The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Ancient Mariner, The

ANCIENT MARINER, The. The best known of the poems of S. T. Coleridge. It should be read, as it was doubtless written, as a poem of strange, romantic adventure full of the swing and charm of the old ballads. The story with its incidents and its pictures, the language with its phrases and figures, the poetic movement both in single lines and in stanzas, — all these are of the best of their kind and may give keen poetic pleasure. The poem, besides these things, is informed with a fine thought particularly expressed in the last words of the old sailor, which should not be neglected. The poem, however, is also somewhat of a landmark in English literature and has significance in literary history. Coleridge was a leader in that movement at the beginning of the 19th century which gave to English poetry once more the charm of mystery, wonder, adventure and romantic beauty. He has himself told us (‘Biographia Literaria’ Chap. 14) of the plan of ‘Lyrical Ballads’ by Wordsworth and himself. The two friends talked over their literary hopes and their poetic ideals and decided to publish their poems together. Wordsworth's part was to show how much poetic beauty there was in the simple life of every day; Coleridge was to “deal with strange supernatural subjects,” so as really to arouse emotion and feeling. ‘The Ancient Mariner’ was the chief of Coleridge's few contributions and has always stood, if not exactly for the qualities which the author ascribes to it, for the essentially romantic in poetry.