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story was Mr. Coleridge's invention; but certain parts I myself suggested : for example, some crime was to be committed which should bring upon the Old Navigator, as Coleridge afterwards delighted to call him, the spectral persecution, as a consequence of that crime, and his own wanderings. I had been reading in Shelvock's Voyages, a day or two before, that, while doubling Cape Horn, they frequently saw albatrosses in that latitude, the largest sort of sea-fowl, some extending their wings twelve or thirteen (fifteen, Knight) feet: Suppose,” said I, “ you represent him as having killed one of these birds on entering the South Sea, and that the tutelary spirits of these regions take upon them to revenge the crime.” The incident was thought fit for the purpose, and adopted accordingly. I also suggested the navigation of the ship by the dead men, but do not recollect that I had anything more to do with the scheme of the poem. The gloss with which it was subsequently accompanied was not thought of by either of us at the time, at least not a hint of it was given to me, and I have no doubt it was a gratuitous after-thought. We began the composition together, on that to me memorable evening. I furnished two or three lines at the beginning of the poem, in particular:
* And listen'd like a three years' child;
These trifling contributions all but one, which Mr. C. has with unnecessary scrupulosity recorded, slipped out of his mind, as they well might. As we endeavoured to proceed conjointly (I speak of the same evening), our respective manners proved so widely different, that it would have been quite presumptuous in me to do anything but separate from an undertaking upon which I could only have been a clog. We returned after a few days.... by Dulverton to Alfoxden. The Ancient Mariner grew and grew till it became too important for our first object, which was limited to our expectations of five pounds; and we began to think of a volume.—Memoirs of William Wordsworth, by Christopher Wordsworth, i. 107; Knight, i.198 f.
Coleridge's account shows the philosophic side. His conversation, he said, with Wordsworth often turned on two cardinal points of poetry, the power of exciting the sympathy of the reader by a faithful adherence to the truth of nature, and the power of giving the interest of novelty by the modifying colours of imagination.... The thought suggested itself that a series of poems might be composed of two sorts. In the one the incidents and agents were to be, in part at least, supernatural; and the excellence arrived at was to consist in the interesting of the affections by the dramatic truth of such emotions as would naturally accompany such situations, supposing them real.... the second class, subjects were to be chosen from ordinary life.... In this idea originated the plan of the Lyrical Ballads; in which it was agreed that my endeavours should be directed to poems and characters supernatural, or at least to romantic; yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.... With this view I wrote The Ancient Mariner, and was preparing among other poems, The Dark Ladie, and the Christabel.—Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, chap. xiv.
The very memorable volume in which Coleridge and Wordsworth thus collaborated was the Lyrical Ballads, published in Bristol and London in 1798.
The history of the text. -The A. M. in its present form shews the result of many years' changes and revisions. The first printed version of the poem, in Lyrical Ballads, 1798, was no sooner published than the work of revision began. Later editions show decided modifications. Already in 1802 archaisms of spelling and language become rarer, and much of the grotesqueness and weakness of the original draft is pruned off. In Sibylline Leaves, 1817, these modifications are completed. The marginal gloss here first appears, and the motto from Burnet, and the poem with the exception of a few lines has attained its permanent form. In 1828 the poet collected and arranged his poems, and the text of the A. M. had its final revision. In 1829 was issued the last edition on which the poet bestowed his personal attention. There remained for the edition of 1835 only the reduction of the orthography, especially the use of capital letters, to present usuage. Our text is therefore founded on the edition of 1829, while it follows the orthography of the edition of 1835.
The various modifications of the text, other than spelling and punctuation, are noted from the following editions:-
(1) 1798, Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems. London, pp. 1-52.
(2) 1802, Lyrical Ballads, with Pastoral and other Poems. By William Wordsworth, London, 1802 (3rd edition). i. 143–189.
(3) 1805, the same (4th ed.)
