The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere

Section 1 

  1. What is the purpose of the framing device of the first six stanzas, as well as the following interjections?

  2. What is the significance of the repetition of the number three – “one of three” (stanza 1) and a “three year’s child” (stanza 5) and then throughout the poem?

  3. If the mariner is to be seen as a “grey-beard Loon”, is his whole story called into question?

  4. The story starts proper in the seventh stanza, do the poem’s rhythm or language change appreciably?

  5. Does the personification of the sun in stanza 8 serve any purpose?

  6. The interjection, beginning in the ninth stanza serves what purpose? Is the description of the bride fitting?

  7. The repeated petition which continues the tale affects the poem’s tone in what way?

  8. Repetition is again used, this time to stress the seriousness of the sailors’ predicament – how else does Coleridge use repetition?

  9. Does the use of the word “cross” in the stanza 16 signify anything? How else is the albatross established as a symbol in the reader’s mind?

  10. In a poem which portends to recreate the psychological reality of the mariner, what is lacking in the description of his killing of the albatross? What is Coleridge trying to do?


Section 2 


  1. The aftermath of the killing of the bird doesn’t seem to reflect the enormity of the event, nor the mariner’s reaction as noted by the wedding guest – how does this affect the reader’s understanding of the poem?

  2. How does this sharp change in the poem’s shape in the fourth stanza affect the ideas therein expressed?
    The sharp change in the poem’s shape in the forth stanze affects the ideas therein expressed by bringing a sense of dawning realisation, “I had kill’d the Bird// that brought the fog and mist” and therefore disrupts the rhythm and brings uncertainty to the reader.

  3. The mariner’s change in fortune is charted in the rest of this section; how does the poem’s lilting rhythm, as enhanced by sharp caesura on several lines, affect our appreciation of this reversal of fortune?

  4. The caesura in stanza 10 is particularly dramatic, what is its specific effect on the reader?
    The caesura in stanze 10 has the specific effect of giving the Marinere a voice with exclamation, such as “Oh Christ!”, also upsetting the rhythm and somewhat frightening the reader into in turn being as frightened as the Marinere.

  5. There are many particularly sharp images in this section, what do they mostly serve to do?

  6. The albatross being hung about the mariner’s neck is an unusual metaphor, why does Coleridge resort to such an odd expression?
    I believe Coleridge chooses the expression ‘the Albatross about my neck was hung’ as though to signify that the Marinere was metaphorically laden down with guily, which would also have religious connotations in that Jesus was laden down with the cross/

  7. Whereas some metaphors enhance our understanding of the story, others seem to work to befuddle us, are there any such metaphors in this section and what is their specific effect?

  8. There is a recurrence of religious motifs throughout this section, why are they included?
    The religious motifs throughout this section are included not only to create further ambiguity to the meaning of the poem, but to compare the tale to that of a parable to ensure it’s didactic purposes.

  9. Has the supernatural been interposed yet, or is the story so far wholly naturalistic and merely uncanny?

  10. How is repetition used in this section by the poet?
    Repetition is used in this secion by the poet by emphasising certain points in that, in the 4th stanza it was the killing of the bird ‘that brought the fog and mist’ to display the Marinere’s ever-present guilt. The repetition also of ‘the silence of the sea’ is to emphasise the true sense of lonliness of this silence and the endless cycle of this new and hollow life.


 Section 3  

1. This section starts off with a sharp shift in the poem’s form, a shift which leads sets off further turbulence in the poem’s form – what is Coleridge trying to achieve by these formal shifts?

By presenting a shift in the poem’s form, Coleridge is attempting to throw the reader out of their comfort zone. By suddenly emerging the reader into a new rhythm, with an extra line, Coleridge is creating a sense of unease, an indication that things are changing and that the poem is taking an unusual, eerie twist. Therefore the reader will be left feeling uncomfortable and anxious; reflecting the feelings of the Marinere as he watches the shape of ‘something’ moving towards him. 

