Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ is quite different from the works of other romantic poets. It is based on a dream of Coleridge’s friend and was published in 1798. It is written in the style of a folk ballad and is divided into seven parts. The poem has a scattering of references to outdated beliefs and practices. It is surely not only the mariner, who is ancient, but even his rhyme is old. There are multiple and contradictory time elements and the poem itself hides its origins. Nevertheless the extravagant use of archaic words make it appear old.
Coleridge’s deliberately archaic language, ominous tones and ‘loony’ narrator are a stunning contrast to the lighter, pastoral works of Wordsworth and others. Mariner’s unkempt yet charismatic appearance suggests subtly to the reader, through the repeated focus on his ‘glittering eye’ and his ‘long beard’, that he has become a spokesman of nature. The mariner’s timelessness, in direct contrast to the death of all crew members, suggests the eternity of nature of which he has become symbolic. Ultimately the mariner repents for his sins and this has the echoes of the Christian message, though his killing of the albatross is a crime against nature. The poem focusses on the power and nemesis of the natural world. However, the poem hinges around the line, “I killed an albatross.” Nevertheless after repentance, the didactic content of the poem can be seen in its message, “He prayeth best, who loveth best.”