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The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (in full)  


Matt Phillips
Joined: 11 months ago
Posts: 42
19/04/2020 7:58 am  

I've been thinking what my favourite piece of poetry is in lockdown today and I think it's got to be The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1798), so here it is (in full)...


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.

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 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 choose but hear
And thus spake on that ancient man
The bright-eyed Mariner

And now the storm blast came, and he
Was tyrannous and strong
He struck with his o'ertaking wings
And chased 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

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

At length did cross an Albatross
Through 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 a good south wind sprung up behind
The Albatross did follow
And every day, for food or play
Came to the mariners' hollow

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

"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



The Sun now rose upon the right
Out of the sea came he
Still hid in mist, and on the left
Went down into the sea

And the good south wind still blew behind
But no sweet bird did follow
Nor any day for food or play
Came to the mariners' hollow

And I had done a hellish thing
And it would work 'em woe
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow
Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay
That made the breeze to blow

Nor dim nor red, like God's own head
The glorious sun uprist
Then all averred, I had killed the bird
That brought the fog and mist
'Twas right, said they, such birds to slay
That bring the fog and mist

The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew
The furrow followed free
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea

Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down
'Twas sad as sad could be
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea

All in a hot and copper sky
The bloody sun, at noon
Right up above the mast did stand
No bigger than the moon

Day after day, day after day
We stuck, nor breath nor motion
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean

Water, water, every where
And all the boards did shrink
Water, water, every where
Nor any drop to drink

The very deep did rot, O Christ
That ever this should be
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea

About, about, in reel and rout
The death fires danced at night
The water, like a witch's oils
Burnt green, and blue and white

And some in dreams assured were
Of the spirit that plagued us so
Nine fathom deep he had followed us
From the land of mist and snow

And every tongue, through utter drought
Was withered at the root
We could not speak, no more than if
We had been choked with soot

Ah! well a-day, what evil looks
Had I from old and young
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung



There passed a weary time. Each throat
Was parched, and glazed each eye
A weary time, a weary time
How glazed each weary eye
When looking westward, I beheld
A something in the sky

At first it seemed a little speck
And then it seemed a mist
It moved and moved, and took at last
A certain shape, I wist

A speck, a mist, a shape, I wist!
And still it neared and neared
As if it dodged a water sprite
It plunged and tacked and veered

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked
We could not laugh nor wail
Through utter drought all dumb we stood
I bit my arm, I sucked the blood
And cried, A sail! a sail!

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked
Agape they heard me call
Gramercy! they for joy did grin
And all at once their breath drew in
As they were drinking all

See! see! (I cried) she tacks no more!
Hither to work us weal
Without a breeze, without a tide
She steadies with upright keel

The western wave was all a-flame
The day was well nigh done
Almost upon the western wave
Rested the broad bright sun
When that strange shape drove suddenly
Betwixt us and the sun

And straight the sun was flecked with bars
Heaven's mother send us grace!
As if through a dungeon grate he peered
With broad and burning face

Alas! thought I, and my heart beat loud
How fast she nears and nears
Are those her sails that glance in the sun
Like restless gossameres

Are those her ribs through which the sun
Did peer, as through a grate?
And is that Woman all her crew?
Is that a Death? and are there two?
Is Death that Woman’s mate?

Her lips were red, her looks were free
Her locks were yellow as gold
Her skin was as white as leprosy
The Nightmare Life-in-Death was she
Who thicks man's blood with cold

The naked hulk alongside came
And the twain were casting dice
"The game is done! I've won! I've won!"
Quoth she, and whistles thrice

The sun's rim dips; the stars rush out
At one stride comes the dark
With far-heard whisper, o'er the sea
Off shot the spectre-bark

We listened and looked sideways up
Fear at my heart, as at a cup
My life-blood seemed to sip

The stars were dim, and thick the night
The steersman's face by his lamp gleamed white
From the sails the dew did drip
Till clombe above the eastern bar
The horned moon, with one bright star
Within the nether tip

