Home  »  The Book of Georgian Verse  »  Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834)

William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Georgian Verse. 1909.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834)

PART IAn ancient Mariner meeteth three gallants bidden to a wedding feast, and detaineth one. IT is an ancient Mariner,

 And he stoppeth one of three.

 ‘By thy long beard and glittering eye,

 Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?

 The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide,

 And I am next of kin;

 The guests are met, the feast is set:

 May’st hear the merry din.’

 He holds him with his skinny hand,

 ‘There was a ship,’ quoth he.

 ‘Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!’

The Wedding-Guest is spell-bound by the eye of the old seafaring man, and constrained to hear his tale. He holds him with his glittering eye—

 Eftsoons his hand dropt he.

 The Wedding-Guest stood still,

 And listens like a three years’ child:

 The Mariner hath his will.

 The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:

 He cannot choose but hear;

 And thus spake on that ancient man,

 The bright-eyed Mariner.

 ‘The ship was cheer’d, the harbour clear’d,

 Merrily did we drop

 Below the kirk, below the hill,

The Mariner tells how the ship sailed southward with a good wind and fair weather, till it reached the Line. The Sun came up upon the left,

 Below the lighthouse top.

 Out of the sea came he!

 And he shone bright, and on the right

 Went down into the sea.

 Higher and higher every day,

 Till over the mast at noon——’

 The Wedding-Guest here beat his breast,

The Wedding-Guest heareth the bridal music; but the Mariner continueth his tale. The bride hath paced into the hall,

 For he heard the loud bassoon.

 Red as a rose is she;

 Nodding their heads before her goes

 The merry minstrelsy.

 The Wedding-Guest he beat his breast,

 Yet he cannot choose but hear;

 And thus spake on that ancient man,

The ship drawn by a storm toward the South Pole. ‘And now the Storm-blast came, and he

 The bright-eyed Mariner.

 Was tyrannous and strong:

 He struck with his o’ertaking wings,

 And chased us south along.

 With sloping masts and dipping prow,

 As who pursued with yell and blow

 Still treads the shadow of his foe,

 And forward bends his head,

 The ship drove fast, loud roar’d the blast,

 The southward aye we fled.

 And now there came both mist and snow,

 And it grew wondrous cold:

 And ice, mast-high, came floating by,

The land of ice, and of fearful sounds, where no living thing was to be seen. And through the drifts the snowy clifts

 As green as emerald.

 Did send a dismal sheen:

 Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken—

 The ice was all between.

 The ice was here, the ice was there,

 The ice was all around:

 It crack’d and growl’d, and roar’d and howl’d,

 Like noises in a swound!

 Thorough the fog it came;

 As if it had been a Christian soul,

 We hail’d it in God’s name.

 It ate the food it ne’er had eat,

 And round and round it flew.

 The ice did split with a thunder-fit;

 The helmsman steer’d us through!

 The Albatross did follow,

 And every day, for food or play,

 Came to the mariners’ hollo!

 In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,

 It perch’d for vespers nine;

 Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,

The ancient Mariner inhospitably killeth the pious bird of good omen. ‘God save thee, ancient Mariner!

 Glimmer’d the white moonshine.’

 From the fiends, that plague thee thus!—

 Why look’st thou so?’—‘With my crossbow

 I shot the Albatross.


 ‘The Sun now rose upon the right:

 Out of the sea came he,

 Still hid in mist, and on the left

 Went down into the sea.

 And the good south wind still blew behind,

 But no sweet bird did follow,

 Nor any day for food or play

His shipmates cry out against the ancient Mariner for killing the bird of good luck. And I had done an hellish thing,

 Came to the mariners’ hollo!

 And it would work ’em woe:

 For all averr’d, I had kill’d the bird

 That made the breeze to blow.

 Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay,

But when the fog cleared off, they justify the same, and thus make themselves accomplices in the crime. Nor dim nor red, like God’s own head,

 That made the breeze to blow!

 The glorious Sun uprist:

 Then all averr’d, I had kill’d the bird

 That brought the fog and mist.

 ’Twas right, said they, such birds to slay,

 That bring the fog and mist.

 The furrow follow’d free;

 We were the first that ever burst

The ship hath been suddenly becalmed. Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,

 Into that silent sea.

 ’Twas sad as sad could be;

 And we did speak only to break

 The silence of the sea!

 All in a hot and copper sky,

 The bloody Sun, at noon,

 Right up above the mast did stand,

 No bigger than the Moon.

 Day after day, day after day,

 We stuck, nor breath nor motion;

 As idle as a painted ship

And the Albatross begins to be avenged. Water, water, everywhere,

 Upon a painted ocean.

