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The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The original, squashed down to read in about 10 minutes



(London, 1798)



The 'Ancyent Marinere' was published in the collection 'Lyrical Ballads' along with works by Wordsworth, its magical quality perhaps born of Coleridge's opium addiction. It is considered a foundation of "Romantic" literature, and of a whole sailship terror genre leading to 'Pirates of the Caribbean'.
Abridged: GH, from the 1817 edition which modernised the pseudo-ancient English of the original.



The Rime of the Ancient Mariner


IT IS an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
"By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?

The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:
He cannot chuse but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.

The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared,
Merrily did we drop
Below the kirk, below the hill,
Below the light-house top.


Illustration by Gustave Doré for an 1876 edition


And then the STORM-BLAST came, and he
Was tyrannous and strong:
He struck with his o'ertaking wings,
And chased south along.

And now there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold:
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.

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.


Illustration by Gustave Doré for an 1876 edition


"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.

And I had done an hellish thing,
And it would work 'em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
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.

Ah! well a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,
We could not laugh nor wail;
I bit my arm, I sucked the blood,
And cried, A sail! a sail!

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!

Are those her ribs through which the Sun
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?

The naked hulk alongside came,
And the twain were casting dice;
"The game is done! I've won! I've won!"
Quoth she, and whistles thrice.

Four times fifty living men,
(And I heard nor sigh nor groan)
With heavy thump, a lifeless lump,
They dropped down one by one.

The many men, so beautiful!
And they all dead did lie:
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on; and so did I.

I looked to Heaven, and tried to pray:
And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea.

Oh 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,
That slid into my soul.

Beneath the lightning and the Moon
The dead men gave a groan.
Their lifeless limbs 'gan work the ropes,
We were a ghastly crew.

I heard and in my soul discerned
Two VOICES in the air.
Quoth one, "The man hath penance done,
And penance more will do."

Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship,
Yet she sailed softly too:
Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze -
On me alone it blew.

Oh! dream of joy! is this indeed
The light-house top I see?
Is this the hill? is this the kirk?
Is this mine own countree!

Each corse lay flat, lifeless and flat,
And, by the holy rood!
A man all light, a seraph-man,
On every corse there stood.


Illustration by Gustave Doré for an 1876 edition


But soon I heard the dash of oars;
I heard the Pilot's cheer;
My head was turned perforce away,
And I saw a boat appear.

And now, all in my own countree,
I stood on the firm land!
The Hermit stepped forth from the boat,
And scarcely he could stand.

"O shrieve me, shrieve me, holy man!"
The Hermit crossed his brow.
"Say quick," quoth he, "I bid thee say -
What manner of man art thou?"

Since then I pass from land to land,
Till the agony returns,
And till my ghastly tale is told,
This heart within me burns.

Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.

And now the Mariner is gone,
The Wedding-Guest forlorn,
A sadder and a wiser man,
He rose the morrow morn



Illustration by Gustave Doré for an 1876 edition






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