The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Plate 6: The Ice was All Around by Gustave Doré (1870)
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a poem that Coleridge wrote in 1797 and published in 1798 in the first edition of the Lyrical Ballads. Its revised version was printed in 1817 and features da gloss. The poem is divided in seven parts and relates the experience of an old mariner during a sea voyage. The mariner stops a wedding-guest and begins to narrate his story.
Coleridge believed that symbolic language was the only way of expressing deep truths . The image of the Sun could represent God. In the poem, Coleridge compares the sun to “God’s own head” (Mariner, 97) and, later, attributes the first phase of the mariner’s punishment to the sun, as it dehydrates the crew. Therefore, the sun could signify the Christian conception of a wrathful, vengeful God. It stands in for God’s influence and power, as well as a symbol of his authority. On the other hand, the moon could represent the other face of God. It has more positive connotation than the sun. The sun and the moon represents two sides of the Christina God: the sun represents the angry, wrathful God, whereas the moon represents the benevolent, repentant God. The evil and disaster in the poem occur under the light of the sun, and the different phases of the redemption occur under the light of the moon. The moon and the stars express order and joy, and the word joy expresses the fullest and richest happiness in experience.
One of the theme of the poem is Sin and Redemption. After the Mariner commits the sin of shooting the Albatross, punishment begins to manifest in all kinds of supernatural forms. The Albatross could be a symbol of nature , and therefore, after his killing, Nature itself begins to punish the Mariner. However, when he praises the water snakes, he becomes aware of the beauty and importance of nature. At this point, as he repents for his wrong doing, the bird that had previously been hanged at his neck, falls down into the water.