(4) 1817, Sibylline Leaves: A Collection of Poems. By S. T. Coleridge, Esq., London, 1817. pp. 1-39.
(5) 1829, The Poetical Works of S. T. Coleridge.... London, 1829. ii. 1-38.
(6) 1835, the same. London and Boston, 1835. ii. 1-27.
The gloss.—The marginal gloss, which is at times a summary, at times a commentary of the text, was, as we noted, entirely absent in the editions previous to 1817. On the other hand the earlier editions had the following Argument preceding the poem, which was afterwards incorporated into the gloss :-
How a Ship having passed the Line was driven by Storms to the cold Country towards the South Pole; and how from there she made her course to the tropical Latitude of the Great Pacific Ocean; and of the strange things that befell; and in what manner the Ancyent Marinere came back to his own country. 1798 ed., p. 3.
The Gloss, like the numerous archaisms of vocabulary, phrase, and construction contained in the poem, adds to its archaic character, making it a closer imitation of the older literature, in which marginal glosses abound.
Sources. As already noted, the kernel of the story-the voyage, and spectral persecution for killing the albatrossare Wordsworth's suggestion, due to Shelvocke's Voyage (see A. M. 63n.). Cruikshank's dream, already referred to, supplied the notion of a skeleton ship, manned by skeleton figures, though the legend of the Phantom Ship (A. M. 161n.) suggests many details. For the description of the Sea of Ice, and of the Pacific, C. drew on his reading,Crantz's History of Greenland, etc. The power of fascination possessed by the Mariner was not unknown to the poet himself in his own conversation (Table Talk, i. 234n.). The Wedding Guest is the usual object of ghostly apparitions in the English and German literature of horrors contemporary with Coleridge, by which, especially in the A. M. 1798, he was not a little influenced. It has also been suggested (Brandl) that the witch in Macbeth, i. iii., who would sail in a sieve to persecute a mariner,
Shall he dwindle, peak and pine :
Yet it shall be tempest-tost,has kinship with Life-in-Death. Also that the navigation of the ship by the lonely Mariner, the aid of the angelic host, the arrival into port, and welcome by the boatmen, are all parallelled by the story that Paulinus of Nora told to Vicarius, Vice-Perfect of Rome (latter half of 4th cent.).
Influences much stronger and more certain than these last came from the ballad literature of Britain, in which Coleridge took a deep interest, along with most of his contemporaries in England and Germany. No more striking proof of the part taken in the rise of the Romantic Movement (see Introd.) by such collections as Percy's Reliques can be adduced than the way in which the phrascology and constructions and general style of the ballads are preserved in the A.M., one of the greatest products of the movement (see A. M. nn. for details).
To the ballad literature we owe likewise the metre of the poem. Only, where the ballads were irregular by carelessness, C. was irregular by art, using his variations to accord with the mood and substance of his subject. His use of sectional rime, too, while not unknown in the latest ballads, shows the exquisite metrist rather than the writer of popular ballads.
Page 1. Title. The Rime, etc. In 1800-5, The Ancient
Mariner, a Poet's Reverie.
The use of Rime with the meaning of tale in verse is archaic.
Other tales certes can (know] I noon (none)
-Chaucer, C. T., Sir Thopas, Prol. (AS. rim, number, OFr. rime, verse, rime.) The motto. Facile credo. Added in 1817. “I can easily believe, that there are more Invisible than Visible beings in the Universe ...... ; but who will declare to us the family of all these, and acquaint us with the Agreements, Differences, and peculiar Talents which are to be found among them ? (What is their work? Where are their dwelling-places ?] It is true, Human Wit has always desired a Knowledge of these Things, though it has never yet attained it....I will own that it is very profitable, sometimes to contemplate in the Mind, as in a Draught, the Image of the greater and better World ; lest the Soul being accustomed to the Trifles of this present Life, should contract itself too much, and altogether rest in mean Cogitations; but, in the mean Time, we must take Care to keep to the Truth, and observe Moderation,