2. The build up of rhymes in the first stanza seems to shift a change in the poem’s tone, how would you characterise this?

By having a build up of rhymes in the first stanza, with ‘fist’, ‘mist’ and ‘wist’ falling at the end of alternate lines, a sense of movement is achieved by Coleridge, with a fast pace. This sense of movement reflects the movement of the ship progressing towards the Marinere, and thus Colerdige creates an apprehensive, anxious tone as an unknown ‘something’ makes its way towards the Marinere.

3. The graphic imagery of the third stanza seems to be sharply at odds with the rest of the poem, how does it hit the reader and why does Coleridge engineer such a shift at this point?

The vivid imagery of Coleridge’s language in the third stanza once again marks the warning that things are taking a strange twist. The term ‘black lips’ and Coleridge’s description of sucking ‘blood’ create a chilling atmosphere due to the connotations of death. By introducing the theme of death in such a vivid way, Coleridge is plunging the reader into a sense of horror and unease, indicating that although it appears as though salvation has arrived with the ship, not all is as it seems, as an eerie atmosphere still remains within the poem.

4. The poem up to this point could easily be seen as naturalistic, though with many uncanny features, what is the effect upon the reader of the blatant imposition of the supernatural at this point?

Coleridge’s introduction of the supernatural indicates to the reader that the ‘strange shape’ that is approaching the Marinere carries with it something odd and abnormal. By giving the sun a ‘burning face’, for example, Coleridge’s personification of nature creates an unnatural, strange atmosphere. The effect of such a blatant imposition of the supernatural at this point is to prepare the reader for the strange events to come, indicating that not all is as it seems.

5. How is the appearance of the ship set up by Coleridge?  

Coleridge describes the ship at first to be a ‘strange shape’. This sense of ambiguity leaves the reader feeling uneasy, and a pivotal moment is created as to whether the ‘shape’ will in fact bring salvation or the opposite, thus giving it a sense of importance, and anticipation over its arrival. 

 When the ship does arrive, Coleridge immediately presents it in a ghostly, eerie light. The skeletal image achieved by the description of the ship’s ‘naked ribs’ once again introduces the theme of death. Similarly, by comparing the material of the sails to ‘gossameres’, Coleridge gives the ship a deathly, frail, skeletal image. Therefore the uncanny twist that Coleridge warns the reader of at the start of this section arrives, forcing the reader into a sense of discomfort and unease.6. As well as the formal irregularities the lines are almost tripped over by the reader owing to the rough rhythm of many lines, what is Coleridge attempting to do?

7. How do the following descriptions of Death and Death-in-Life compare?  

8. Why is the fate of Christian souls settled by the throw of the dice by Death and Death-in-Life?

9. Religious imagery is as always ever present, what religious symbols are vying for the reader’s attention?

10. If this is a poem about contrition, redemption, guilt, sin, and punishment, which is foremost in the poet’s mind in this section?


Section 4  

  1. This section opens with the wedding guest resorting to graphic imagery; does this interjection serve a particular purpose in the poet’s design?

  2. The third stanza is perhaps the most startling example of the poet’s use of repetition, how do this and other examples affect the poem’s tone?

  3.  How are the physical and mental horrors of the mariner’s fate worst than death related in this section?

  4. Stanza 7 is the first stanza in this section to break with the poems overall form; what is the effect of this variation, a variation which seems to set up an echo throughout the rest of the section?

  5. So many lines start with the first person – “I” – that the reader is almost lulled into a trance – what is Coleridge’s purpose in using such a device?

  6. The moon (as opposed to the sun), a woman in the tenth stanza, rises for the first time. The moon in Coleridge’s poetry usually foretells a change; is it so in this poem?

  7. Within the ship’s shadow the water is burning red, beyond the water is filled with the “water-snakes” – what is the symbolic significance of these creatures?

