The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: Summary & Analysis

An Introduction to the Poem

There are numerous stories of adventure written in the literary world, almost all of them featuring a courageous hero who fights and overcomes all odds in his way. But what is it really like to face the perils and misfortunes that befall these reckless men who undertake such bold adventures? This is what Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ has to offer.

As a poem it’s quite exciting but quite old, a bit long, and a little odd at times. Which begs the question you might already be asking yourself: why in the world should we read it? So, let’s answer it at the very outset: we should consider it because, put it simply, it’s a poem that completely changed the art of Poetry and English Literature in general. As for the oddities of the work, worry not! Englicist is here to clear things up.

Flashback/ The Background:

It’s late 1790s, and England, that pinnacle of western power, is undergoing a massive change and overturn in its social, economic and political spheres of life. The Industrial revolution is upon us. By this time people are already familiar with Shakespeare and Marlowe’s plays and Milton and Spencer’s poems. The primary form of poetry, however, is still the long Epic poems. But that’s all going to change. People want stories that are more relatable, and not just about royalty and noblemen but about the common people.

Enter Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, two friends and master poets who set about writing a small anthology of poems that was to change the way we look at poetry. These two poets laid the foundation stone of what was to become the greatest and most famous literary movements of all, that is ‘Romanticism.’ Coleridge and Wordsworth published their anthology ‘Lyrical Ballads’ in 1798 and it flew right off the shelves. It was a sensation. ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is the first poem in this anthology. We can say it is a kind of improvement from the epics as regards the length and subject matter, but the poem is still wordy and the language used is old compared even to Coleridge’s times. And that was to be because the story is, after all, narrated by an ‘ancient’ mariner.