“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
is the most relevant poem of Coleridge.
Inside we can find the typical themes of a ballad such as death, punishment, guilt and repentance. Also there are supernatural and magical elements and the atmosphere is mostly dream-like. The poem starts with an ancient Mariner who stops one of the wedding guests at a wedding party and holds him spellbound. Here we can find the magic element: the mariner uses his “glittering eye” to hold the guest, and to make him listen to his story.
So he begins telling about how they left the harbor and began his journey on a ship together with his crew. Everything went well until they reached the Equator and a terrible storm began and they were driven toward the south pole. When they arrived south, the ship got stuck into the ice. Here, the description of nature is very personified: the storm is personified with a bird with huge wings which seemed to follow the ship pushing it to the south, while the ship walks in it’s shadow. The ice makes very strange noises: it growls, roars and howls, typical beast sounds.
At one point an Albatross came over, and was received with great hospitality: the crew gave him food and he helped them to get out of the ice and begin the journey back home. Also, he flew over the ship for almost nine days. Here, the Albatross is considered as a bird of good omen because it predicts a better situation in the future. In fact, the bird drove them through the terrible weather back to north, while terrible creatures followed them under the water.
the Mariner shot the Albatross, and so, the journey doesn’t bring them back home. The killing of the Albatross has many interpretations, one of them points to the sacrifice of Christ for the original sins.
The journey is a metaphor for spiritual death which leads to spiritual rebirth: The Mariner seems to be a non-believer, but at the end he gains belief and understands that all the creatures should be loved as they are, because they’re all the same in God’s eyes.