The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, part I
Coleridge chose the genre of the ballad, because there is no barrier between the world of reality and supernatural, and he gave a moral message to it (the traditional ballads never contained it).
In this story several characters emerge.
The dramatic structure is important: in this narrative poem a fundamental ingredient is the telling and the dialogue.
The novelty is given by:
- Longer line stanzas – 6 lines and even longer –: as ballads perceives, stanzas become longer;
- No refrain;
- The moral message, together with the symbolical meaning, is the great novelty of this work: Coleridge attaches images, creating the metaphorical framework of the voyage. This symbolical voyage follows the progress of a man through guilt, remorse and in the end a sort of moral rebirth crime and redemption.
An old, lonely Mariner appears from nowhere and forces one in a crowd, a stranger on his way to a wedding, to listen to his story. The Mariner’s tale is about a sea voyage, which soon turns out to be a voyage with no return because of the uncontrollable powers of nature.
How a Ship having passed the Line was driven by storms to the cold Country towards the South Pole; and how from thence she made her course to the tropical Latitude of the Great Pacific Ocean; and of the strange things that befell; and in what manner the Ancyent Marinere came back to his own Country.
Come una Nave avendo passato la linea dell’Equatore fu spinta dai temporali al Paese freddo verso il Polo Sud; e come da là essa fece la sua rotta verso la Latitudine tropicale del Grande Oceano Pacifico; e delle strane cose che accaddero/ avvennero; e in che modo in Vecchio Marinaio ritornò al proprio Paese.
The author researches a semblance of truth: he wants to make the reader believe that what he’s telling is credible and to awaken the him to the moral message of the ballad.
An 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.'
Un vecchio marinaio incontra tre gentiluomini diretti ad una festa di nozze e ne ferma uno.
(Ecco che) giunge/ arriva un vecchio Marinaio e ferma un gentiluomo in un gruppetto di tre.
“Tu, con questa tua lunga barba grigia e questo tuo strano sguardo scintillante, per quale motivo mi fermi?
- The ballad starts by an external voice, which introduces the story and the fundamental character.
- The whole ballad starts in the present simple, in fact its dimension is in this time.
But there’s another time dimension, that of the Mariner’s narration. There’s a continuous change between present simple and past simple in order to reinforce the idea of reality: the narrative voice very frequently introduces present simple in order to involve us to the story. Tense shift (ITA: cambiamento di tempo) in order to offer the immediacy of what happens.
- In the third line the second character, which is the Gallant, is introduced: he refers to the extraordinariness of the Mariner, who’s no common.
- His glittering eye (physical detail of the Mariner) referrers to the incredible experiences he has gone to: this glittering eye is a channel, a spying element of this experience beyond reality that the Mariner has lived. He has had a sensory experience whose value is supernatural!
This glittering eye makes the Mariner charming and weird at the same time: it’s both charming and too strange for the Gallant to listen to – in fact it makes the different between the Mariner and the other people around him who belongs to reality, because now he no longer belongs to supernatural neither to reality –.
- hear the marry din (ITA: frastuono gioioso): language of sense impression.
He holds him with his skinny hand,
‘There was a ship’ quoth he.
Eftsoons his hand dropt he.
Lo tiene con la sua mano scarna/ scheletrica, “C’era una volta una nave” disse.
“Stammi lontano! Toglimi le mani di dosso, pazzo dalla barba grigia!
Subito lasciò cadere la sua mano.
The narrating voice starts again.
The Mariner stops the Wedding-Guest holing him with his skinny hand: this hand is the third physical, therefore realistic, element that stops the ballad and that demonstrates the belonging of the Mariner to a strange dimension/ world.
His beard is another element of reality.
The Wedding-Guest is spellbound by the eye of the old seafaring man, and constrained to hear his tale.
He holds him with his glittering eye –
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.
Tuttavia ormai l’ospite del matrimonio si trova sotto una sorta di incantesimo che su di lui esercita questo occhi scintillante del vecchio marinaio ed è obbligato ad ascoltare questa storia.
Lo tiene con il suo occhio scintillante più che con la mano.
Il gentiluomo rimase immobile e ascolta come fosse un bimbo di tre anni: il suo volere è soggiogato dal Marinaio.
L’ospite del matrimonio sedette su una pietra: non può che ascoltare e così continuò a raccontare/ parlare quel vecchio Marinaio dallo sguardo luccicante.
The spell has already been cast upon the guest: his glittering eye has hypnotized the guest. It is no longer the physical eye of an ordinary man: his look in his eye reflects the extraordinary, supernatural experiences he has undergone.
