The New Student's Reference Work/Ancient Mariner, The

An'cient Mar'iner, The, a romantic poem written by Samuel T. Coleridge in 1797, first appeared in the famous volume of Lyrical Ballads, by Wordsworth and Coleridge which appeared in 1798. Wordsworth appears to have suggested some of the incidents of the story, for instance, the suggestion of a spectral persecution for a crime and the incident of the albatross. But the imagination and melodious beauty of the poem belong to Coleridge alone. The story is of an ancient mariner, who holds one of three wedding guests by the weird influence of his story and the glitter of his eye. He tells of a voyage to the South Seas, of heat and fog and mist, of the slaying of the bird that was thought to have caused it and of the punishment of the crew who perished and himself who lived in the clutches of the "Nightmare life-in-death." The rime concludes with the moral:

          "He prayeth best who loveth best
          All things both great and small;
          For the dear God who loveth us,
          He made and loveth all."

The ancient mariner had indeed broken the spell of evil about him, at least in part, by the love that gushed out of his breast towards the beauteous water-snakes that were playing about his stricken ship. Yet it is better to regard this poem as a perfect work of imagination than a too severe parable.