 And all the boards did shrink;

 Water, water, everywhere,

 Nor any drop to drink.

 The very deep did rot: O Christ!

 That ever this should be!

 Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs

 Upon the slimy sea.

 About, about, in reel and rout

 The death-fires danced at night;

 The water, like a witch’s oils,

 Burnt green, and blue, and white.

 Of the Spirit that plagued us so;

 Nine fathom deep he had followed us

 From the land of mist and snow.

 And every tongue, through utter drought,

 Was wither’d at the root;

 We could not speak, no more than if

 We had been choked with soot.

 Had I from old and young!

 Instead of the cross, the Albatross

 About my neck was hung.


 ‘There passed a weary time. Each throat

 Was parch’d, and glazed each eye.

 A weary time! a weary time!

The ancient Mariner beholdeth a sign in the element afar off. When looking westward, I beheld

 How glazed each weary eye!

 A something in the sky.

 At first it seem’d a little speck,

 And then it seem’d a mist;

 It moved and moved, and took at last

 A certain shape, I wist.

 A speck, a mist, a shape, I wist!

 And still it near’d and near’d:

 As if it dodged a water-sprite,

 It plunged, and tack’d, and veer’d.

 We could nor laugh nor wail;

 Through utter drought all dumb we stood!

 I bit my arm, I suck’d the blood,

 And cried, A sail! a sail!

 With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,

A flash of joy; Gramercy! they for joy did grin,

 Agape they heard me call:

 And all at once their breath drew in,

And horror follows. For can it be a ship that comes onward without wind or tide? See! see! (I cried) she tacks no more!

 As they were drinking all.

 Hither to work us weal—

 Without a breeze, without a tide,

 She steadies with upright keel!

 The western wave was all aflame,

 The day was wellnigh done!

 Almost upon the western wave

 Rested the broad, bright Sun;

 When that strange shape drove suddenly

It seemeth him but the skeleton of a ship. And straight the Sun was fleck’d with bars

 Betwixt us and the Sun.

 (Heaven’s Mother send us grace!),

 As if through a dungeon-grate he peer’d

 With broad and burning face.

 Alas! (thought I, and my heart beat loud)

 How fast she nears and nears!

 Are those her sails that glance in the Sun,

 Like restless gossameres?

 Did peer, as through a grate?

 And is that Woman all her crew?

 Is that a Death? and are there two?

 Is Death that Woman’s mate?

 Her lips were red, her looks were free,

 Her locks were yellow as gold:

 Her skin was as white as leprosy,

 The Nightmare Life-in-Death was she,

Death and Life-in-Death have diced for the ship’s crew, and she (the latter) winneth the ancient Mariner. The naked hulk alongside came,

 Who thicks man’s blood with cold.

 And the twain were casting dice;

 “The game is done! I’ve won! I’ve won!”

No twilight within the courts of the Sun. The Sun’s rim dips; the stars rush out:

 Quoth she, and whistles thrice.

 At one stride comes the dark;

 With far-heard whisper, o’er the sea,

 Off shot the spectre-bark.

 We listen’d and look’d sideways up!

 Fear at my heart, as at a cup,

 My life-blood seem’d to sip!

 The stars were dim, and thick the night,

 The steersman’s face by his lamp gleam’d white;

At the rising of the Moon, Till clomb above the eastern bar

 From the sails the dew did drip—

 The hornéd Moon, with one bright star

One after another, One after one, by the star-dogg’d Moon,

 Within the nether tip.

 Too quick for groan or sigh,

 Each turn’d his face with a ghastly pang,

His shipmates drop down dead. Four times fifty living men

 And cursed me with his eye.

 (And I heard nor sigh nor groan),

 With heavy thump, a lifeless lump,

But Life-in-Death begins her work on the ancient Mariner. The souls did from their bodies fly—

 They dropp’d down one by one.

 They fled to bliss or woe!

 And every soul, it pass’d me by

 Like the whizz of my crossbow!’

 I fear thy skinny hand!

 And thou art long, and lank, and brown,

 As is the ribb’d sea-sand.

 I fear thee and thy glittering eye,

But the ancient Mariner assureth him of his bodily life, and proceedeth to relate his horrible penance. ‘Fear not, fear not, thou Wedding-Guest!

 And thy skinny hand so brown.’—

 This body dropt not down.

 Alone, alone, all, all alone,

 Alone on a wide, wide sea!

 And never a saint took pity on

He despiseth the creatures of the calm. The many men, so beautiful!

 My soul in agony.

 And they all dead did lie:

 And a thousand thousand slimy things

And envieth that they should live, and so many lie dead. I look’d upon the rotting sea,

 Lived on; and so did I.

