The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Summary and Analysis of Part 6

Part 6 opens with a dialogue between the two voices: the first voice, the Ancient Mariner says, asked the second voice to remind it what moved the Ancient Mariner's ship along so fast, and the second voice postulated that the moon must be controlling the ocean. The first voice asked again what could be driving the ship, and the second voice replied that the air was pushing the ship from behind in lieu of wind. After this declaration, the voices disappeared. The Ancient Mariner awoke at night to find the dead sailors clustered on the deck, again cursing him with their eyes. They mesmerized him, until suddenly the spell broke and they too disappeared. The Ancient Mariner, however, was not relieved; he knew that the dead men would come back to haunt him over and over again. Just then, a wind began to blow and the ship sailed quickly and smoothly until the Ancient Mariner could see the shore of his own country. As moonlight illuminated the glassy harbor, lighthouse, and church he sobbed and prayed, happy to be either alive or in heaven. Suddenly, crimson shapes began to rise from the water in front of the ship. When the Ancient Mariner looked down at the deck, he saw an angel standing over each dead man's corpse. The angels waved their hands silently, serving as beacons to guide the ship into port. The Ancient Mariner heard voices: a Pilot, the Pilot's boy, and a Hermit were approaching the ship in a boat. The Ancient Mariner was overjoyed to see other living human beings and wanted the Hermit to wipe him clean of his sin, to "wash away the Albatross's blood."


In Part 6, the two voices offer a narrative and stylistic break in the poem. Whereas before the text was unbroken, their speech is structured much as in the script of a play. The voices are also omniscient in that they know everything that has happened up until now, and are able to offer the Ancient Mariner a more complete explanation of his situation. The manner in which the voices are presented lends a didactic, narratorial feel to their words. The voices leave because, like the Wedding Guest, they have somewhere to be; the second voice urges the first: "Fly, brother, fly! More high, more high! / Or we shall be belated." Yet unlike the Wedding Guest, the voices are not riveted by the Ancient Mariner's tale and can continue on to their destination after briefly stopping to consider him. They are like the two other guests walking with the Wedding Guest when the Ancient Mariner stops him; while his tale may interest them, they are not compelled to hear it.

When the Ancient Mariner is out in the open ocean, Coleridge's imagery is heavily visual and tactile, but also focuses on sound: the noises of the wedding merriment interrupt the Ancient Mariner's tale, "voices in a swound" fill the "rime", there is a terrible silence that abounds when the men are unable to speak, and the glorious music created by the ship and the sailors implies that fortune has once again smiled on the Ancient Mariner. Indeed, in Part 6 sounds are especially important. We know of the two voices only because they speak; they have no visible presence. If they are indeed spirits, then they are discernable to humans only because of the sounds that they make. Furthermore, the Ancient Mariner hears his rescuers before he sees them, although he does not cry out to them. Coleridge's focus on sound connects us to the fact that the Ancient Mariner is telling a story to the Wedding Guest. While readers must view the story on the page, the tale is being told aloud, and is meant to be passed on in this manner, much like a sermon.

As the ship enters the harbor, we once again get the sense that the Ancient Mariner will be redeemed, although we know that he is doomed to be haunted by the dead men indefinitely: The ship is now in the safety of the harbor, and home is in sight; two hundred angels, one for each dead man, silently guide the ship into shore, acting as beacons that attract the Ancient Mariner's rescuers. Not only are the Pilot and Pilot's Boy coming to rescue the Ancient Mariner, but a Hermit has come out of the woods to help them. By definition, a hermit is someone who lives in seclusion in a natural setting, making the natural world his shrine and living place. He does not venture out into society, and certainly not on the ocean. The Hermit that the Ancient Mariner meets is joyous and social, urging the Pilot and Pilot's Boy on even though they are afraid of the tattered ship. Although at the end of Part 6 the Ancient Mariner knows that he will soon be home and believes that the Hermit can absolve him of his sin, the reader can't help but suspect that more horror is in store.