The Rime of the Ancient Mariner PARTS 1 - IV

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1789)


ARGUMENT

How a Ship having passed the Line was driven by storms to the cold Country towards the South Pole ; and how from thence she made her course to the tropical Latitude of the Great Pacific Ocean ; and of the strange things that befell ; and in what manner the Ancyent Marinere came back to his own Country. 

PART I

An ancient Mariner meeteth three Gallants bidden to a wedding-feast, and detaineth one. 

It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
`By thy long beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp'st thou me ?

The Bridegroom's doors are opened wide,          5
And I am next of kin ;
The guests are met, the feast is set :
May'st hear the merry din.'

He holds him with his skinny hand,
`There was a ship,' quoth he.                 
10
`Hold off ! unhand me, grey-beard loon !'
Eftsoons his hand dropt he.

The Wedding-Guest is spell-bound by the eye of the old seafaring man, and constrained to hear his tale. 

He holds him with his glittering eye--
The Wedding-Guest stood still,
And listens like a three years' child :        
15
The Mariner hath his will.

The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone :
He cannot choose but hear ;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.                        
20

`The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared,
Merrily did we drop
Below the kirk*, below the hill,        
church
Below the lighthouse top.

The Mariner tells how the ship sailed southward with a good wind and fair weather, till it reached the Line. 

The Sun came up upon the left,                25
Out of the sea came he !
And he shone bright, and on the right
Went down into the sea.

Higher and higher every day,
Till over the mast at noon--'                        
30
The Wedding-Guest here beat his breast,
For he heard the loud bassoon.

The Wedding-Guest heareth the bridal music ; but the Mariner continueth his tale. 

The bride hath paced into the hall,
Red as a rose is she ;
Nodding their heads before her goes        
35
The merry minstrelsy.

The Wedding-Guest he beat his breast,
Yet he cannot choose but hear ;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.                        
40

The ship driven by a storm toward the south pole. 

`And now the STORM-BLAST came, and he
Was tyrannous and strong :
He struck with his o'ertaking wings,
And chased us south along.

With sloping masts and dipping prow,        45
As who pursued with yell and blow
Still treads the shadow of his foe,
And forward bends his head,
The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,
The southward aye we fled.                        
50

And now there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold :
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.

The land of ice, and of fearful sounds where no living thing was to be seen. 

And through the drifts the snowy clifts        55
Did send a dismal sheen :
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken--
The ice was all between.

The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around :                        
60
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound* !                
disturbance

Till a great sea-bird, called the Albatross, came through the snow-fog, and was received with great joy and hospitality. 

At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came ;
As if it had been a Christian soul,        
        65
We hailed it in God's name.

It ate the food it ne'er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit ;
The helmsman steered us through !                
70

And lo ! the Albatross proveth a bird of good omen, and followeth the ship as it returned northward through fog and floating ice. 

And a good south wind sprung up behind ;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariner's hollo !

In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,                75
It perched for vespers nine ;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
Glimmered the white Moon-shine.'

The ancient Mariner inhospitably killeth the pious bird of good omen. 

`God save thee, ancient Mariner !
From the fiends, that plague thee thus !--        
80
Why look'st thou so ?'--With my cross-bow
I shot the ALBATROSS.

PART II

The Sun now rose upon the right :
Out of the sea came he,
Still hid in mist, and on the left                
85
Went down into the sea.

And the good south wind still blew behind,
But no sweet bird did follow,
Nor any day for food or play
Came to the mariners' hollo !                
90

His shipmates cry out against the ancient Mariner, for killing the bird of good luck. 

And I had done an hellish thing,
And it would work 'em woe :
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.
Ah wretch ! said they, the bird to slay,
        95
That made the breeze to blow !

But when the fog cleared off, they justify the same, and thus make themselves accomplices in the crime. 

Nor dim nor red, like God's own head,
The glorious Sun uprist :
Then all averred, I had killed the bird
That brought the fog and mist.                
100
'Twas right, said they, such birds to slay,
That bring the fog and mist.

