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Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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

Questions
  1. From the above stanza, what do we understand about the direction of the ship’s movement? How?
    The ship is now moving to the North. It is evident from the direction of the sunrise. As the sun rose on the right, it makes sense that the ship was heading North.

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

Meaning
  • Blew – V2 of Blow
  • Sweet bird – (Here) the albatross
  • Play – Play around
  • Hollo – Call (Hello!)
Questions
  1. Why are the south wind and bird called good and sweet respectively?
    The south-wind is called good because it moved the ship from the icy sea where the mariners had remained clueless and lost. The bird is called sweet for its angelic mission that redeemed the sailors from a state of hopelessness and utter disappointment.
  2. What stopped the sweet albatross from following the ship?
    The albatross was shot dead by one of the mariners and its dead-body was thereafter hidden in the ship.
  3. For what two reasons did the mariners call the albatross?
    The mariners called the albatross either to feed it or to play with it.

And I had done a 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,
That made the breeze to blow!

Meaning
  • Hellish – Evil; bad
  • Would work them – Made them
  • Woe – Angry
  • Averred – Said firmly
  • Breeze – Light wind
  • Wretch – Despicable person; contemptible person; a person who deserves hatred
Questions
  1. What hellish thing did the ancient mariner do?
    The ancient mariner killed the albatross with his crossbow.
  2. Why did the ancient mariner killed the albatross?
    There is no apparent reason why the mariner killed the albatross. It was either an impulsive act. It was his recklessness which is characterized with his age. It could also be an accident – like other mariners, he too could have been playing with albatross during which the arrow hit the bird. It could be his personal philosophy that the bird ate up all the food they had carried for a long journey. The answer remains unknown to this date. (Call Scotland Yard to probe!)
  3. How did the other mariners react to the ancient mariner’s hellish act?
    The other mariners were angry with the slaying of the albatross. They accused the mariner for his wanton act especially because the albatross had brought wind for them.

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.
‘Twas right, said they, such birds to slay,
That bring the fog and mist.

Meaning
  • Dim – dull
  • God’s own head – Extremely bright
  • Glorious – Triumphant; comeback in glory
  • Uprist – Uprose; rose up (V2 of Rise)
  • Slay – Kill
Questions
  1. How did the sun rise?
    The sun rose in its maximum glory. It was neither a dimly shining nor a reddish looking sun but as bright as God’s head.
  2. Why is the sun compared to God’s own head?
    The sun is compared to God’s own head to bring out its seething heat and blinding brightness.
  3. Why did the mariners agree that the killing of the bird was right?
    Although the mariners were furious at the ancient mariners earlier, now they were pacified. seeing the sun rise as glorious as God and the mist and fog removed, they praised the ancient mariner for killing the bird because they thought that the albatross had brought the mist and snow.
  4. The mariners were fickle-minded (inconstant, capricious, unstable). Do you agree? Explain.
    Yes, the mariners were blindly fickle-minded. It is evident from their first blaming the ancient mariner for killing the albatross and later praising him for the same and finally punishing him for the same.

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

Meaning
  • Fair – Gentle
  • Foam – A mass of small bubbles; froth; spray; spindrift
  • Furrow – Track left behind a moving ship/boat
  • Burst into – Drop into; enter; appear
Questions
  1. What does it mean that the mariners’ ship was the first that burst into the sea?

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!

Meaning
  • Dropt – Dropped; Fell
  • Sad as sad could be – Extremely sad; Melancholic
  • We did speak – We spoke
Questions

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

Meaning
  • Hot and copper sky – Even when it was sunset, the sky was too hot
  • Bloody Sun – As red as blood; Murderous
  • No bigger than the Moon – The sun appeared very big.
Questions

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

Meaning
  • Day after day, day after day – As days passed by
  • Stuck – (Past form of stick) Stay motionless in a place
  • Idle – Stay inactive
  • Painted ship – Painting of a ship
  • Painted ocean – Painting of an ocean
Questions

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

Meaning
  • Water, water, everywhere – Abundance of water
  • Boards¹ – The ship’s wooden hull
  • Boards² – Movement of the ship
  • Shrink¹ – Shrank; Contracted; Grew small
  • Shrink² – Withdraw
Questions

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

Meaning
  • Deep – Sea
  • Rot
  • Christ! – Jesus!
  • That ever this should be! – That it is impossible!
  • Slimy things
  • Slimy sea
Questions

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.

Meaning
  • About, about,
  • Reel and rout
  • Death-fires
  • Witch’s oils
  • Burnt green, and blue and white
Questions

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

Meaning
  • Some
  • Assurèd
  • Spirit
  • Plagued
  • Nine fathom deep
  • Land of mist and snow
Questions

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

Meaning
  • Utter drought –
  • Withered
  • At the root
  • Choked
  • Soot
Questions

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

Meaning
  • Well-a-day – An expression of sadness; woe! Alas!
  • Evil looks – Angry stare
Questions

General Questions 

  1. Why did the Ancient Mariner stop the wedding guest?
    The Ancient Mariner stopped the wedding guest to tell him his miserable story because he considered it worth telling someone his act of violence upon an innocent bird that had brought him good luck and good omen.
  2. How did the ancient mariner appear?
    The ancient mariner appeared to be very old with long grey beard and a piercing glittering eye.
  3. Why was the Wedding Guest not ready to listen to the old man?
    The wedding guest is not ready to listen to the old sailor’s story because listening to an inappropriate story of an insane-looking old man on the way to the wedding of his close relative appeared to be of no use to the young wedding guest.
  4. Why did the wedding guest call the ancient mariner a ‘grey-bearded loon?’
    The wedding guest called the ancient mariner a grey beard loon because he had a long grey beard and his overall behavior and appearance resembled that of a mad person.
  5. How did the Ancient Mariner manage to stop the Wedding Guest?
    The ancient mariner failed to stop the wedding guest by his skinny hand, he managed to stop the wedding guest by keeping him in a trans with his Mesmerizing, shining eyes.
  6. Why is the Wedding Guest said to be a three years child?
    Just like a child of three years, the wedding guest listened to the ancient mariner very innocently and intently, without doubting or asking questions, forgetting that he was sitting on a stone on the way to the wedding hall.
  7. Why did the wedding guest have no choice other than listening to the ancient mariner?
    The wedding guest was a close relative of one of the spouses so he wanted to attend the marriage but he had no choice for it because he had been ‘put on hold’ by the ancient mariner with the breathtaking narration of his story.

What do you think?

Virtually True – Paul Stewart

Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Samuel Taylor Coleridge