“Rime of the Ancient Mariner”- By S.T.Coleridge

Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,
‘Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea!

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.

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.

About, about, in reel and rout
The death-fires danced at night;
The water, like a witch’s oils,
Burnt green, and blue and white.

And some in dreams assurèd were
Of the Spirit that plagued us so;
Nine fathom deep he had followed us
From the land of mist and snow.

And every tongue, through utter drought,
Was withered at the root;
We could not speak, no more than if
We had been choked with soot.

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

The nine stanzas are from the longer poem of Coleridge and are widely known for their imagery- a collection of some of the finest images used in Romantic poetry. The ship entered a silent sea after a spell of a fine wind .The mariner killed the albatross that brought the good fortune of the wind and has now to wear the dead albatross around his neck as if it is the cross. The wind no longer carries the sail.

The deathly silence of the sea is beautifully captured in the four lines:

Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,
‘Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea!

The silence of the sea is conveyed by the preponderance of monosyllables (except the word “silence” itself which is di-syllabic).

“Down dropt the breeze,the sails dropped down” is almost onamatopaeic, a repeated “d” sound that forebodes a deathly silence. The silence is accentuated by the repetition of the soft “s” sound:

’twas sad as sad could be
and we did speak only to break
the silence of the sea

The sky is equally hostile ,with a bloody sun just above the ship’s mast:

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.

“Hot and copper” sky with a bloody sun is an evocative image. Hot and copper are adjectives reinforcing each other.Copper is copper in color, a visual image and at the same time ,has the property of hotness, implying a tactile image. A bloody sun makes the sky copper -red and copper-hot.

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

“As idle as a painted ship/upon a painted ocean” is an image in which nature is made to imitate art. A ship in a painting is good art as still life but not in life without breath or motion.

These classic lines are a fine piece of music, evoking a passage of time that has alarmingly shrunk the drinking water supply on board.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

The deepest irony is felt in the scarcity of water surrounded by vast quantities of it not suitable for quenching human thirst.

“water water everywhere : in the first line suggests the depleting water supply in the boards in the midst of plenty of sea water.With no wind in the sails time is running out and no water replenishment is available.

The repeat “water water everywhere” in the third line elaborates on the first line pinpointing water’s unavailability for quenching human thirst.The lines have exquisite lyrical beauty.

The very deep did rot:O Christ
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.

The sea is rotting deep below with slimy creatures crawling upon the sea.(devils representing the evil forces) .”O Christ” is an invocation to the Son of God who alone can deliver the mariners from the rotting sea that has a spirit six fathoms below controlling the slimy creatures. The spirit has been following the ship since the albatross had been killed by the mariner.

The albatross is a bird of good omen that brings good luck to a sailing ship . It had followed the ship with a fine breeze that carried its sails. The mariner shot it dead from his cross bow bringing a curse on the ship. Hence the calamity that has overtaken the ship.His mates have held him solely responsible for the curse and punished him by hanging the dead albatross around his neck as if it were the cross. The albatross has come to mean a psychological burden that one bears as a penance for a curse.

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