The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Mariners back in the day sure knew how to bust a rime.
|18th-Century Literature||18th-Century British Literature|
|Author||Coleridge - Samuel Taylor Coleridge|
|British Literature||18th-Century British Literature|
Bummer, right? Especially for all you animal lovers out there.
But when the trigger-happy Mariner’s ship stalls on the ocean, and the rest of the crew
suddenly croaks, he really starts to second-guess himself.
It takes a spiritual epiphany and a lot of walking corpses to get our Mariner back to
business… pestering happy wedding guests. Just what is Coleridge trying to get at with
all this praying, redemption, and resurrection?
Is a bird just a bird, or does it stand for something more… inspirational?
Could Coleridge’s albatross be a symbol for Jesus Christ?
By the middle of the voyage, the sailors are all pretty bored, and missing their parakeets
The albatross becomes sort of a mascot to them.
They treat him like a Christian soul, which is pretty high praise for a creature that
takes poop deck literally.
Plus, in Christian metaphors, Jesus is sometimes compared to a bird. Which definitely beats
a sea slug, or manatee. Have you ever heard the expression… an albatross
around your neck?
The Mariner’s dead-bird accessory isn’t only a symbol of his screw-up, but of the
human burden of sin.
The Mariner tells us, Instead of the cross, the Albatross around my neck was hung.
Sure, it’s a lot lighter than a cross, but not what you’d call…pine fresh.
It seems pretty obvious that the Albatross is there to teach the Mariner a lesson.
When the sailor blesses the sea creatures, his feathered accessory falls from his neck.
He feels a… spring of love… and praises Heaven and Jesus’ mom, the Virgin Mary.
The Mariner also gets a little of that forgiveness that J.C. is known for…
…but now he’s got to do a lifetime of community service as penance.
These all seem like pretty strong arguments for a Christian allegory. But what about the
poet behind the scenes?
Coleridge’s dad wanted him to go career with Christianity, but Sam wasn’t into it.
Instead, he became a rebel with too many causes.
Coleridge dropped out of college, got hooked on opium, joined a commune, and married one
woman while in love with another.
His radical, free-thinking opinions earned him a pretty scandalous reputation…
Would Coleridge himself have agreed with the Christ-albatross connection?
So is there a religious back story to our feathered homicide victim?
Does the albatross symbolize Christ or the cross?
Is it just there to get the Mariner into church?
Or would Coleridge laugh at the notion that there’s any connection?
Shmoop amongst yourselves.