 And drew my eyes away;

 I look’d upon the rotting deck,

 And there the dead men lay.

 I look’d to heaven, and tried to pray;

 But or ever a prayer had gusht,

 A wicked whisper came, and made

 My heart as dry as dust.

 I closed my lids, and kept them close,

 And the balls like pulses beat;

 For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky,

 Lay like a load on my weary eye,

But the curse liveth for him in the eye of the dead men. The cold sweat melted from their limbs,

 And the dead were at my feet.

 Nor rot nor reek did they:

 The look with which they look’d on me

 Had never pass’d away.

 An orphan’s curse would drag to hell

 A spirit from on high;

 But oh! more horrible than that

 Is the curse in a dead man’s eye!

 Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse,

 And yet I could not die.

 And nowhere did abide;

 Softly she was going up,

 And a star or two beside—

 Her beams bemock’d the sultry main,

 Like April hoar-frost spread;

 But where the ship’s huge shadow lay,

 The charméd water burnt alway

By the light of the Moon he beholdeth God’s creatures of the great calm. Beyond the shadow of the ship,

 A still and awful red.

 I watch’d the water-snakes:

 They moved in tracks of shining white,

 And when they rear’d, the elfish light

 Fell off in hoary flakes.

 Within the shadow of the ship

 I watch’d their rich attire:

 Blue, glossy green, and velvet black,

 They coil’d and swam; and every track

Their beauty and their happiness. O happy living things! no tongue

 Was a flash of golden fire.

 Their beauty might declare:

He blesseth them in his heart. And I bless’d them unaware:

 A spring of love gush’d from my heart,

 Sure my kind saint took pity on me,

The spell begins to break. The selfsame moment I could pray;

 And I bless’d them unaware.

 And from my neck so free

 The Albatross fell off, and sank

 Like lead into the sea.


 ‘O sleep! it is a gentle thing,

 Beloved from pole to pole!

 To Mary Queen the praise be given!

 She sent the gentle sleep from Heaven,

By grace of the holy Mother, the ancient Mariner is refreshed with rain. The silly buckets on the deck,

 That slid into my soul.

 That had so long remain’d,

 I dreamt that they were fill’d with dew;

 And when I awoke, it rain’d.

 My lips were wet, my throat was cold,

 My garments all were dank;

 Sure I had drunken in my dreams,

 And still my body drank.

 I moved, and could not feel my limbs:

 I was so light—almost

 I thought that I had died in sleep,

He heareth sounds and seeth strange sights and commotions in the sky and the element. And soon I heard a roaring wind:

 And was a blesséd ghost.

 It did not come anear;

 But with its sound it shook the sails,

 That were so thin and sere.

 The upper air burst into life;

 And a hundred fire-flags sheen;

 To and fro they were hurried about!

 And to and fro, and in and out,

 The wan stars danced between.

 And the coming wind did roar more loud,

 And the sails did sigh like sedge;

 And the rain pour’d down from one black cloud;

 The Moon was at its edge.

 The thick black cloud was cleft, and still

 The Moon was at its side;

 Like waters shot from some high crag,

 The lightning fell with never a jag,

The bodies of the ship’s crew are inspired, and the ship moves on; The loud wind never reach’d the ship,

 A river steep and wide.

 Yet now the ship moved on!

 Beneath the lightning and the Moon

 The dead men gave a groan.

 They groan’d, they stirr’d, they all uprose,

 Nor spake, nor moved their eyes;

 It had been strange, even in a dream,

 To have seen those dead men rise.

 The helmsman steer’d, the ship moved on;

 Yet never a breeze up-blew;

 The mariners all ’gan work the ropes,

 Where they were wont to do;

 They raised their limbs like lifeless tools—

 We were a ghastly crew.

 The body of my brother’s son

 Stood by me, knee to knee:

 The body and I pull’d at one rope,

 But he said naught to me.’

 Be calm, thou Wedding-Guest:

 ’Twas not those souls that fled in pain,

 Which to their corses came again,

 But a troop of spirits blest:

 For when it dawn’d—they dropp’d their arms,

 And cluster’d round the mast;

 Sweet sounds rose slowly through their mouths,

 And from their bodies pass’d.

 Around, around, flew each sweet sound,

 Then darted to the Sun;

 Slowly the sounds came back again,

 Now mix’d, now one by one.

 Sometimes a-dropping from the sky

 I heard the skylark sing;

 Sometimes all little birds that are,

 How they seem’d to fill the sea and air

 With their sweet jargoning!