One after one, by the star-dogged moon
Too quick for groan or sigh
Each turned his face with a ghastly pang
And cursed me with his eye

Four times fifty living men
(And I heard nor sigh nor groan)
With heavy thump, a lifeless lump
They dropped down one by one

The souls did from their bodies fly
They fled to bliss or woe
And every soul, it passed me by
Like the whizz of my cross bow



"I fear thee, ancient Mariner!
I fear thy skinny hand!
And thou art long, and lank, and brown
As is the ribbed sea-sand

"I fear thee and thy glittering eye
And thy skinny hand, so brown."
Fear not, fear not, thou Wedding guest!
This body dropt not down

Alone, alone, all, all alone
Alone on a wide wide sea
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony

The many men, so beautiful
And they all dead did lie
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on; and so did I

I looked upon the rotting sea
And drew my eyes away
I looked upon the rotting deck
And there the dead men lay

I looked to heaven, and tried to pray
But or ever a prayer had gusht
A wicked whisper came, and made
My heart as dry as dust

I closed my lids, and kept them close
And the balls like pulses beat
For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky
Lay like a load on my weary eye
And the dead were at my feet

The cold sweat melted from their limbs
Nor rot nor reek did they
The look with which they looked on me
Had never passed away

An orphan's curse would drag to hell
A spirit from on high
But oh! more horrible than that
Is a curse in a dead man's eye
Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse
And yet I could not die

The moving moon went up the sky
And no where did abide
Softly she was going up
And a star or two beside

Her beams bemocked the sultry main
Like April hoar-frost spread
But where the ship's huge shadow lay
The charmed water burnt alway
A still and awful red

Beyond the shadow of the ship
I watched the water-snakes
They moved in tracks of shining white
And when they reared, the elfish light
Fell off in hoary flakes

Within the shadow of the ship
I watched their rich attire
Blue, glossy green, and velvet black
They coiled and swam; and every track
Was a flash of golden fire

O happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty might declare
A spring of love gushed from my heart
And I blessed them unaware
Sure my kind saint took pity on me
And I blessed them unaware

The self same moment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea



Oh sleep! it is a gentle thing
Beloved from pole to pole
To Mary Queen the praise be given!
She sent the gentle sleep from hHeaven
That slid into my soul

The silly buckets on the deck
That had so long remained
I dreamt that they were filled with dew
And when I awoke, it rained

My lips were wet, my throat was cold
My garments all were dank
Sure I had drunken in my dreams
And still my body drank

I moved, and could not feel my limbs
I was so light, almost
I thought that I had died in sleep
And was a blessed ghost

And soon I heard a roaring wind
It did not come anear
But with its sound it shook the sails
That were so thin and sere

The upper air burst into life!
And a hundred fire-flags sheen
To and fro they were hurried about
And to and fro, and in and out
The wan stars danced between

And the coming wind did roar more loud
And the sails did sigh like sedge
And the rain poured down from one black cloud
The moon was at its edge

The thick black cloud was cleft, and still
The moon was at its side
Like waters shot from some high crag
The lightning fell with never a jag
A river steep and wide

The loud wind never reached the ship
Yet now the ship moved on
Beneath the lightning and the moon
The dead men gave a groan

They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose
Nor spake, nor moved their eyes
It had been strange, even in a dream
To have seen those dead men rise

The helmsman steered, the ship moved on
Yet never a breeze up blew
The mariners all 'gan work the ropes
Where they were wont to do
They raised their limbs like lifeless tools
We were a ghastly crew

The body of my brother's son
Stood by me, knee to knee
The body and I pulled at one rope
But he said nought to me

"I fear thee, ancient Mariner!"
Be calm, thou Wedding guest!
'Twas not those souls that fled in pain
Which to their corses came again
But a troop of spirits blest