The fair breeze continues ; the ship enters the Pacific Ocean, and sails northward, even till it reaches the Line. 

The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free ;
We were the first that ever burst                
105
Into that silent sea.

The ship hath been suddenly becalmed. 

Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,
'Twas sad as sad could be ;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea !                         
110

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.

Day after day, day after day,                115
We stuck, nor breath nor motion ;
As idle as a painted ship

Upon a painted ocean.

And the Albatross begins to be avenged. 

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink ;                
120
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

The very deep did rot : O Christ !
That ever this should be !
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs                
125
Upon the slimy sea.

About, about, in reel and rout
The death-fires danced at night ;
The water, like a witch's oils,
Burnt green, and blue and white.                
130

A Spirit had followed them ; one of the invisible inhabitants of this planet, neither departed souls nor angels ; concerning whom the learned Jew, Josephus, and the Platonic Constantinopolitan, Michael Psellus, may be consulted. They are very numerous, and there is no climate or element without one or more. 

And some in dreams assuréd were
Of the Spirit that plagued us so ;
Nine fathom deep he had followed us
From the land of mist and snow.

And every tongue, through utter drought,        135
Was withered at the root ;
We could not speak, no more than if
We had been choked with soot.

The shipmates, in their sore distress, would fain throw the whole guilt on the ancient Mariner : in sign whereof they hang the dead sea-bird round his neck. 

Ah ! well a-day ! what evil looks
Had I from old and young !                        
140
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.

PART III

There passed a weary time. Each throat
Was parched, and glazed each eye.
A weary time ! a weary time !                
145
How glazed each weary eye,
When looking westward, I beheld
A something in the sky.

The ancient Mariner beholdeth a sign in the element afar off. 

At first it seemed a little speck,
And then it seemed a mist ;                        
150
It moved and moved, and took at last
A certain shape, I wist.

A speck, a mist, a shape, I wist !
And still it neared and neared :
As if it dodged a water-sprite,                
155
It plunged and tacked and veered.

At its nearer approach, it seemeth him to be a ship ; and at a dear ransom he freeth his speech from the bonds of thirst. 

With throats unslaked*, with black lips baked,    thirsty
We could nor laugh nor wail ;
Through utter drought all dumb we stood !
I bit my arm, I sucked the blood,                
160
And cried, A sail ! a sail !

A flash of joy ; 

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,
Agape they heard me call :
Gramercy ! they for joy did grin,
And all at once their breath drew in,                
165
As they were drinking all.

And horror follows. For can it be a ship that comes onward without wind or tide ? 

See ! see ! (I cried) she tacks no more !
Hither to work us weal ;
Without a breeze, without a tide,
She steadies with upright keel !                 
170

The western wave was all a-flame.
The day was well nigh done !
Almost upon the western wave
Rested the broad bright Sun ;
When that strange shape drove suddenly
        175
Betwixt* us and the Sun.                
between

It seemeth him but the skeleton of a ship. 

And straight the Sun was flecked with bars,
(Heaven's Mother send us grace !)
As if through a dungeon-grate he peered
With broad and burning face.                
180

And its ribs are seen as bars on the face of the setting Sun. 

Alas ! (thought I, and my heart beat loud)
How fast she nears and nears !
Are those
her sails that glance in the Sun,
Like restless gossamers* ?        
thin fabrics

The Spectre-Woman and her Death-mate, and no other on board the skeleton ship. 

And those her ribs through which the Sun                  
Did peer, as through a grate ?                        
186
And is that Woman all her crew ?
Is that a DEATH ? and are there two ?
Is DEATH that woman's mate ?

[first version of this stanza through the end of Part III]

Like vessel, like crew !

Her lips were red, her looks were free,        190
Her locks were yellow as gold :
Her skin was as white as leprosy,
The Night-mare LIFE-IN-DEATH was she,
Who thicks man's blood with cold.

Death and Life-in-Death have diced for the ship's crew, and she (the latter) winneth the ancient Mariner. 

