Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Coleridge's poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is wrote in a way that
the reader is expected to temporarily allow him or herself to believe it to be
able to understand it. The poem itself is about a Mariner who is telling his
tale of sin and forgiveness by God to a man referred to as the "Wedding Guest."
The Mariner is supposedly responsible for the death of all of the crew on his
ship because of his killing of a creature which was to bring them the wind that
they needed to put power into the sails of the ship. The whole point of the
poem is to encourage or convince the reader to believe the tale that Coleridge
Coleridge wrote the poem as a means to induce the reader with what he
calls a "willing suspension of disbelief." The poem is written in such a way
that the reader is expected to willingly decide to temporarily believe the
almost unbelievable story. The reason a person is to make sure that he or she
believes it temporarily to be true is because the Mariner in the story is trying
to get the point of forgiveness from God across to the reader and if the reader
chooses not to believe the story behind the poem then they will not understand
the effect of the point of the tale. Coleridge's main point in writing the
story was to get people to understand forgiveness by understanding the poem.
The Mariner in the poem is telling his tale to a "Wedding Guest" who has
no choice but to listen and to believe. The "Wedding Guest" in the poem
represents "everyman" in the sense that "everyone" is to be at the marriage of
the Mariner to life. That is, the reader is to follow, live, and participate
with the idea of the poem.
Coleridge tells of a Mariner on a ship who makes a sin against God and
therefore is cursed. This curse, the killing of an Albatross - one of God's
creatures, costs the entire crew on the ship their lives yet he lives so that he
can realize what he has done and be given a chance to ask forgiveness for his
sin. The deaths occurred when a ship was sited and on it two women like figures
were playing dice and life won the Mariner and death got the crew. Until he
began to pray and ask for forgiveness the crew's souls couldn't enter Heaven but
one he did the curse was broken, his life was saved, and Angels came down from
Heaven and took the crew's souls with them. He had become a saved man.
The whole point of the story becomes clear in the following lines.
"Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
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;
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
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. (610-625)
In these closing lines Coleridge basically sums up the whole poem. Here he is
telling the "Wedding Guest" all about how to live a good life with God and to
respect all things that God creates (which is everything). The Mariner is doing
his teaching of what he learned on his voyage in these lines. It tells how the
"Wedding Guest" left after hearing the entire Mariner's tale and left a wiser
man. What this meant is that he left understanding the Mariner's words and
learned from the Mariner's mistakes. The Mariner had done his job in retelling
Coleridge did a good job of writing the poem in a way that the reader
would be forced to temporarily believe it without even realizing it. In a
certain sense you could say that through the tale he placed the "fear of God" in
people that made them more likely to believe the story. When people are fearful
of something they have more of a tendency to fall prey to something and
Coleridge takes advantage of this in getting his point across. The poem is
written in a brilliant way that can curve the reader to think in whatever manner
Coleridge wants them to.
The poem was written to try to get people to temporarily believe a story
that would not normally be believable and it does just that. Coleridge wanted
people to understand the Mariner and to be able to relate to him and to
understand him. He conveyed his point of religion to the reader by making the
reader subconsciously fall prey to the images and thoughts he instilled in their
minds. The poem for the most part does as Coleridge intended and gets the
reader to atleast understand and believe the tale that the Mariner has to tell.