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It Has Been Suggested That The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner May Be Read As A Religious Text, Presenting �Nothing Less Than The Fall Of Man’.

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It has been suggested that The Rime of the Ancient Mariner may be read as a religious text, presenting �nothing less than the fall of man’.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner has been interpreted in a variety of ways since it’s creation in 1797. Some, such as Gavin McGann, argue that ballad is a story of our salvation of Christ, whereas others dispute this, believing it to be a metaphor for Original Sin in the Garden of Eden. Whilst these interpretations may differ, the view that The Rime may be read as a religious text does not. Religion lies at the heart of the poem, focusing on the trials and tribulations of man, depicting a moving spiritual journey of sin, punishment, repentance and eventual redemption.

In murdering the albatross the Mariner commits a terrible sin. The bird brought with it Southerly winds to lead the straying ship out of the Antarctic, after it had been driven off course by a storm. Flying alongside the ship, the albatross held only the good intention of helping the ship finds its way back on track. The mariner’s sin is fundamentally unpremeditated and unfounded, and in committing a crime against nature, he is essentially committing a crime against God, the creator of all nature and life. The punishment which the Mariner must face following the motiveless shooting of the albatross is not unjustified.

The crime arouses the wrath of supernatural spirits who then pursue the ship “from the land of mist and snow”; the Southerly wind which had initially led them from the land if ice now sends the ship into uncharted waters, where it is becalmed.

“Day after day, day after day,

We stuck, nor breath nor motion;

As idle as a painted ship

Upon a painted ocean.”

The crewmembers play a vital role in the sin of the mariner. With their remarks the crewmembers form the first foundation of their sin. Jesus states “Judge not lest ye be judged” (Matthew 7:1) so by judging the Mariner, the crew submit themselves to the judgment of heaven, setting themselves up, much like the Mariner, for a punishment. The second sin of the crewmembers comes when they condone the murder of the albatross, revealing, as the weather becomes warmer and the mist disappears, how they believe it “twas right, said they, such birds to slay/that bring the fog and mist”. In noticing that the murder of the albatross bears no immediate effects on the weather, they condone the Mariner’s actions, and consequently make themselves collaborators in the crime. Subsequently, changes immediately occur as “Down dropped the breeze, the sails dropped down” and so the crew contradict themselves again, and start to rebuke the Mariner as they begin to suffer from thirst due to their inability to sail and diminishing supplies. By acting the way they do, the crew and the Mariner isolate themselves from nature and thereby, from God since nature is the work of God.

The ship then receives it’s punishment for the sins it had committed, encountering a ghostly vessel upon which Death and the Nightmare Life-in-Death are on board, playing dice for the souls of the crew. As Death wins the lives of the crew, they all die on board the ship, but the Mariner lives on, as Life-in-Death won his life, a prize she considers more valuable, and a punishment much worse than death, as he lives on for seven days and nights seeing the curse in the eye’s of the crew’s corpses, whose last expressions remain upon their faces.

The Mariner manages to lift this curse through redemption, upon witnessing sea snakes in the water and seeing through their “slimy” exteriors, discovering their true beauty. He explains how “a spring of love gush’d from my heart and I bless’d them unaware”. The albatross which had been hung around his neck in place of his crucifix, highlighting the removal of the Holy Spirit within him, falls off and his guilt is partially expiated. This recovery of love and of the power to pray represents the first step towards redemption, with the falling of the albatross “like lead into the sea” symbolizing the return of Christ to the Mariner. The second redemption of the Mariner comes when the crewmembers reappear, symbolizing relief from the curse.

The hermit and the wedding guest are both important figures in the redemption of the Mariner. The hermit represents a priest of God and the wedding guest a catalyst into which the Mariner confides. The hermit however represents not only a priest of God, but also a priest of society, and it is he who accepts the Mariner back into society upon shrieving him. The wedding guest plays an equally vital role in the poem, acting as a way of confession for the Mariner. Whilst at first the wedding guest fears the Mariner, however upon hearing that “Twas not those souls that fled in pain”, he becomes drawn in to the tale, unable to remove himself, the most likely reason being that whenever the Mariner comes into contact with somebody to whom he could tell his story to, both he and



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