 And now ’twas like all instruments,

 Now like a lonely flute;

 And now it is an angel’s song,

 That makes the Heavens be mute.

 It ceased; yet still the sails made on

 A pleasant noise till noon,

 A noise like of a hidden brook

 In the leafy month of June,

 That to the sleeping woods all night

 Singeth a quiet tune.

 Till noon we quietly sail’d on,

 Yet never a breeze did breathe:

 Slowly and smoothly went the ship,

 Moved onward from beneath.

 From the land of mist and snow,

 The Spirit slid: and it was he

 That made the ship to go.

 The sails at noon left off their tune,

 And the ship stood still also.

 The Sun, right up above the mast,

 Had fix’d her to the ocean:

 But in a minute she ’gan stir,

 With a short uneasy motion—

 Backwards and forwards half her length

 With a short uneasy motion.

 Then like a pawing horse let go,

 She made a sudden bound:

 It flung the blood into my head,

 And I fell down in a swound.

 I have not to declare;

 But ere my living life return’d,

 I heard, and in my soul discern’d

 Two voices in the air.

 “Is it he?” quoth one, “is this the man?

 By Him who died on cross,

 With his cruel bow he laid full low

 The harmless Albatross.

 The Spirit who bideth by himself

 In the land of mist and snow,

 He loved the bird that loved the man

 Who shot him with his bow.”

 The other was a softer voice,

 As soft as honey-dew:

 Quoth he, “The man hath penance done,

 And penance more will do.”


 First Voice: “But tell me, tell me! speak again,

 Thy soft response renewing—

 What makes that ship drive on so fast?

 What is the Ocean doing?”

 Second Voice: “Still as a slave before his lord,

 The Ocean hath no blast;

 His great bright eye most silently

 Up to the Moon is cast—

 If he may know which way to go;

 For she guides him smooth or grim.

 See, brother, see! how graciously

 She looketh down on him.”

 Without or wave or wind?”

 Second Voice: “The air is cut away before,

 And closes from behind.

 Fly, brother, fly! more high, more high!

 Or we shall be belated:

 For slow and slow that ship will go,

The supernatural motion is retarded; the Mariner awakes, and his penance begins anew. I woke, and we were sailing on

 When the Mariner’s trance is abated.’

 As in a gentle weather:

 ’Twas night, calm night, the Moon was high;

 The dead men stood together.

 All stood together on the deck,

 For a charnel-dungeon fitter:

 All fix’d on me their stony eyes,

 That in the Moon did glitter.

 The pang, the curse, with which they died,

 Had never pass’d away:

 I could not draw my eyes from theirs,

The curse is finally expiated. And now this spell was snapt: once more

 Nor turn them up to pray.

 I viewed the ocean green,

 And look’d far forth, yet little saw

 Of what had else been seen—

 Like one that on a lonesome road

 Doth walk in fear and dread,

 And having once turn’d round, walks on,

 And turns no more his head;

 Because he knows a frightful fiend

 Doth close behind him tread.

 But soon there breathed a wind on me,

 Nor sound nor motion made:

 Its path was not upon the sea,

 In ripple or in shade.

 It raised my hair, it fann’d my cheek

 Like a meadow-gale of spring—

 It mingled strangely with my fears,

 Yet it felt like a welcoming.

 Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship,

 Yet she sail’d softly too:

 Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze—

And the ancient Mariner beholdeth his native country. O dream of joy! is this indeed

 On me alone it blew.

 The lighthouse top I see?

 Is this the hill? is this the kirk?

 Is this mine own countree?

 We drifted o’er the harbour-bar,

 And I with sobs did pray—

 O let me be awake, my God!

 Or let me sleep alway.

 The harbour-bay was clear as glass,

 So smoothly it was strewn!

 And on the bay the moonlight lay,

 And the shadow of the Moon.

 The rock shone bright, the kirk no less

 That stands above the rock:

 The moonlight steep’d in silentness

The angelic spirits leave the dead bodies, And the bay was white with silent light

 The steady weathercock.

 Till rising from the same,

 Full many shapes, that shadows were,

And appear in their own forms of light. A little distance from the prow

 In crimson colours came.

 Those crimson shadows were:

 I turn’d my eyes upon the deck—

 O Christ! what saw I there!

 Each corse lay flat, lifeless and flat,

 And, by the holy rood!

 A man all light, a seraph-man,

 On every corse there stood.

 This seraph-band, each waved his hand:

 It was a heavenly sight!

 They stood as signals to the land,

 Each one a lovely light;

 This seraph-band, each waved his hand,

 No voice did they impart—

 No voice; but O, the silence sank

 Like music on my heart.

