Terminology and Concepts

Terminology and Concepts

The Sublime– There are many images that show how vast and powerful nature can be. These images show how small and powerless the men on the ship are as they are at the mercy of nature. The first Sublime description of nature is of the ice-burgs, ‘mast high’ and ‘green as emerald’. Then the albatross arrives and in a sea bird the sailors see a ‘Christian soul’ and are given hope.

The sea itself is a sublime image in the poem as Coleridge uses the limitless ocean (‘water water everywhere’ and ‘alone, alone, all, all alone/ Alone on a wide, wide sea’) to explore themes of eternity, religion, death and life.

Terror- When Edmund Burke came up with his ideas about the sublime, he said that things that were sublime were things that created a feeling of terror, or of incredibly intense emotion. The way the mariner has a spiritual epiphany and experiences terrible horrors and loneliness are all a part of the sublime qualities of the poem and his experience.

Life and Death– When Death and Life-in-Death appear embodied on a ghostly ship they are playing dice. Life-in- Death wins the game. After that the mariners shipmates’ souls fly up but they are soon re-animated to drive the ship. Thus they are living death. The Mariner himself is cursed whilst on the ship by their dead eyes, he cannot die himself and the torment is worse than death. Despite being allowed to live he is still paying the price for killing the innocent albatross.

The game shows the lack of order in the world, that life and death are simply down to chance and that the supernatural events that follow may be morally linked to the death of the bird, but are in part the result of a game of dice.

Religion- Traditionally the poem is interpreted as a Christian parable telling the reader, by speaking to the wedding guest, that all God’s creatures should be loved and valued and so the Mariner is punished for killing one of God’s creatures. He can only find God again, having been so alone, when he blesses the disgusting, slimy snakes. The absence of God in the mariner’s life at sea causes his deep loneliness and once he prays he can return home happily.

However the poem’s ending is sometimes regarded as incongruous from the rest of the poem as there is a pantheistic message to the poem. For the Romantics the idea that God or a deity of some kind could be found in every part of nature was very appealing as it tied in with the notion of the Sublime. In this poem the sun, moon, albatross and slimy snakes all have a role in the fate of the men and have a supernatural power within the story.