For when it dawned, they dropped their arms
And clustered round the mast
Sweet sounds rose slowly through their mouths
And from their bodies passed

Around, around, flew each sweet sound
Then darted to the sun
Slowly the sounds came back again
Now mixed, now one by one

Sometimes a-dropping from the sky
I heard the sky-lark sing
Sometimes all little birds that are
How they seemed to fill the sea and air
With their sweet jargoning

And now 'twas like all instruments
Now like a lonely flute
And now it is an angel's song
That makes the heavens be mute

It ceased; yet still the sails made on
A pleasant noise till noon
A noise like of a hidden brook
In the leafy month of June
That to the sleeping woods all night
Singeth a quiet tune

Till noon we quietly sailed on
Yet never a breeze did breathe
Slowly and smoothly went the ship
Moved onward from beneath

Under the keel nine fathom deep
From the land of mist and snow
The spirit slid: and it was he
That made the ship to go
The sails at noon left off their tune
And the ship stood still also

The sun, right up above the mast
Had fixed her to the ocean
But in a minute she 'gan stir
With a short uneasy motion
Backwards and forwards half her length
With a short uneasy motion

Then like a pawing horse let go
She made a sudden bound
It flung the blood into my head
And I fell down in a swound

How long in that same fit I lay
I have not to declare
But ere my living life returned
I heard and in my soul discerned
Two VOICES in the air

"Is it he?" quoth one, "Is this the man?
By him who died on cross,
With his cruel bow he laid full low,
The harmless Albatross"

"The spirit who bideth by himself
In the land of mist and snow,
He loved the bird that loved the man
Who shot him with his bow"

The other was a softer voice
As soft as honey-dew
Quoth he, "The man hath penance done
And penance more will do"




But tell me, tell me! speak again
Thy soft response renewing
What makes that ship drive on so fast?
What is the OCEAN doing?


Still as a slave before his lord
The OCEAN hath no blast
His great bright eye most silently
Up to the Moon is cast

If he may know which way to go
For she guides him smooth or grim
See, brother, see! how graciously
She looketh down on him


But why drives on that ship so fast
Without or wave or wind?


The air is cut away before
And closes from behind

Fly, brother, fly! more high, more high
Or we shall be belated
For slow and slow that ship will go
When the Mariner's trance is abated

I woke, and we were sailing on
As in a gentle weather
'Twas night calm night, the moon was high
The dead men stood together.

All stood together on the deck
For a charnel-dungeon fitter
All fixed on me their stony eyes
That in the moon did glitter

The pang, the curse, with which they died
Had never passed away
I could not draw my eyes from theirs
Nor turn them up to pray

And now this spell was snapt: once more
I viewed the ocean green
And looked far forth, yet little saw
Of what had else been seen

Like one that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread
And having once turned round walks on
And turns no more his head
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread

But soon there breathed a wind on me
Nor sound nor motion made
Its path was not upon the sea
In ripple or in shade

It raised my hair, it fanned my cheek
Like a meadow, gale of spring
It mingled strangely with my fears
Yet it felt like a welcoming

Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship
Yet she sailed softly too
Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze
On me alone it blew

Oh! dream of joy! is this indeed
The lighthouse top I see?
Is this the hill? is this the kirk?
Is this mine own countree!

We drifted o'er the harbour-bar
And I with sobs did pray
O let me be awake, my God!
Or let me sleep alway

The harbour bay was clear as glass
So smoothly it was strewn
And on the bay the moonlight lay
And the shadow of the moon

The rock shone bright, the kirk no less
That stands above the rock
The moonlight steeped in silentness
The steady weathercock

And the bay was white with silent light
Till rising from the same
Full many shapes, that shadows were
In crimson colours came

A little distance from the prow
Those crimson shadows were
I turned my eyes upon the deck
Oh, Christ! what saw I there!

