The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

What is the function of the animals?

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With my cross-bow I shot the ALBATROSS. - This is the first animal in the poem. Obviously the Mariner violates nature when he kills the Albatross.
Beyond the shadow of the ship,
I watched the water-snakes: - He observes the water snakes and eventually blesses them -
A spring of love gushed from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware:
Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
And I blessed them unaware.

"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"