S. T. Coleridge builds the story of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner as a whole with artistic thoughts as obvious from its detailed summary. Imagery, descriptiveness, imaginative powers, as well as the blend of natural and supernatural elements in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, makes it unique romantic poem. S. T. Coleridge is not the only one who wrote this poem. Besides him, William Wordsworth also contributed to some of the rhymes; therefore, due to the contribution of the two best romantic poets, the poem is highly appreciated and liked by fans of romanticism.
The poem under discussion tells us the story of an ancient mariner, who kills an innocent albatross without any plausible reason. Coleridge seems very much inspired by “A voyage around the World by the way of the Great South Sea by Sherlock”; therefore, he copies the incident from the said book, which narrates the story of an albatross that was killed by the second captain of the ship. Initially, the poem was published in “Lyrical Ballads” but afterwards it was revised; however, the poem was written in 1797.
It is noteworthy that the poem does not reveal any extra details. Themes of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, its abrupt opening and Rime of the Ancient Mariner symbols grab the attention of readers from the very start of the poem. Development of thought is always there in every poem but a unique element of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner is that it creates a summary of all the events. S. T. Coleridge wrote a series of supernatural poems and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is one of them. It is the only purpose of writing that poem. This means that the poem has not been written for moral purposes but was purely an artist’s effort to promote romantic poetry. On the contrary, critics are of the view that the poem is highly moral and philosophical. In addition, it promotes Christianity despite the fact that S. T. Coleridge clearly denied it.
Table of contents
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Summary
PART I Summary
An ancient mariner with a long grey beard and glittering eyes stops one of the three guests who are going to a wedding party. The guest is in a hurry as the feast has already started. The ancient mariner holds the hand of the guest and narrates his story. The guest shows resistance and the mariner releases his hand but the glittering eyes of the mariner fascinate him and he sits on a stone in order to listen to the story of the ancient mariner. The mariner starts narrating his story.
On a ship, the mariner along with other sailors left the port to go southwards. The sun was shining and the weather was very pleasant. The guest heard wedding music due to which he became restless. The guest thinks about the bride. He imagines her in red clothes. He wants to go to the party but he seems spellbound due to which he does not move from his place.
The ancient mariner creates a summary of his rime. He says that with favourable winds, the ship moved towards the horizon. They reached a strange place where there lived no creature. It was a mysterious place. Suddenly, the ship was surrounded by mist and snow. An albatross came from somewhere in between the fog. The ancient mariner says that was a “Christian soul”. The bird flew around the ship and the weather became clear. Everyone on the ship hailed God’s name as the albatross saved them from destruction. Part I of the poem ended when the mariner in a sad mood says that he shot the albatross.
PART II Summary of Rime of the Ancient Mariner
The ancient mariner killed the albatross, which drifted the weather. The sun rose but the good south wind was still being blown. The mariner tells the wedding guest that he committed the gravest mistake of his life by killing the innocent albatross. The mariner became the culprit for other sailors. They accused him of killing the bird; however, when the weather became clear, they changed their opinions and opined that it was right to kill the bird as it brought mist and fog.
Suddenly, the favourable wind stopped blowing. The sun became bigger which increased heat. The ship stopped immediately; the sailors did not understand what had happened. Every effort was fruitless. In spite of so much water everywhere, the ship was not moving. There was a fire on the surface of the wide wide sea. Sailors realise that it was due to the mistake of the mariner who killed the albatross with his crossbow; hence, they replaced the cross with the dead albatross around the neck of the ancient mariner.
Instead of the cross, the Albatross About my neck was hung.
PART III Summary
This part of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner creates a summary of those events in which the mariner along with his co-sailors suffered. Due to too much heat, the sailors felt thirst. Their throats became dry but they saw a ship coming towards them which they considered God’s help and mercy. The sun was about to set. The strange ship came nearer to them. The mariner saw life and death in the ship who were playing a dice game and the mariner was at stake. Life in death claimed victory and whistled thrice. In the upcoming lines, it becomes clear that the mariner was not sentenced to death for his crime; instead, he is spared to live a miserable life.