  8. By the end of this section there seems to have been a turnaround in the mariner’s fate – how is this achieved? How has the mariner’s psychological journey reached such a high point?

  9. Is there any evidence of God’s presence or influence in the universe of “The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere”?

  10. If the mariner has achieved redemption by the end of this section, through what means has it been achieved?


Section 5  

1. Nature invades the world of “The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere” in this section, is this a Romantic poem after all?

Romantic poetry primarily focused on the benevolance of nature towards man if it is treated with the same respect. In the section, although there is a ‘roaring wind’ and ‘the rain pours down’, the rage of the elements ‘did not come anear’ the mariner’s ship. Instead, ‘with its sound it shook the sails’ and helps the ship set sail again.

2. As well as nature, God, in the form of “Mary-Queen” is all the more evident, how has such a shift in the mariner’s prospects been achieved?

Firstly, nature helps the ship to set sail again. Then, the dead crew members wake up and ‘gan work the ropes’, i.e. helped to steer the ship. The mariner hears a heavenly ‘angel’s song’, so his prospects are looking better.

3. What is the effect of the extended metaphor implicitly comparing the sea to a teeming mountainous landscape?

Emphasises the beaty of the natural landscape and the lack of movement of this ship.3Does the fact that the mariner’s saviours take the form of the reanimated corpses of the dead sailors somehow take away from the apparent turnaround in his fate?

  1. How do the dead sailors uncannily take on the appearance of real and regular people?

  2. Stanza 19, in another interjection from the framing narrative, seems to hint at a didactic purpose for the poem, what might it be?

  3. The interspersal of five and six line stanzas with the regular four line balladic stanza seems to be wholly random; can any pattern or significance be gleaned from Coleridge’s variations in form?

  4. What does the spirit that moves the ship signify? Why is the mariner being helped upon his way (note the capitalisation of the third person pronoun in stanza 23)? And in such an erratic fashion?

  5. The odd intrusion of two voices at this point seems to suggest that Coleridge feels the need to explain the story’s significance; do we learn anything from this intrusion?

  6. The first voice’s description of the situation is puzzling; does this ambiguity lead to more than one reading of this poem as a religious allegory?


 Section 6 

  1.   Section 6 
    1. This section opens with a firm request for an explanation, is any explanation forthcoming? Is this the explanation that the reader seeks? And does the answer given by the second voice affect our understanding of the story at all?

    An explanation is forthcoming from the second voice, though it doesn’t make sense. The second voice seems to imply that the moon is now helping the ancient mariner where as before it was against him (eg: horned moon)

    1. Does the interjection of the voices serve any purpose in the poem at all?

    The interjection of voices continues with the feeling of the supernatural influence in the “Rime” and emphasizes the fact that being alone on a ship full of corpses in the middle of an ocean, the mariner is going mad.

    1. The mariner feeling forgiven at some moments whilst feeling unforgiven at other moments might suggest something about Coleridge’s religious beliefs – what?

    Differing attitudes towards religion could be an indication of Coleridge’s faith waning at different parts of his own life which is reflected in the Mariner journey. This related to another of Coleridge’s poems(foster mothers tale) where nature seems to be greater than religion.

    1. Stanza 10 hints at a very simple reading of the mariner’s journey – is this reading justified or is it merely a simplification of a much more complex matter?

    Simplification of a complex matter due to the fact we don’t know who the “frightful fiend” actually is. Is it death, guilt or something else?

    1. The breeze which arrives and which seems to bring comfort looks to be yet another changing point in the poem, does it turn out to be, or is it merely yet another twist in the mariner’s fate.

    It seems as if now nature is actually changing to help the Mariner, where as before it was set against him since the death of the albatross. This could mean that the guilt for the albatross’s death is now starting to disappear. However the breeze is carrying him forwards to a land where red shadows and more unexpected anger and torment lies, so in that respect nature could still being used to punish the mariner.

