The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is an Allegory

Question: Discuss that The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is an allegory of crime, punishment, and redemption. 


“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is the most amazing work of S T Coleridge (1772-1834). The poem is about a crime committed by a Mariner and the punishment he had to endure after committing a crime. In the point of fact, the poem is a metaphorical form of crime, punishment, and redemption or salvation.


On a deeper level, the Mariner voyage is a spiritual voyage as well as a great sea voyage from a surface point of view. The profound nature of his experience is a force that led him to share his story, long after it had happened. The first voyage was with two hundred mates and so cheerful-

“The ship was cheered, the harbor cleared,

Merrily did we drop,

Below the kirk, below the hill,

Below the light-house top.”

At a moment, they welcomed an Albatross bird as a good omen. But the Mariner’s crime was that he killed the bird, for no other reason than that he could and chose to exercise his selfish will. The symbolism of the bird can be interpreted in many ways. It lived as a part of God’s natural world and had served as a loyal guide and good omen for the sailors. The ship’s crew had “hailed it in God’s name” according to the old Mariner as if it had been a Christian soul.


Although the Mariner’s crew at first condemns him for killing the bird, they soon approve of his actions, and the Mariner’s punishment for slaying the Albatross falls then not only on himself but also on them. The crew said that the Mariner killed the bird and it brought fog and mist. They hung the dead bird around the Mariner’s neck as his punishment-

“Ah! Well a-day! What evil looks

Had I from old and young!

Instead of the cross, the Albatross

About my neck was hung.”

Much of the poem is subsequently devoted to detailing the terrible and supernatural or deals with experience by the men until the Mariner left to suffer alone, filled with bitterness and hatred. The punishment is started by the appearance of the phantom ship which took the lives of the sailors without the old Mariner. Then, the Mariner one and only was the living on the sea. The climax of his suffering is reached when for seven days and seven nights, he tried to pray, but could not break the sailors’ curse and does not die. After that, the soul’s regeneration started. Now, the Mariner is able to sleep and when he wakes up it is raining-

“She sent the gentle sleep from Heaven,

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.”

Salvation or redemption

The Mariner’s redemption occurs only when his heart changes. Alone under the moon and a few stars, only then does he truly observe the beauty of the natural world around him, and when he does, “A spring of love gushed from his heart.” By the flow of time, one day the Mariner saw some colorful snakes in the water. They were rich in color with brilliant green and black color. When they were moving, it produced tracks in the water which were looking flashes of golden light in the moonlight. His heart filled with joy to see the beauty of those small creatures and he blessed them unconsciously. As he blessed, the dead Albatross automatically fell down from his neck and he was relieved from his curse. The poem continues long to complete the Mariner’s physical and spiritual journeys so that he can learn the lesson. At the conclusion of the poem, he heaves the wedding guest with these words-

“He prayeth best, who loveth best

All things both great and small;

For the dear God, who loveth us,

He made and loveth all.”


Thus, the story of the ancient Mariner is a story of spiritual adventure, a story of crime, punishment, and reconciliation, a tale of sin, expiation, and redemption, a message revealing the secret of communal and family harmony and the harmony of the natural order of the universe- all in one. So, it is transparent neatly that The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is an allegory of crime punishment and redemption.

Click here: For more notes of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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