The naked hulk alongside came,                195
And the twain were casting dice ;
`The game is done ! I've won ! I've won !'
Quoth she, and whistles thrice.

No twilight within the courts of the Sun. 

The Sun's rim dips ; the stars rush out :
At one stride comes the dark ;                
200
With far-heard whisper, o'er the sea,
Off shot the spectre-bark*.                
ship

At the rising of the Moon, 

We listened and looked sideways up !
Fear at my heart, as at a cup,
My life-blood seemed to sip !                
205
The stars were dim, and thick the night,
The steerman's face by his lamp gleamed white ;
From the sails the dew did drip--
Till clomb* above the eastern bar        
climbed
The hornéd Moon, with one bright star        
210
Within the nether tip.

One after another, 

One after one, by the star-dogged Moon,
Too quick for groan or sigh,
Each turned his face with a ghastly pang,
And cursed me with his eye.                        
215

His shipmates drop down dead. 

Four times fifty living men,
(And I heard nor sigh nor groan)
With heavy thump, a lifeless lump,
They dropped down one by one.

But Life-in-Death begins her work on the ancient Mariner. 

The souls did from their bodies fly,--        220
They fled to bliss or woe !
And every soul, it passed me by,
Like the whizz of my cross-bow !

PART IV

The Wedding-Guest feareth that a Spirit is talking to him ; 

`I fear thee, ancient Mariner !
I fear thy skinny hand !                        
225
And thou art long, and lank, and brown,
As is the ribbed sea-sand.

I fear thee and thy glittering eye,
And thy skinny hand, so brown.'--
Fear not, fear not, thou Wedding-Guest !    
230
This body dropt not down.

But the ancient Mariner assureth him of his bodily life, and proceedeth to relate his horrible penance. 

Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea !
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.                                
235

He despiseth the creatures of the calm, 

The many men, so beautiful !
And they all dead did lie :
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on ; and so did I.

And envieth that they should live, and so many lie dead. 

I looked upon the rotting sea,                240
And drew my eyes away ;
I looked upon the rotting deck,
And there the dead men lay.

I looked to heaven, and tried to pray ;
But or ever a prayer had gusht,                
245
A wicked whisper came, and made
My heart as dry as dust.

I closed my lids, and kept them close,
And the balls like pulses beat ;
For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky
Lay like a load on my weary eye,                
251
And the dead were at my feet.

But the curse liveth for him in the eye of the dead men. 

The cold sweat melted from their limbs,
Nor rot nor reek did they :
The look with which they looked on me        
255
Had never passed away.

An orphan's curse would drag to hell
A spirit from on high ;
But oh ! more horrible than that
Is the curse in a dead man's eye !                
260
Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse,
And yet I could not die.

In his loneliness and fixedness he yearneth towards the journeying Moon, and the stars that still sojourn, yet still move onward ; and every where the blue sky belongs to them, and is their appointed rest, and their native country and their own natural homes, which they enter unannounced, as lords that are certainly expected and yet there is a silent joy at their arrival. 

The moving Moon went up the sky,
And no where did abide :
Softly she was going up,                        
265
And a star or two beside--

Her beams bemocked the sultry main,
Like April hoar-frost spread ;
But where the ship's huge shadow lay,
The charméd water burnt always                
270
A still and awful red.

By the light of the Moon he beholdeth God's creatures of the great calm. 

Beyond the shadow of the ship,
I watched the water-snakes :
They moved in tracks of shining white,
And when they reared, the elfish light        
275
Fell off in hoary* flakes.                
ancient

Within the shadow of the ship
I watched their rich attire :
Blue, glossy green, and velvet black,
They coiled and swam ; and every track          
280
Was a flash of golden fire.

Their beauty and their happiness. 

He blesseth them in his heart.

O happy living things ! no tongue
Their beauty might declare :
A spring of love gushed from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware :                
285
Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
And I blessed them unaware.

The spell begins to break. 

The self-same moment I could pray ;
And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank                
290
Like lead into the sea.