    1. The mariner’s plea in stanza 15, his oath in stanza 19 and his prayer in stanza 21, seem to suggest that he has found God, is this the beginning of the end of the mariner’s metaphorical journey? Are there any other religious appearances in this section?

    Throughout the ballad it seems as if God has left the Mariner to suffer but after his pleas and oaths, we are slowly starting to see a change in the mariners fortunes at the end of this section. However in stanza 15 he asks God is he’s awake for joy of finallhy going to land but when he reaches land his prayers soon turn to fear as the bodies advance on him. We get images such as “the holy rood” which is symbolic of the cross and a lot of hell like images of the red flesh, torches and shadows.

    1. All seems set up for a happy ending, but a worrying note is left to sound in stanza 16, are there others?

    “on me alone it blew” the first time he says this seems to be in a happy manner but the second time it seems to be symbolic of loneliness. It is almost as if everyone has left for paradise and left him suffering all alone.

    1. The colour red, the dead sailors’ right arms: are there any other odd details which seem to ring with symbolic significance in this section?

    The “harbor bay” seems quite heavenly at first but it’s stillness is quite disturbing. It is also filled with “crimson shadows” which creates more of a hell like image. The “breeze” seems to be significant as it’s stayed with the mariner throughout the ballad, sometimes mocking, sometimes helping, sometimes reminding him of what he’s done and his remorse. The “Third” and the “hermit” are also symbolic. The hermit is the third character we have met and the ‘third’ is representative of the holy trinity. The hermit represents nature.

    1. From stanza 21 the regular balladic rhythm is restored and allowed to build up a head of steam – what is the effect of this on the reader?

    The pace quickens and it involved the reader more as the bodies and shadows sing and move and we feel as if we too are swept up in this moment, unsure whether to feel elated or fear when suddenly the pace is crashed by stanza 29 and we too are left alone with the Mariner without the comfort of the pace and noise before.

    1. Does the sinking of stanza 27, the “pilot’s cheer” of stanza 28, the joy of stanza 30 or the possibility of having his confession heard in stanza 31, dictate the tone at the end of this section?

     The tone in this section starts quite elated with the boat moving towards land then suddenly it becomes dark and frightening with the bodies dancing but as the bodies leave the tone seems to be elevated once more and it shows how the mariners guilt is slowly starting to lift as his comrades have finally gone onto heaven or the afterlife and he can now accept his fate and live on. His guilt will also be lifted by telling the tale to the Hermit so the section ends on quite a positive note.

 Section 7 

  1. Who or what does the hermit represent? Are there any hints given by his description or his words and actions? Does he play a role in whatever this analogy might be? 

  2. Does the hermit, who is clearly grounded in the natural world, function as a kind of Romantic preacher, delivering the didactic conclusion to the tale?

  3. The mariner’s experiences are clearly marked out in this section as belonging to another dimension – is that the dimension of the supernatural or the dimension of the psyche?

  4. The mariner was as though “seven days drown’d” – does this seemingly random detail as well as other odd details in this section give us a hint as to what the poem’s scheme might be?

  5. Does the mariner’s emphatic plea for the Hermit to hear his confession in stanza 14 force a religious allegorical reading upon the poem? .

  6. Does the anguish which the mariner felt on landing, the anguish which forced him to tell his tale, an anguish which he feels still, act as the final word on his redemption?

  7.  What makes the wedding guest a suitable listener for his tale? What special need has he of hearing it?

  8. As per stanza 19, the soul having been “alone on a wide sea”, this poem seems to demand to be read as both a spiritual journey and a physical one; which has primacy? And if the mariner is an “everyman” character, what is this journey through which every soul must go?

  9. The act of walking to a church with good company, is proposed as the ideal occupation – but is love of your fellow man and nature or is prayer itself seen as more important in this poem?

  10. The last two stanzas wrap up the poem’s framing narrative – what is this story’s conclusion? What has been the effect of the mariner’s tale and is it the poet’s aim that the poem’s reader should be similarly affected?

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