This is the first part of the ballad and it’s an introduction to the main story. It has an “argument” at the start and some “prose commentaries” at side (both written in archaic language) added in a later edition to make the reader understand better the events. The poem is made of four lines’ stanzas, with some exceptions, such as stanza 11 which has 6 lines. When the stanzas are longer or shorter it’s a sign that something is changing. The ballad is full of archaism: immediately in the title we can found three of them, rime (which stands for ballad), ancient (old) and mariner (sailor); but also the text is full of them (at line 2 “stoppeth”, at line 4 “wherefore”; the use of thy instead of you, which was used in Renaissance). Coleridge uses all these archaisms to give to the ballad a sense of temporal distance, to put it in a distant and far time. The story told is very strange: the story starts in the middle of the events, it has no introduction, neither the names of the protagonists are mentioned, the reader doesn’t know anything about the protagonists, for example of the ancient mariner we don’t know the name, where is he from, why he stopped that man instead of another one; this questions don’t have answers, even if at the end of the ballad there are some suggestions for the reason why he chose him. The Wedding-guest at the start doesn’t want to listen, and for this reason he chose him; he’s impatient and unwilling to listen and learn something. It’s just like he’s talking to the reader through the guest: we have to stay and listen. The mariner uses his “bright-eye” to catch his attention, it’s just like he mesmerize (hypnotize) the guest, he’s like under the effect of a spell and under this effect he says he has the control of his willing, as the poet has the control of the willing of the reader, that has to suspend it. Indifferent to every protest, the mariner starts talking. There are very few information about the mariner’s village (and that are told in stanza 6). In stanza 7 there are some realistic elements, to make the reader able to identify into the story and believe it: it’s told about the sun rising and the sun rises on the left, so the ship is southbound; the sun is personified in fact it’s used the pronoun “he”. The ship is going to the Equator, because the sun is right over the mast at noon (stanza 8). Stanza 10 in nearly the same of stanza 5, except for some elements; there’s another apparition of the wedding-guest because he hears the party is going on and the bride was entering the hall and “minstrelsy” were playing (medieval atmosphere, because they were very common in medieval courts). This is the first interruption of the story. There’s a frequent use of repetitions of words or even stanzas, to emphasize moments or underline something (in medieval ballads this technique was used to make who was listening more in the story and understand better). But he’s spell-bound and so he has to listen. The travel had begun in a good way, but at stanza 11 everything changes: a tempest arrives and push them south (as the sun, the tempest is personified too). All these personifications underline the supernatural and the fact that it’s like for everything that happens it’s an unknown agent’s fault. Stanza 12: there’s a similitude: the tempest is compared to an enemy, that chases you, roaring and hitting you, so close to walk in your shadow. This similitude underlines that the gentle breeze had become a storm, it’s an enemy and the ship risks to be destroyed. In stanza 13 we can see a landscape change: an icy and cold landscape. This description is continued in stanzas 14 and 15; the fact of ice being everywhere is underlined by the frequent repetition of the term, that gives a powerful picture of the landscape. It’s like an ice prison, the ship can’t escape. There’s also a strange use of sounds usually referred to animals in stanza 15 used for the ice; Coleridge tries to give the idea of the ice breaking and he uses this personification, used also because as the animals mentioned were very dangerous, the ice was too. It was like a “swound” a condition in which you’ve lost consciousness and you have visions. In stanza 16 in a situation of danger, no way out, a bird (an Albatross) come and it’s hailed by sailors as a bird sent by God as a good omen. This Albatross is one of the protagonists of the ballad. Coleridge uses this bird because it was in a lot of legends and traditions and also because he was commonly seen by sailors as a bad omen, but here he’s a good omen. It’s a beautiful bird when he’s flying, but horrible walking; he’s white and he has big wings. In stanza 17 a miracle happens: they become friends with the bird and he starts coming eating and playing with the sailors and suddently the ice broke; it seems like he has saved them. In stanza 18 the friendship is again underlined, the Albatross follows the ship and he’s called and searched from the sailors and there’s a good wind. In stanza 20 the wedding-guest who has been listening without interrupting for a while, interrupts the narration because the central event of the story is going to happen and it needs atmosphere and also to come back to realism. The mariner shot the Albatross with no reason, he won’t explain it, and for the rest of the story they will pay for it. In line 81 there’s the word cross in the expression crossbow, the word cross appears at the end of every part with different meanings.
Rime of the ancient mariner - part 1