The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Coleridge's Failure to Achieve Unity in Rime of the Ancient Mariner

"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is a striking example of how Samuel Taylor Coleridge failed to attain his vision of perfect poetic unity. The work in question leaves the reader with unanswered questions regarding its stated moral, its failure to adequately account for the reasoning behind its central action, and its vacillation regarding the mariner's supposed atonement. Coleridge famously sought unity in life and art, yet in this poem he is remarkably unable to produce any semblance of such. He does, however, succeed in telling a story that instantly grabs the attention of the reader and sustains her attention long after the poem has been initially digested.

Attaining unity within the poem is impossible primarily because it lacks a unifying moral to explain the appalling events taking place on the ship as described by the guilt-stricken mariner himself. The mariner's states the moral for what has taken place in this way: "He prayeth well who loveth well / Both man and bird and beast. / He prayeth best who lovest best / All things both great and small, / For the dear God who loveth us, / He made and loveth all" (612-617). This moral explanation seems far too pat and simplistic to account for the...

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