The poem ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ Essay
The poem ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’
The aim of this essay is to show how Samuel Taylor Coleridge made his imagery and phrases in the poem ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ vivid. At the end I will list them and conclude why I thought it was good.
To me, ‘skinny hand’ gives a clear bold image in my head of someone that is malnourished and doesn’t eat as much as they need to. You can build on this and create a picture of their whole body; bones stretching their skin creating almost a ghostly image. It makes me shudder thinking of this and to meet them would give me an experience of the living dead. Of course they may be ill, weak and be on their last legs, their skin could be wrinkled and tough. Overall these two words bring together a scary, weird character.
When you are old you lose the pigment in your hair and sometimes your mind can go slightly strange and take hold of you. ‘Grey-beard loon’ clearly portrays this to me. Not shaving is a good reference to his sea days, as on the wide open water it is hard to do. As he is not used to shaving that is why he has a beard. Beards can also be the sign of someone who has great wisdom and knowledge.
The old man took hold of the younger man’s hand while he spoke, suggesting that he perhaps was a lonely figure. When the man responded angrily saying, ‘Hold off! Unhand me,’ you can also imagine his face expressing these words. The man quickly took away his hand showing his obedience, and was perhaps deeply threatened by the tone of his voice. The poet uses very old-fashioned English to once again emphasise the age of the man, refreshing it again and again in your memory so you will not forget it.
‘The ship was cheered’ creates a seen of people waving their handkerchiefs like when the Titanic set sail. I can picture smiling happy faces of all ages, little children being held up by their mothers and fathers to see, making the voyage seem more important and to have a mission. The next part of the line is ‘the harbour cleared;’ added onto the first part creates an internal rhyme. To me this makes it more vivid because it flows and I feel it builds up the creation of a larger picture.
The repetition in the next two lines symbolises the ship gradually disappearing over the horizon slowly dropping a bit at a time. ‘Below the kirk, below the hill, below the lighthouse top.’ The different heights of landforms and objects disappeared from the crew’s view from the lowest to highest. The lines can also be taken that people were situated near the different places and the ship went out of their view one by one. I like this versatility because being everywhere is not humanly possible, but it is in the mind.
If something natural is referred to as a person it is easier for us to imagine it. This is why personification makes something more vivid. Blast is a really powerful bold word, which stands out clear and strong in a line, you think of a blast as a short burst but it destroys just as much as a longer storm. Creating a real fiery image. Saying it is tyrannous and strong shows it holds no fear and is massive, whilst placing no negative thoughts to the reader it outlines its greatness even more.
Once again repetition is used to make the scene vivid slowly building it up and adding steadily bit by bit. This is a very successful technique of making the image stand out to us, and it works well in contrast in phrases like ‘Storm-blast.’ ‘ It cracked and growled, and roared and howled’ is a great use of onomatopoeia; it turns it into a sort of monster, which is again easier for us to relate to. The four different noises make it seem like it is pack rather than just one. The sounds can cut through each other hammering and hammering. Also you can’t get used to one sound so it seems to be louder and stronger rather than if there was just one.
‘With throats unslaked and black lips baked,’ gives a good impression of the state of their face, the horror of the next line then sums it up ‘we could nor laugh nor wail.’ To not be able to cry out in pain must mean you are in a horrible state. Using black lips shows they are already burnt, scabby and chapped, so from this one word the extent of pain can be enlarged and made more predominant. Baked is usually a term for when you have cooked something and is a ‘hot’ word, having that done to you must be excruciatingly painful. Having a parched dry throat crying out for water also creates the same effect as black lips baked.
‘Hot and copper sky’ is referring to two senses rather than one so it will be bolder to imagine because it uses more of the mind up. Hot is a bold world and copper is a nice colour that glints and shines which stands out but is soft at the same time. These two together create a nice picture.
He refers to the sun as bloody, developing the idea it is evil and bad. When you give something a character, a reference of how it behaves or what is like it brings it to life like a person, which is more easily understandable for us.
‘No bigger than the Moon’ shows that although its size is not big it is still extremely powerful and that even though it is millions of miles away the damage it can cause is extreme. This is emphasising and repeating, like in previous imagery phrases in this poem.
‘As idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean.’ This allows your mind to run free but with certain boundaries, there is a single ship and it is on the ocean, everything is focused on it and it stands right out. When there is only one thing of interest in a picture it seems very powerful although it is alone. Paintings generally have bright colours, they can be abstract, these and other things can come into your mind and make a vivid picture. He is combining different strategies to make the poem more interesting and thrilling, so the reader will enjoy it more.
Another use of repetition in the poem is ‘Water, water, every where’ this is like the ice repetition in part 1, the fact they are in the middle of the ocean means that is all they can see but still he reinforces it in your mind. The desperation of the situation seems even worse when it says ‘Nor any drop to drink,’ and the imagery is clearly shown of these poor men suffering. The word water to the crew must be like devil or something, so horrible even to be uttered.
‘The water like a witch’s oils, burnt green, and blue and white.’ Colours are good to use in imagery because something strange inside us makes us really like them as they seem to brighten even the dullest things up. Using a simile is always helpful because it often gives a good comparison, this one however leaves something to your imagination. The sea doesn’t burn as it is a liquid but the shapes it makes can quite often look like flames of a fire. The waves must be crashing to get the white foam and so that also tells you a little bit about the weather conditions and state of the atmosphere.
The use of personification brings the thing being described to life as if it breathes, and has a mind of its own. ‘The Sun’s rim dips; the stars rush out: at one stride comes the dark.’ It personifies only the night, this is a good contrast because when we were little children we all thought the dark was a big, scary, monster, but in this it doesn’t. It makes it powerful but yet gentle; this I feel is an effective contrast to use once in a while.
‘With far-heard whisper o’er the sea,’ is backing up the point made in the last line. The use of o’er is good rather than over because it flows and is easier to picture because of this.
‘Her locks were yellow as gold: her skin was white as leprosy,’ this is a fantastic contrast. It not only gives a picture of the colour but the shade of it as well. The colours are quite contrasting and so the image depicted seems more vivid. From the colours you can almost discover her personality. She might be good, pretty and clever because in my image her hair shines and is warming as it flows out of her intelligent head. She could be well brought up and taught not to go out into the sun and this is why she doesn’t have a tan. On the other hand, she could be ill, and pale, it doesn’t reveal this from this phrase alone.
The fact there is a looming black cloud and it is night presents an eerie atmosphere as though something bad is going to happen. By saying the moon is still at its side reflects it has been going on for some time, the poet makes it seem as though they are a pair once together, could cause destruction. It is a sort of use of personification.
‘Like waters shot from some high crag, the lightning fell with never a jag, a river steep and wide.’ The lightning is striking strangely in a straight line like a rush of water plunging down creating a mini waterfall that turns into a great river. It starts small and ends big like the lightning strike causing destruction. The scene it creates is one of a great storm of supreme atrocity, terror and fear. The strike of lightning creates a great image, from the vivid blue colour it produces. The words he uses, and the rhyme of crag and jag add to the scene and I think they were the right choice.
In conclusion Samuel Taylor Coleridge used many different ways of making his imagery and phrases vivid; repetition, similes and metaphors, personification, contrast, use of old and interesting language. He used them all in a good balance to keep the reader enthralled and occupied to the very end.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 27 September 2017