The Tale of the Ancient Marina
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The murder was committed on a whim, with no forethought about the act or the repercussions. The Mariner gives no explanation to the Wedding Guest as to why he killed the bird because he has none. The ship and its crew face difficulties as it comes to a halt on the sea. The Mariner is angry at his fate instead of remorseful for his crime, and he curses the sea and the creatures in it.
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A ship approaches and he is dumbfounded to come face to face with Death and Life-In-Death. With a roll of the dice, Death wins the lives of the crew and, Life-In-Death wins the life of the Mariner. One by one the men on the ship die, leaving the Mariner alone and frightened. For seven days and seven nights he is forced to spend time in solitary, reflecting on the events that have occurred, the eyes of the dead sailors fixed on him with blame.
Once this acceptance begins, his solitude is no longer a punishment, but an opportunity for him to realize the exquisiteness of the universe. As he watches the water snakes he begins to perceive them differently, and suddenly their beauty becomes apparent to him for the first time. This new insight releases him from his invisible chains and he is able to offer a blessing for the water snakes.
The Mariner has begun to broaden his views and acknowledge the spiritual wonder and joys of the universe. He has learned to release his negative views, and by doing so, has set free the spirits of his dead shipmates. Their spirits rise, aiding the Mariner in his journey home, and guiding him to the Hermit.
Even though the albatross is no longer hung from his neck, and the ship is back on course home, the Mariner has not found absolution. The Mariner has learned another lesson, forgiveness must be asked for, and it must also be earned. It is the Hermit that he seeks in order to ask exculpation for his transgressions. Though the Albatross is no longer hung around his neck, the Mariner still has the image of its blood in his mind. He feels that if he can have the opportunity to ask for exoneration, he can be released from the inner turmoil he is experiencing.
Once he spills his story to the Hermit, a feeling of freedom overcomes him. It is this feeling he will spend endless days and nights seeking.
‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ a vivid, cautionary tale – The San Francisco Examiner
He is forced to spend eternity repeating his story, searching for the person capable of forgiving his sins, though no one can. Redemption brings peace and the Mariner has not found this peace. The crime was senseless, which makes it much more difficult for anyone to understand or forgive, even the Hermit. He has been given a permanent penance to perform, wandering the earth and telling his story.
While he may experience a brief period of serenity after each story telling, the guilt inevitably returns and he must go through the cycle again. Lessons have been learned, but the Mariner will pay the price of his sin for eternity. Bloom, Harold. Frank Kermode and John Hollander. Oxford University Press, New York, Suddenly, a terrible storm hit and drove the ship southwards into a "rime" - a strange, icy patch of ocean.
The towering, echoing "rime" was bewildering and impenetrable, and also desolate until an Albatross appeared out of the mist. No sooner than the sailors fed it did the ice break and they were able to steer through. As long as the Albatross flew alongside the ship and the sailors treated it kindly, a good wind carried them and a mist followed. One day, however, the Ancient Mariner shot and killed the Albatross on impulse.
Suddenly the wind and mist ceased, and the ship was stagnant on the ocean. The other sailors alternately blamed the Ancient Mariner for making the wind die and praised him for making the strange mist disappear. Then things began to go awry. The sun became blindingly hot, and there was no drinkable water amidst the salty ocean, which tossed with terrifying creatures. The sailors went dumb from their thirst and sunburned lips.
They hung the Albatross around the Ancient Mariner's neck as a symbol of his sin. After a painful while, a ship appeared on the horizon, and the Ancient Mariner bit his arm and sucked the blood so he could cry out to the other sailors.
The ship was strange: it sailed without wind, and when it crossed in front of the sun, its stark masts seemed to imprison the sun. When the ship neared, the Ancient Mariner could see that it was a ghost ship manned by Death , in the form of a man, and Life-in-Death, in the form of a beautiful, naked woman.
They were gambling for the Ancient Mariner's soul. Life-in-Death won the Ancient Mariner's soul, and the other sailors were left to Death. The sky went black immediately as the ghost ship sped away. Suddenly all of the sailors cursed the Ancient Mariner with their eyes and dropped dead on the deck. Their souls zoomed out of their bodies, each taunting the Ancient Mariner with a sound like that of his crossbow. Their corpses miraculously refused to rot; they stared at him unrelentingly, cursing him with their eyes.
The Ancient Mariner drifted on the ocean in this company, unable to pray. One night he noticed some beautiful water-snakes frolicking at the ship's prow in the icy moonlight. Watching the creatures brought him unprecedented joy, and he blessed them without meaning to. When he was finally able to pray, the Albatross fell from his neck and sank into the sea.
He could finally sleep, and dreamed of water. How about if a close friend or family member tries to help you, and for no apparent reason, you do something nasty that drives them away?
Rime of the Ancient Mariner
That's more like it. The Mariner's act of shooting the albatross that had once brought good luck to his ship is the mother of irrational, self-defeating acts. He never offers a good explanation for why he does it, and his crewmates get so upset that they hang the dead albatross around his neck as a burden, so he won't forget what he did. To have an albatross around your neck is to have a constant reminder of a big mistake you made.
Instead of the gift that keeps on giving, it's the blunder that keeps on taking. As in, "I spent all my money on that motorcycle because I thought it would be cool, but now I can't sell it, and it's too expensive to maintain. That thing is just an albatross around my neck.
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