From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
The hermit lives by himself in the woods near the ocean, and he likes to gab it up with sailors who have just come back from long trips. He's very religious and can be seen frequently kneeling down to pray on the lush moss in his forest.
The Mariner hears voices from the rescue boat. It's probably the pilot. The pilot wants to know what all those crazy red lights were. He thinks they were a rescue signal.
The hermit agrees that the lights were weird, and he notices that the ship and its sails look dry, like tattered, fallen leaves. We can see that the hermit is going to compare everything to the forest.
The pilot becomes afraid, but the hermit isn't too concerned.
What's that? Some kind of strange, rumbling sound echoes across the bay. Oh, wait, that's just the sound of the ship sinking. It sinks fast, kind of like the albatross when it fell into the ocean.
The Mariner ends up floating in the water. He seems basically comatose.
The pilot swoops by to pick him, and the small boat spins from the suction created by the sinking ship.
The pilot and hermit think the Mariner is dead, so when he moves his lips, they both freak out. The pilot faints and the hermit prays.
The Mariner is like, "OK, if you guys aren't going to help, I'll just row us out of here myself." Meanwhile, the pilot's young assistant goes batty and starts laughing in a fit, saying that the Mariner must be a devil.
Finally, they make it back to shore.
Immediately the Mariner starts pestering the hermit to question ("shrieve") him like an over-eager kid in math class: "Call on me! Call on me!"
The hermit plays along and asks a surprisingly dull question: what kind of man are you?
At this point, the Mariner feels a sudden pain: "Must…tell…ridiculously long…story."
As soon as he tells the story to the hermit, he feels a lot better.
Now, the Mariner explains to the Wedding Guest that he often has this painful feeling that he needs to get the story off his chest, and the pain persists until he tells it.
He travels from place to place looking for certain people who need to hear his tale. (Cough, cough, Wedding Guest.) He's a serial storyteller.
The Mariner has now concluded his story, and he notes that the wedding sounds like quite the party. The bride and groom are singing in the garden, but all the Mariner wants to do is to say his night prayers.
The Mariner says he knows what it means to feel lonely and distant from God.
He says that it's much better to walk to church with a friend than to go to a marriage feast. He wants to see the entire community bow down in prayer.
The Mariner summarizes his long sermon with the message that only people who love God's creations – men, birds, and animals included – can pray well and gain salvation.
You have to love big things as well as small things, he says. And with that, he's out of here.
For an old guy, the Mariner moves fast. He disappears and takes his bright eyes and frosty ("hoary") beard with him.
Obviously moved by the Mariner's story, the Wedding Guest decides not to enter the wedding after all. (Can we just note: weddings are getting a really bad rap from the characters in this poem! You'd think the bride and groom had robbed a convenience store after the ceremony was over.)
The Wedding Guest is totally befuddled, as if he has lost his senses. He just kind of staggers away in a stupor. He wakes up the next day "a sadder and a wiser man."