October 23, 2017
Coleridge, Mariner, AlbatrossOn this day in 1797 William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge began a walking holiday in the Quantock Hills of Somerset, during which they would conceive "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." The original idea was to produce a gothic pot-boiler, something to suit the popular magazines, and to help pay for their vacation. "Much the greatest part of the story was Coleridge's invention," Wordsworth later wrote, though among his own contributions was the idea that the inciting incident should involve the killing of an albatross in the South Sea, for which "the tutelary Spirits of these regions take upon them to avenge the crime." Wordsworth soon realized that "the style of Coleridge and myself would not assimilate," and left the fate of the "Old Navigator" in his friend's hands. Here it evolved from a quick money-maker to a consuming, five-months' labor; and if pot-boiler on the surface, within lay many of Coleridge's philosophical and psychological concerns, roiling up as ghostly vision, tortured soul and the need to expiate. This is the end of Part V, the Ancient Mariner collapsed on deck while two Polar Spirits hover and discuss:
By him who died on cross,
With his cruel bow he laid full low
The harmless Albatross.
The spirit who bideth by himself
In the land of mist and snow,
He loved the bird that loved the man
Who shot him with his bow."
The other was a softer voice,
As soft as honey-dew:
Quoth he, "The man hath penance done,
And penance more will do."
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