

For a charnel-dungeon fitter: 435

All fixed on me their stony eyes,

That in the Moon did glitter.

The pang, the curse, with which they died,

Had never passed away:

I could not draw my eyes from theirs, 440

Nor turn them up to pray.

[Sidenote: The curse is finally expiated.]

And now this spell was snapt: once more

I viewed the ocean green,

And looked far forth, yet little saw

Of what had else been seen-- 445

Like one, that on a lonesome road

Doth walk in fear and dread,

And having once turned round walks on,

And turns no more his head;

Because he knows, a frightful fiend 450

Doth close behind him tread.

But soon there breathed a wind on me,

Nor sound nor motion made:

Its path was not upon the sea,

In ripple or in shade. 455

It raised my hair, it fanned my cheek

Like a meadow-gale of spring--

It mingled strangely with my fears,

Yet it felt like a welcoming.

Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship, 460

Yet she sailed softly too:

Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze--

On me alone it blew.

[Sidenote: And the ancient Mariner beholdeth his native country.]

Oh! dream of joy! is this indeed

The light-house top I see? 465

Is this the hill? is this the kirk?

Is this mine own countree?

We drifted o'er the harbor-bar,

And I with sobs did pray--

O let me be awake, my God! 470

Or let me sleep alway.

The harbor-bay was clear as glass,

So smoothly it was strewn!

And on the bay the moonlight lay,

And the shadow of the Moon. 475

The rock shone bright, the kirk no less,

That stands above the rock:

The moonlight steeped in silentness

The steady weathercock.

And the bay was white with silent light 480

Till rising from the same,

[Sidenote: The angelic spirits leave the dead bodies,]

Full many shapes, that shadows were,

In crimson colors came.

[Sidenote: And appear in their own forms of light.]

A little distance from the prow

Those crimson shadows were: 485

I turned my eyes upon the deck--

Oh, Christ! what saw I there!

Each corse lay flat, lifeless and flat,

And, by the holy rood!

A man all light, a seraph-man, 490

On every corse there stood.

This seraph-band, each waved his hand:

It was a heavenly sight!

They stood as signals to the land,

Each one a lovely light; 495

This seraph-band, each waved his hand,

No voice did they impart--

No voice; but oh! the silence sank

Like music on my heart.

But soon I heard the dash of oars, 500

I heard the Pilot's cheer;

My head was turned perforce away,

And I saw a boat appear.

The Pilot and the Pilot's boy,

I heard them coming fast: 505

Dear Lord in Heaven! it was a joy

The dead men could not blast.

I saw a third--I heard his voice:

It is the Hermit good!

He singeth loud his godly hymns 510

That he makes in the wood.

He'll shrieve my soul, he'll wash away

The Albatross's blood.