Each corse lay flat, lifeless and flat
And, by the holy rood!
A man all light, a seraph-man
On every corse there stood

This seraph band, each waved his hand
It was a heavenly sight!
They stood as signals to the land
Each one a lovely light

This seraph-band, each waved his hand
No voice did they impart
No voice; but oh! the silence sank
Like music on my heart

But soon I heard the dash of oars
I heard the Pilot's cheer
My head was turned perforce away
And I saw a boat appear

The Pilot, and the Pilot's boy
I heard them coming fast
Dear Lord in Heaven! it was a joy
The dead men could not blast

I saw a third - I heard his voice:
It is the Hermit good!
He singeth loud his godly hymns
That he makes in the wood
He'll shrieve my soul, he'll wash away
The Albatross's blood



This Hermit good lives in that wood
Which slopes down to the sea
How loudly his sweet voice he rears
He loves to talk with marineres
That come from a far countree

He kneels at morn and noon and eve
He hath a cushion plump
It is the moss that wholly hides
The rotted old oak stump

The skiff-boat neared: I heard them talk
"Why this is strange, I trow!
Where are those lights so many and fair,
That signal made but now?"

"Strange, by my faith!" the Hermit said
And they answered not our cheer
The planks looked warped, and see those sails
How thin they are and sere
I never saw aught like to them
Unless perchance it were

"Brown skeletons of leaves that lag
My forest brook along
When the ivy-tod is heavy with snow
And the owlet whoops to the wolf below
That eats the she-wolf's young"

"Dear Lord! it hath a fiendish look
(The Pilot made reply)
I am a-feared" "Push on, push on!"
Said the Hermit cheerily

The boat came closer to the ship
But I nor spake nor stirred
The boat came close beneath the ship
And straight a sound was heard

Under the water it rumbled on
Still louder and more dread
It reached the ship, it split the bay
The ship went down like lead

Stunned by that loud and dreadful sound
Which sky and ocean smote
Like one that hath been seven days drowned
My body lay afloat
But swift as dreams, myself I found
Within the Pilot's boat

Upon the whirl, where sank the ship
The boat spun round and round
And all was still, save that the hill
Was telling of the sound

I moved my lips - the Pilot shrieked
And fell down in a fit
The holy Hermit raised his eyes
And prayed where he did sit

I took the oars: the Pilot's boy
Who now doth crazy go
Laughed loud and long, and all the while
His eyes went to and fro
"Ha! ha!" quoth he, "full plain I see
The Devil knows how to row"

And now, all in my own countree
I stood on the firm land
The Hermit stepped forth from the boat
And scarcely he could stand

"O shrieve me, shrieve me, holy man!"
The Hermit crossed his brow
"Say quick," quoth he, "I bid thee say
What manner of man art thou?"

Forthwith this frame of mine was wrenched
With a woeful agony
Which forced me to begin my tale
And then it left me free

Since then, at an uncertain hour
That agony returns
And till my ghastly tale is told
This heart within me burns

I pass, like night, from land to land
I have strange power of speech
That moment that his face I see
I know the man that must hear me
To him my tale I teach

What loud uproar bursts from that door
The wedding-guests are there
But in the garden-bower the bride
And bride-maids singing are
And hark the little vesper bell
Which biddeth me to prayer

O Wedding guest! this soul hath been
Alone on a wide wide sea
So lonely 'twas, that God himself
Scarce seemed there to be

O sweeter than the marriage feast
'Tis sweeter far to me
To walk together to the kirk
With a goodly company!

To walk together to the kirk
And all together pray
While each to his great Father bends
Old men, and babes, and loving friends
And youths and maidens gay

Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
To thee, thou Wedding guest!
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast

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 Mariner, whose eye is bright
Whose beard with age is hoar
Is gone: and now the Wedding guest
Turned from the bridegroom's door

He went like one that hath been stunned
And is of sense forlorn
A sadder and a wiser man
He rose the morrow morn


Samuel Taylor Coleridge - More at the Poetry Foundation

This topic was modified 3 months ago by Matt Phillips

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