The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
(6) Tree Line
The one reading skill this poem requires more than any other is patience. Not many people have read poems as long as this one, except in translation, where you can often get away with skimming. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is packed with interesting symbols and images, and the plot can turn on a dime. In one stanza, the sailors are horrified that the Mariner has killed the albatross, and in the next they are blaming the albatross for the fog, and then they go back to blaming the Mariner. Not to mention all the crazy and confusing supernatural elements, like the spirit "nine-fathoms under" that somehow controls the boat. Finally, Coleridge plays on the old-fashioned nature of the English ballad by using archaic words like "shrieve" and "kirk." Fortunately, he also recognizes that the ballad is a popular form, so the language is mostly simple, and there's a lot of repetition. This poem will task your endurance, but if you give yourself the time to read it the whole way through – twice – it won't task your noggin too much.