The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Updated: Nov 6, 2019

I am releasing this poem on Halloween, because it is indeed a horror story. In fact, it was so terrifying that when the young Mary Shelley first heard a reading of it, she hid behind a chair. Today, this poem may not terrify us in the way that it did people at the time, but I will be making two big arguments as to why you should challenge yourself to read poems like this even if you at first do not like them.

Coleridge's Mariner may be one of the most influential poems of the British romantics. Not only is there a popular Iron Maiden song but much gothic literature of the 19th century, from Frankenstein and Dracula to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The House of the Seven Gables and the Fall of Usher was inspired by this poem. In fact, Coleridge's Mariner brings a major new strain of literary experience onto the scene. 

In this episode I will give you the arguments to read poems you don't like, provide a summary of the poem, read a special version of the poem, give you the origin story of the poem, some ways to understand the poem as well as a breakdown of its ideology and the influence it held.

So yes, this is a big episode, prepare yourselves!

"Listen, Stranger! Storm and WInd, A Wind and Tempest strong! For days and weeks it play'd us freaks-- Like Chaff we drove along."

Do not be chaff driven along by a tempest. Understand this poem by listening to this episode.

Ian McKellen reads "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:"



It is an ancient Mariner,

And he stoppeth one of three.

'By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,

Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?

The Bridegroom's doors are opened wide,

And I am next of kin;

The guests are met, the feast is set:

May'st hear the merry din.'

He holds him with his skinny hand,

'There was a ship,' quoth he.

'Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!'

Eftsoons his hand dropt he.

He holds him with his glittering eye—

The Wedding-Guest stood still,

And listens like a three years' child:

The Mariner hath his will.

The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:

He cannot choose but hear;

And thus spake on that ancient man,

The bright-eyed Mariner.

'The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared,

Merrily did we drop

Below the kirk, below the hill,

Below the lighthouse top.