The use of the supernatural in The Ancient Mariner

Question: Discuss the use of the supernatural in “The Ancient Mariner”.



The interest in the supernatural was an important aspect of the Romantic spirit that appeared in the 18th century. In the poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), supernaturalism occupies a very remarkable position. While writing “Lyrical Ballads”, Wordsworth and Coleridge divided their subject matter. Coleridge was assigned to transform the supernatural into the natural.

The use of the supernatural in The Ancient Mariner

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Use of supernatural in The Ancient Mariner

Before going to discuss the supernatural significance, we need to know about the background of the poem. Coleridge’s friend Cruick saw a skeleton ship in his dream. This phantom ship snatched away the souls of the suffering sailors. Coleridge was told the story by his friend and the poet composed a very wonderful poem which consummates his poetic power as well as career. The poem was begun jointly with Wordsworth who contributed a few lines and suggested the killing of the Albatross. The supernatural significance of the poem is illustrated here.

Supernatural details

The poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is replete with supernatural elements.

The polar spirit

The first supernatural element in the poem is the polar spirit who followed the ship from the land of mist and snow in order to avenge the killing of the Albatross. The polar spirit takes the ship into a silent sea where the ship gets stuck.

“Of the spirit that plagued us so

Nine fathom deep he had followed us

From the land of mist and snow”

The phantom ship

Then comes a skeleton ship with gossamer-like sails. This ship carried Life-in-Death engaged in a gambling contest. This ship moves on the sea without wind or tide and it disappears as it had suddenly appeared.

The manner of the soldiers’ death

The manner of the death of all soldiers except the Ancient Mariner is supernatural. As each man drops down dead, his soul passes by the old sailor like the whizz of a cross-bow. It is a strange mystery that while all other sailor dies, the old sailor lives on.

Relief of the Ancient Mariner

There is something supernatural about the way in which the dead body of the Albatross automatically falls down into the sea from the neck of the Ancient mariner.

The angelic spirits

The moving of the ship upon the sea without wind is supernatural. The coming back to the life of the dead crew is also supernatural. It is a troop of angelic spirits that enter the bodies. It is to be noted that the bodies of the dead crew do not rot – another mysterious element.

Two voices

The two voices talking to each other are supernatural powers. They talk to each other about the long and heavy penance of the old sailor. The angelic spirits leaving the bodies of the dead sailors are nothing but supernatural.

The figure of the ancient mariner

In the end, the sudden sinking of the ship like lead is a supernatural episode. However, the physical stature of the Ancient Mariner is really ghostly since the screams and becomes senseless. The pilot’s boy becomes crazy seeing the old sailor.

‘Ha! ha!’ quoth he, ‘full plain I see,

The Devil knows how to row.’

 And even the hermit gets scared by the appearance of the Ancient Mariner.

The intermingling of the supernatural and natural

Coleridge’s supernaturalism is refined. He tries to create supernatural effects mostly out of the natural. He arranges the natural in such a clever manner as to achieve something supernatural. The art of Coleridge lies in the process of accumulation of the elements to achieve a grand super-sensible result. The poet creates a strange mixture of sensible, super-sensible, and supernatural. Therefore, his supernatural is more convincing than the crude and horrifying stories of other supernatural writers of the 19th century.


The Weird environment has made the poem excellent. Besides, Coleridge’s supernaturalism bears realistic details, advice, credibility, and psychological insight since the poem ends with-

“He prayeth best, who loveth best

All things both great and small;

For the dear God who loveth us,

He made and loveth all.”

Biswazit Kumar
Biswazit Kumar
Articles: 64

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