Coleridge's Poems

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner - Part VII

[Sidenote: The Hermit of the Wood,]

This Hermit good lives in that wood

Which slopes down to the sea. 515

How loudly his sweet voice he rears!

He loves to talk with marineres

That come from a far countree.

He kneels at morn, and noon, and eve--

He hath a cushion plump: 520

It is the moss that wholly hides

The rotted old oak-stump.

The skiff-boat neared: I heard them talk,

'Why, this is strange, I trow!

Where are those lights, so many and fair, 525

That signal made but now?'

[Sidenote: Approacheth the ship with wonder.]

'Strange, by my faith!' the Hermit said--

'And they answered not our cheer!

The planks looked warped! and see those sails,

How thin they are and sere! 530

I never saw aught like to them,

Unless perchance it were

Brown skeletons of leaves that lag

My forest-brook along;

When the ivy-tod is heavy with snow, 535

And the owlet whoops to the wolf below,

That eats the she-wolf's young.'

'Dear Lord! it hath a fiendish look--

(The Pilot made reply)

I am a-feared'--'Push on, push on!' 540

Said the Hermit cheerily.

The boat came closer to the ship,

But I nor spake nor stirred;

The boat came close beneath the ship,

And straight a sound was heard. 545

[Sidenote: The ship suddenly sinketh.]

Under the water it rumbled on,

Still louder and more dread:

It reached the ship, it split the bay;

The ship went down like lead.

[Sidenote: The ancient Mariner is saved in the Pilot's boat.]

Stunned by that loud and dreadful sound, 550

Which sky and ocean smote,

Like one that hath been seven days drowned

My body lay afloat;

But swift as dreams, myself I found

Within the Pilot's boat. 555

Upon the whirl, where sank the ship,

The boat spun round and round;

And all was still, save that the hill

Was telling of the sound.

I moved my lips--the Pilot shrieked 560

And fell down in a fit;

The holy Hermit raised his eyes,

And prayed where he did sit.

I took the oars: the Pilot's boy,

Who now doth crazy go, 565

Laughed loud and long, and all the while

His eyes went to and fro.

'Ha! ha!' quoth he, 'full plain I see,

The Devil knows how to row.'

And now, all in my own countree, 570

I stood on the firm land!

The Hermit stepped forth from the boat,

And scarcely he could stand.

[Sidenote: The ancient Mariner earnestly entreateth the Hermit to shrieve him; and the penance of life falls on him.]

'O shrieve me, shrieve me, holy man!'

The Hermit crossed his brow. 575

'Say quick,' quoth he, 'I bid thee say--

What manner of man art thou?'

Forthwith this frame of mine was wrenched

With a woful agony,

Which forced me to begin my tale; 580

And then it left me free.

[Sidenote: And ever and anon throughout his future life an agony constraineth him to travel from land to land,]

Since then, at an uncertain hour,

That agony returns:

And till my ghastly tale is told,

This heart within me burns. 585

I pass, like night, from land to land;

I have strange power of speech;

That moment that his face I see,

I know the man that must hear me:

To him my tale I teach. 590

What loud uproar bursts from that door!

The wedding-guests are there:

But in the garden-bower the bride

And bride-maids singing are:

And hark the little vesper bell, 595

Which biddeth me to prayer!

O Wedding-Guest! this soul hath been

Alone on a wide, wide sea:

So lonely 't was, that God himself

Scarce seemed there to be. 600

O sweeter than the marriage-feast,

'T is sweeter far to me,

To walk together to the kirk

With a goodly company!--

To walk together to the kirk, 605

And all together pray,

While each to his great Father bends,

Old men, and babes, and loving friends

And youths and maidens gay!

[Sidenote: And to teach, by his own example, love and reverence to all things that God made and loveth.]

Farewell, farewell! but this I tell 610

To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!

He prayeth well, who loveth well

Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best

All things both great and small; 615

For the dear God who loveth us,

He made and loveth all."

The Mariner, whose eye is bright,

Whose beard with age is hoar,

Is gone: and now the Wedding-Guest 620

Turned from the bridegroom's door.

He went like one that hath been stunned,

And is of sense forlorn:

A sadder and a wiser man,

He rose the morrow morn. 625