This version only works for IE5 - apologies.

• There are lots of popups (and more to come). To scroll the document without disturbing them, use your ARROW KEYS.
• You may need to change zoom-level for correct alignment (and refresh screen if using a Mac).

THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER

BY SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE

This version  created by Bob Hughes, January 2001.

PART THE FIRST.
An ancient Mariner meeteth three Gallants bidden to a wedding-feast, and detaineth one.

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."
The Wedding-Guest is spellbound by the eye of the old seafaring man, and constrained to hear his tale.

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 chuse 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 light-house top.
The Mariner tells how the ship sailed southward with a good wind and fair weather, till it reached the line.

The Sun came up upon the left,
Out of the sea came he!
And he shone bright, and on the right
Went down into the sea.

Higher and higher every day,
Till over the mast at noon--
The Wedding-Guest here beat his breast,
For he heard the loud bassoon .
The Wedding-Guest heareth the bridal music; but the Mariner continueth his tale.

The bride hath paced into the hall,
Red as a rose is she;
Nodding their heads before her goes
The merry minstrelsy.

The Wedding-Guest he beat his breast,
Yet he cannot chuse but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.
The ship driven by a storm toward the south pole.

And now the STORM-BLAST came, and he
Was tyrannous and strong:
He struck with his o'ertaking wings ,
And chased us south along.

With sloping masts and dipping prow,
As who pursued with yell and blow
Still treads the shadow of his foe
And forward bends his head,
The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,
And southward aye we fled.

And now there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold:
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.
The land of ice, and of fearful sounds where no living thing was to be seen.

And through the drifts the snowy clifts
Did send a dismal sheen:
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken--
The ice was all between.

The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It  cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!
Till a great sea-bird, called the Albatross, came through the snow-fog, and was received with great joy and hospitality.

At length did cross an Albatross:
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God's name.

It ate the food it ne'er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
The helmsman steered us through!
And lo! the Albatross proveth a bird of good omen, and followeth the ship as it returned northward through fog and floating ice.

And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariners' hollo!

In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
It perched for vespers nine;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
Glimmered the white Moon-shine.
The ancient Mariner inhospitably killeth the pious bird of good omen.

"God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus!--
Why look'st thou so?"--With my cross-bow
I shot the ALBATROSS.
Coleridge composed these "marginal glosses" in 1815-16, while living in Church Street, Calne, Wiltshire - in a cottage rented by his friends the Morgans (Bristol wine-shippers).

They first appeared in the 1817 version, in "Sibylline Leaves".

Wordsworth thought them "a gratuitous after-thought" but others disagree. Lowes points out (in "The Road to Xanadu" (1928) p. 324) that glosses were a major feature of the travel books from which Coleridge drew his inspiration.

The Ancient Mariner first appeared in 1798, in "Lyrical Ballads", a collaboration between Coleridge and Wordsworth which they published anonymously ... they feared their reputations as "dangerous democrats" would prejudice the poems if they published them under their own names ... via Joseph Cottle - the Bristol Unitarian and radical, and lifelong supporter of Coleridge.

Coleridge revised it over many years. The present text is pretty much the one Coleridge published (under his own name) in 1817, in "Sybilline Leaves".

Coleridge condensed this passage into one stanza in 1817 from two more flippant or burlesque ones in the
1798 version.
But still he holds the wedding guest--
     There was a ship, quoth he--
'Nay, if thou'st got a laughsome tale,
     'Marinere, come with me.'

He holds him with his skinny hand--
     Quoth he, there was a Ship--
Now get thee hence thou greybeard Loon!
     Or my Staff shall make thee skip.
            
This stanza is charged with tantalizing hints of the reading, thinking and observation that preceded it.

It is known that Coleridge had been devouring the late-mediaeval "Romaunt of the Rose", Spenser's "Faerie Queene", and much of Chaucer.
The 1798 version has just two quite bland, standard-length stanzas here:
Listen, Stranger! Storm and Wind,
     A Wind and Tempest strong!
For days and weeks it play'd us freaks--
     Like chaff we drove along.

Listen, Stranger! Mist and Snow,
     And it grew wondrous cauld;
And Ice Mast-high came floating by
     As green as Emerauld.
The descriptions of the ice seem uncannily accurate, considering that Coleridge had never seen sea-ice when he wrote this. John Livingston Lowes discovered that almost every word can be traced to the exhaustive study Coleridge made of original accounts of polar exploration. These included "Purchas His Pilgrimage" (the major compilation of explorer's tales, including those of Magellan, Hawkins and Barents - 1616. His friend Robert Southey owned a copy); and two of Wordsworth's books: Shelvocke's "Voyage round the World by way of the Great South Sea" (which contains the seminal Albatross incident) and a 1694 book containing accounts of the Arctic by Frederick Martens of Hamburg, and the English explorers Sir John Narborough and Captain Wood.
The Albatross came from Shelvocke's "Voyage round the World...", via Wordsworth, who had been reading it "a day or two before" (as he told Miss Fenwick in 1843). He also suggested that it was protected by "the tutelary spirits of these regions [who] take upon them to avenge the crime". John Livingston Lowes shows that Coleridge was already immersed in the literature of "tutelary spirits" through his reading - which included obscure works by Iamblichus, Proclus, Porphyrius, Julian and Plotinus, and "[Thomas] Taylor the English Pagan". (Road to Xanadu, p. 231 et passim) Richard Holmes ("Coleridge" -1989, p. 139) further believes the image crystallized Coleridge's ideas about the sacredness of "hospitality" (referred to twice in the glosses here).