Coleridge's Poems

Language, Verse Form, and Loss in The Mariner College

''To account for life is one thing; to explain life another'' – Coleridge (Norton p.596)

One of the most easily definable of Coleridge's Mariner's losses is his loss of a concrete existence. Coleridge's mariner exists in a liminal space in 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'. He is neither dead nor alive, his soul has been won by 'Life-in-Death' and he has lost normal human mortality. He wanders, looking for an outlet to purge him of his guilt and offer a final outcome to his predicament, but finds no lasting solution. The duality of his existence is further illustrated by the poet through his choice of language and form, while the loss that the mariner is subjected to, and offered no resolution from, mirrors the lack of a concrete and definable 'meaning' in the poem.

'It is an ancient mariner' begins the poem and immediately Coleridge is treating his protagonist as 'otherworldly'; by not offering him a personal pronoun, but instead referring to him as 'it', he is separated from the narrator and from the wedding guest, to whom he is speaking. The Mariner's movement away from humanity continues in lines 21-24 as the poet describes the mariners descent away from what is normal; 'Merrily we did drop / below the kirk, below the hill...

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