For its verse, imagery, and themes, I continually return to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1798 long poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
First, Coleridge uses his verse to draw the reader into the poem’s narrative. The meter and form, though not completely consistent, have a constant feeling of forward motion. Coleridge maintains this impression through his use of short stanzas, mostly quatrains, and his archaic language coupled with rhythm that is not complex, and it is therefore easy enough to follow despite the difficult words. For example, “The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone: / He cannot choose but hear; / And thus spake on that ancient man, / The bright-eyed Mariner” (lines 17 – 20). Each stanza takes you to the next with a plodding steadiness.
Second, The Ancient Mariner’s imagery intrigues and grabs the reader’s imagination. From line 1 to line 625, each new stanza holds a fresh and exciting word-picture. For example, the reader can feel the despair of the dying sailors in the words, “Water, water, every where, / And all the boards did shrink, / Water, water, every where / Nor any drop to drink” (lines 119 – 122). The reader can grasp the extent of the Mariner’s guilt when he cries, “Every soul it passed me by, / Like the whiz of my cross-bow” (lines 222 – 223).
Third, Coleridge’s theme in The Ancient Mariner gives meaning to this epic poem. Although Coleridge probably pulled information for The Ancient Mariner from stale accounts without any intentioned meaning of the eternal sort, he infused his own tale with a lesson. That lesson is that men should love all of creation. Coleridge says, “He prayeth well, who loveth well / Both man and bird and beast” (lines 612 -613). That is a theme directly in line with worldly Romantic ideals, yet it is an applicable Christian theme as well. God gave us a wonderful world to live in, and we should appreciate and love it, all of it.
So Coleridge continually captures my attention and enjoyment in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner through his excellent employment of verse, imagery, and theme.