The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, S.T. Coleridge
Summary of the 4th part of the Rime
The Wedding Guest fears that he is talking to a Spirit, because the Mariner is the only one who has survived. What is more, the Mariner really resembles a skeleton for his deteriorated physical structures. But the seaman immediately assures the Wedding Guest that he is still living and thus, there is no need to worry. Then he resumes his story, telling how everyone but him was dead on the ship and that the only living creatures left were slimy snakes crawling at the surface of the water.
In such solitude he tried to pray but the only thing he could do was whispering wicked and evil words. He uttered a curse. Though he had his eyes closed, he could still see the sea and the sky and he could hear the beating of his heart.
The dead men were starting at him and cursing him. Their corps were not corrupted and didn’t smell like a dead body usually does. They were looking at him with open eyes and their curse was stronger than an orphan’s which would be able to send somebody from heaven to hell. But he was still alive and he survived.
The Moon was moving softly, the water was still and the snakes were swimming and coiling. Suddenly something changed: the Mariner was looking at those slimy things and they resembled happy living creatures. He fell in love with them and could see their beauty. When he blessed them, for being the only other living things with him, he could finally pray again.
The spell began to break because he was once more in contact with Nature and so the Albatross hanging from his neck fell off and sank into the sea.
The Supernatural Elements
The supernatural elements described are the slimy things crawling at the surface of the water and the two spirits on the skeleton ship: Death and Life-in-Death. There are also the souls of the dead crew that fled swiftly towards heaven, or hell.
The two spirits spared the Mariner’s life, because they wanted him to understand the importance of loving Nature and wanted him to tell and pass on his story and its message.
Personal interpretation of the poem
The poem can be seen as a dream which allows the poet to relate men and nature. But the Mariner is also the romantic poet who, through his sense of guilt, produces poetry. He finds again what he has lost by telling a symbolic story of his loss. This is also what the Mariner does; he lost his good terms with Nature and he tells his story and the way he found it again. So he conveys his message to other people, such as the Wedding Guest, who after the story are changed into new, sadder and wiser men.
Final message of the 7th part
Killing Nature is an evil, unforgivable deed. Everyone must love and respect Nature because it is the mirror of God, who is creator of all things. And indeed, for Coleridge Nature is the incarnation of God. Only a good person who loves all natural elements, all living creatures doesn’t matter how they look, can pray well. No one can pray and love God if he/she doesn’t love Nature.