- Stood – listen: tense shift.
‘The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared,
Merrily did we drop
Below the kirk, below the hill,
Below the lighthouse top.
“Tutti salutavano la nave, il porto fu lasciato alle spalle; eravamo felici mentre passavamo sotto la chiesa, sotto la collina, sotto il faro alla fine del porto.
Here starts a detailed narration of reality: this voyage by sea is told by the Mariner, who makes a large use of realistic elements that belong to the life of a sailing ship – elements of atmosphere that accompaign the sailing of the ship leaving the harbour –.
We see the movement of the ship. They dropped below the kirk, the hill, the lighthouse top and entered the open sea.
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,
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,
For he heard the loud bassoon.
Il Marinaio racconta di come la barca salpò verso sud con vento a favore e un tempo limpido, finché raggiunsero l’Equatore.
Il sole sorse da sinistra, dal mare impetuoso/ forte, e brillava luminoso, e poi la sera si tuffava a destra nel mare.
Sempre più in alto ogni giorno finché all’Equatore era proprio a picco sull’albero maestro”.
- The speaking voice returns: here in very few lines (from 25 to 30) the author uses a very expressive typical way of telling the reality of the tale.
He’s telling about the natural cycle of the day the ship is simply going through.
- At line 31 the narrating voice starts again telling something about the Wedding-Guest, who’s very impatient to know more so that he can go to the party: he’s yet unable to move, he’s fixed there, not by the hand, but by the Mariner’s glittering eye.
He’s in an unpleasant but compelling (ITA: obbligare) condition.
The Wedding-Guest heareth the bridal music; but the Mariner continueth his tale.
The bride hath paced into the hall,
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 bright-eyed Mariner.
L’invitato ode la musica della sposa, ma il Marinaio continua la sua storia.
La sposa era già entrata nella chiesa, è bella/ fresca come una rosa; i festosi menestrelli la precedono accennando con le loro teste.
L’invitato si batte il petto, tuttavia non può scegliere che ascoltare; e così continuò a parlare quel vecchio uomo, il Marinaio dall’occhio brillante.
From line 33 to 40 the narrating voice tells the reality of the guest: these two realities interchange each other.
- The author uses a language of sense impression again: there are colours and sounds, such as the romantic element of red roses.
- The walk of the bride to the hall is somehow parallel to the movement of the ship out of the harbour to the open sea. Movements are important in this poem because they give the idea of reality.
- There is no refrain, but repetitions are frequent and remind the fundamental element of the story, given by the fact that the guest cannot choose but hear.
- Line 35-36: enjambment – run on line.
The ship driven by a storm toward the south pole.
'And now the storm-blast came, and he
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 roared the blast,
The southward aye we fled.
La nave spinta da un temporale verso il Polo Sud.
“Improvvisamente arrivò la tempesta, essa era tirannica e forte/ impetuosa: lui ci colpiva con le sue ali travolgenti e ci sospingeva/ cacciava continuamente sempre più verso sud.
Con gli alberi inclinati e la prua immersa nell’acqua, come chi inseguito con urla e con colpi ancora calpesta l’ombra del suo inseguitore/ nemico (perché non riesce ad andare più veloce) e in avanti piega la testa.
La nave si muoveva sempre più velocemente ed era forte il suono della tempesta, e ahinoi ci muovevamo sempre più verso sud.
From line 41 on we can see the initial reality of the tale: a pleasant journey by sea is modified to an unpleasant adventure, that preannounces an omen.
The fundamental image here is that of an incredible overwhelming eagle: it’s suddenly very strong and greatly opposed to the previous situation. This image is made up of dark elements such as the tyrannous storm-blast – that pushes the ship to the southward – and the wind, and the language is completely different, totally relying upon sense impression and onomatopoeic sounds.
- And now: at once
- The storm-blast is personified.
- Line 46: simile.
And now there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold:
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.
Improvvisamente il paesaggio era tutto fatto di nebbia e neve e diventava terribilmente freddo: ecco che montagne di ghiaccio alte quanto l’albero maestro e verdi come lo smeraldo arrivavano sempre più vicino.
- The landscape here is completely different from before: it’s a landscape of ice, where an experience of loneliness takes place.
- The towering image of icebergs represents the natural beauty.
Nature is a fundamental character in this poem and it overwhelms the meaning of these lines.
- As green as emerald (it’s a fearful image but at the same time beautiful): sight.