Darkness prevailed over the light. The sailors looked at the ancient mariner and found him guilty of the offence that he had committed. The mariner was very frightened when he saw his companions dying in front of him without even groaning. The mariner was the only creature alive on the ship.
PART IV Summary
The guest listens and believes in the story. He is very much anxious and considers the ancient mariner a ghost but the mariner clears his doubt. He continues making summary of those events that are harder to believe in this part of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
The mariner was the only person alive on the ship. He tried to pray but in vain due to his evil thoughts. The mariner witnessed the curse in the eyes of his dead companions continuously for seven days. He says that he cannot forget their cursing eyes. Besides, he witnessed the red-coloured sea around the ship which was full of snakes of different colours. Albatross fell from his neck and the mariner considered it a saint’s pity on him but it was not so.
PART V Summary of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner
A blessing for the mariner was also there in between these incidents. He could sleep without any effort. He praised the Virgin Mary who sent sleep to him. The mariner saw in his dream that rain filled the buckets with water. He woke up and quenched his thirst. He was happy that God had saved him from tribulation. He also saw the dead sailors, including his nephew, came to life but they were acting like robots.
The story of the ancient mariner grabs the attention of the wedding guest but he is afraid of the dead bodies. In order to overpower his fear, the ancient mariner says that those were heavenly spirits and then carries on with the story.
The ship started moving. For a while, the ancient mariner listened to the sound of strange music that was being played mysteriously. However, at noon the sun came right up above the mast. The ship, as well as the music, stopped and the ancient mariner became unconscious. The mariner does not know how long he remained unconscious.
PART VI Summary
The summary of this part of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner reveals a dialogue between two voices.
The two voices appeared and the mariner listened to them. Both the voices were supernatural; the first voice was of justice whereas the second one was mercy. The first voice was of the view that justice should have prevailed whereas the second replied that the ancient mariner suffered enough for his sins. The first voice of justice asked mercy two main questions: what made the ship drive on so fast and what was the ocean doing? The second voice replied that there was no wind; the ship was calm and quiet. The second voice again asked how the ship was moving without the wind to which mercy replied that it was due to the air pressure that was decreased at the front and increased at the back of the ship.
The mariner saw the eyes of dead bodies which were still fixed on him. The dead bodies were cursing him as the mariner was responsible for their doomed fate. Perhaps, they were still considering him guilty of the offences. The mariner again tried to pray but he could not. It was impossible for him to see anything other than the dead bodies; however, soon the cool wind started blowing and the ship moved. The ancient mariner realised that the sea’s colour had turned to its natural colour. He was alone on the ship. There was nothing near to him. The ship was moving gently. Ultimately, he saw a church and lighthouse but before that, the ancient mariner saw the angels who spoke nothing but waved.
PART VII Summary
Finally, the mariner saw a boat on which there was a hermit too who was singing hymns. He was happy that someone was there to whom he could confess his guilt. The pilot of the boat was very afraid as he thought there were evil spirits on the ship of the ancient mariner. The hermit encouraged him to sail the boat towards the ancient mariner. When they reached the ancient mariner, the ship sank into the sea with a loud sound. The mariner was near to unconsciousness but he was taken in the boat. The pilot became unconscious and his servant became mad. The Hermit saw the sky and prayed for a while and the mariner became conscious. He told his story to the hermit and confessed his guilt due to which he found peace and relief from the pain.
A summary of the last part of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner indicates that the poet S. T. Coleridge preaches morality and promotes Christianity.
The ancient mariner further tells the wedding guest that since then he is compelled to tell his story to someone in order to find peace, otherwise, he is wrenched until he tells his story to someone. The mariner then hears the church bell and convinces the wedding guest to come with him and pray. The mariner wishes that everyone should pray and ask forgiveness of God with bent knees. Afterwards, he goes away from there whereas the wedding guest does not go to the marriage function; rather he goes home. The next morning he “rose the morrow morn”.