 But soon I heard the dash of oars,

 I heard the Pilot’s cheer;

 My head was turn’d perforce away,

 And I saw a boat appear.

 The Pilot and the Pilot’s boy,

 I heard them coming fast:

 Dear Lord in Heaven! it was a joy

 The dead men could not blast.

 I saw a third—I heard his voice:

 It is the Hermit good!

 He singeth loud his godly hymns

 That he makes in the wood.

 He’ll shrieve my soul, he’ll wash away

 The Albatross’s blood.

The Hermit of the Wood. ‘This Hermit good lives in that wood

 Which slopes down to the sea.

 How loudly his sweet voice he rears!

 He loves to talk with marineres

 That come from a far countree.

 He kneels at morn, and noon, and eve—

 He hath a cushion plump:

 It is the moss that wholly hides

 The rotted old oak-stump.

 The skiff-boat near’d: I heard them talk,

 “Why, this is strange, I trow!

 Where are those lights so many and fair,

Approacheth the ship with wonder. “Strange, by my faith!” the Hermit said—

 That signal made but now?”

 “And they answer’d not our cheer!

 The planks looked warp’d! and see those sails,

 How thin they are and sere!

 I never saw aught like to them,

 Unless perchance it were

 Brown skeletons of leaves that lag

 My forest-brook along;

 When the ivy-tod is heavy with snow,

 And the owlet whoops to the wolf below,

 That eats the she-wolf’s young.”

 “Dear Lord! it hath a fiendish look—

 (The Pilot made reply)

 I am a-fear’d”—“Push on, push on!”

 Said the Hermit cheerily.

 The boat came closer to the ship,

 But I nor spake nor stirr’d;

 The boat came close beneath the ship,

The ship suddenly sinketh. Under the water it rumbled on,

 And straight a sound was heard.

 Still louder and more dread:

 It reach’d the ship, it split the bay;

The ancient Mariner is saved in the Pilot’s boat. Stunn’d by that loud and dreadful sound,

 The ship went down like lead.

 Which sky and ocean smote,

 Like one that hath been seven days drown’d

 My body lay afloat;

 But swift as dreams, myself I found

 Within the Pilot’s boat.

 Upon the whirl, where sank the ship,

 The boat spun round and round;

 And all was still, save that the hill

 Was telling of the sound.

 I moved my lips—the Pilot shriek’d

 And fell down in a fit;

 The holy Hermit raised his eyes,

 And pray’d where he did sit.

 I took the oars: the Pilot’s boy,

 Who now doth crazy go,

 Laugh’d loud and long, and all the while

 His eyes went to and fro.

 “Ha! ha!” quoth he, “full plain I see

 The Devil knows how to row.”

 And now, all in my own countree,

 I stood on the firm land!

 The Hermit stepp’d forth from the boat,

 And scarcely he could stand.

 The Hermit cross’d his brow.

 “Say quick,” quoth he, “I bid thee say—

 What manner of man art thou?”

 Forthwith this frame of mine was wrench’d

 With a woful agony,

 Which forced me to begin my tale;

And ever and anon throughout his future life an agony constraineth him to travel from land to land; Since then, at an uncertain hour,

 And then it left me free.

 That agony returns:

 And till my ghastly tale is told,

 This heart within me burns.

 I pass, like night, from land to land;

 I have strange power of speech;

 That moment that his face I see,

 I know the man that must hear me:

 To him my tale I teach.

 What loud uproar bursts from that door!

 The wedding-guests are there:

 But in the garden-bower the bride

 And bride-maids singing are:

 And hark the little vesper bell,

 Which biddeth me to prayer!

 O Wedding-Guest! this soul hath been

 Alone on a wide, wide sea:

 So lonely ’twas, that God Himself

 Scarce seeméd there to be.

 O sweeter than the marriage-feast,

 ’Tis sweeter far to me,

 To walk together to the kirk

 With a goodly company!—

 To walk together to the kirk,

 And all together pray,

 While each to his great Father bends,

 Old men, and babes, and loving friends,

And to teach, by his own example, love and reverence to all things that God made and loveth. Farewell, farewell! but this I tell

 And youths and maidens gay!

 To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!

 He prayeth well, who loveth well

 Both man and bird and beast.

 He prayeth best, who loveth best

 All things both great and small;

 For the dear God who loveth us,

 He made and loveth all.’

 The Mariner, whose eye is bright,

 Whose beard with age is hoar,

 Is gone: and now the Wedding-Guest

 Turn’d from the bridegroom’s door.

 He went like one that hath been stunn’d,

 And is of sense forlorn:

 A sadder and a wiser man

 He rose the morrow morn.