The land of ice, and of fearful sounds where no living thing was to be seen.
And through the drifts the snowy clifts
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 cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!
Terribili suoni che provengono da questa terra di ghiaccio dove non c’era anima viva/ creatura vivente.
Attraverso le fessure i pendii innevati lasciavano un travedere in bagliore sinistro: non vedevamo né animali né uomini, tutto quello che si vedeva era solo ghiaccio.
Il ghiaccio era qui, era là, era tutto intorno: si rompeva con suoni improvvisi e imponenti e ringhiava, ruggiva e ululava, come rumori durante una perdita dei sensi!
The sight is bound to the feeling of fear, caused by the fact that nature is unknown: it holds in itself fearful elements which cause unknown experience, never had before.
This dismal sheen, which is linked to the Mariner’s glittering eye, was visible through these snowy cliffs, which means that there are unknown, mysterious and dangerous forces in nature which the crew can’t know. From a sensory experience an emotion emerges!
- Line 61: wild sounds of wild beasts.
The expressions of hidden forces, which will be unleashed very soon, is reflected in the typical sounds of beats kept in a cage.
Till a great sea-bird, called the Albatross,
came through the snow-fog, and was received with great joy and hospitality.
At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed 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 steered us through!
Finché un grande uccello marino, chiamato Albatro, arrivò attraversando la nebbia e la neve, e fu accolto con grande gioia ed ospitalità.
Dopo un po’ apparve un Albatro che arrivò attraverso la nebbia; come se fosse stato un cristiano, noi lo salutammo/ gli demmo il benvenuto nel nome di Dio.
Mangiò il cibo che mai aveva mangiato e volava girando intorno.
Il ghiaccio si spaccò con il suono di un tuono e il timoniere ci guidò attraverso (il ghiaccio)!
The landscape was a desertic land of ice: once there it was impossible for the ship to move: its movement stops.
Therefore the whole crew was happy to see he albatross coming forward – it came from almost nowhere –: they saw it as a God sign. It became a very positive presence, a companion of the crew.
It’s like it signs the coming of spring – in fact ice starts melting –: the ship starts again its movement.
And lo! the Albatross proveth a bird of good omen, and followeth the ship as it returned northward through fog and floating ice.
And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariner's hollo!
In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
It perched for vespers nine;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
Glimmered the white Moon-shine.'
Ed ecco! L’Albatro si dimostrò un uccello di buon augurio, e seguì la nave mentre tornava verso nord attraverso la nebbia e il ghiaccio galleggiante.
E un vento sostenuto da sud ci spingeva da dietro: l’Albatro continuava a seguirci e ogni giorno, per mangiare o per giocare, veniva al richiamo di qualsiasi marinaio!
Sia con la nebbia o con il tempo nuvoloso, sia appollaiato sull’albero maestro o sulle vele, si appollaiò per nove sere, mentre durante la notte, attraverso questa nebbiolina biancastra, luccicava il bianco bagliore della Luna.” •
Glimmered (showing the pallor of the Moon): sense impression
Here we can see the natural cycle of the day ( contrasting dimension of day and night), that will be subverted when the Mariner committees the crime: the shot lets nature forces be unleashed, in fact the wind stops blowing and the ship gets stuck in the middle of the ocean (until the third part of the poem).
Sounds have changed again.
The ancient Mariner inhospitably killeth
the pious bird of good omen.
`God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus! –
Why look'st thou so?' – With my cross-bow
I shot the Albatross.
Il vecchio Marinaio “inospitabilmente” uccise il pio uccello di buon augurio.
“Che dio salvi te, vecchio Marinaio! Dai nemici interiori, dai tormenti che ti inseguono! Perché hai quest’espressione?”
Con la mia balestra sparai all’Albatro.
Here he tells his crime against nature.
This is a supreme image of shooting the Albatross all of the sudden, the act that qualifies the following experience of the Mariner: it’s an act of despise (ITA: disprezzo) against nature and God.
Why did I do that? Out of spite. It’s an act of unwilling carelessness (ITA: sconsiderata mancanza di volontà).
This clarify the real nature of men, who kills for nothing, because he has nothing else to do.
This Mariner is guilty of carelessness – a thoughtless act, which has no will, no reason, no feeling, nothing that qualifies or gives reason to it –.
It’s the turning point of the ballad!
This image is supreme because it connects and unifies all the elements of the ballad itself: it links together the framework of the voyage, the cycle of nature and of supernatural events coming up. This Albatross is a unifying element.
Coleridge said that nature is the language that God utters.