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Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge: A Spiritual Connection Between “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and the Holy Scripture.

Donald McCoy

Liberty University
September 15, 2014

Many authors attempt to convey some sort of message in their writings, whether it be that of Romances’ by Shelley, the plight of women in the writings of Wollstonecraft, or the political satire behind Jonathan Swift’s works. It can even be said that some essays have been written to bring across a moral lesson to the reader. Homer’s epic poem “The Odyssey”, in which the main character is rescued by the Greek gods and then embarks on a journey to return to his homeland, all the while facing obstacles that test his faith, loyalty, and solidify his virtues and beliefs. Few authors have had the success Homer gained in his grand tale featuring the main character, Odysseus. Arguably, even fewer authors have tried to emulate the Christian faith within their works with much success. Mr. Samuel Taylor Coleridge is one such author. Coleridge’s lyrical ballad “The Rime of an Ancient Mariner” is one in which numerous religious themes are adequately complimented. Most notable of the comparisons is that of the Albatross and how it symbolizes Jesus Christ. In the ballad, Coleridge writes,
At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God’s name. (Mariner, Line 65).

In the ballad, the men on the ship had become lost, with mist, snow, and ice converging on them. Suddenly, from a distance within the mist and fog appears an Albatross to show the men on the ship the way to safety through the troublesome waters. Likewise, due to the Original sin committed by Adam and Eve while in the Garden of Eden, man has lost their way from God. As a result, man has wandered around this world lost, waiting for a savior to lead them through the troubled waters of life towards the safety of our heavenly Father. Man needed a perfect sacrifice in order to take away the penalty for his sin. From a distance appears Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice. Hebrews 9:28 (NIV) says “so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Jesus, like the Albatross in the ballad, appears to man from the mist, snow, and ice that is sin surrounding them as they travel the waters of life. All man has to do is keep an eye on Him, never to waiver, and He will lead them to the safety of their heavenly Father. Unfortunately, man has a habit of placing an Albatross around their own neck. Mankind oftentimes will sacrifice the one good thing they have going for them. Adam and Eve did so when they ate from the Tree of Knowledge, knowing that it was forbidden. And, like the mariner who killed the Albatross for no reason whatsoever, man crucified Jesus Christ on the cross for no reason as well. One can even see the symbolism that Coleridge is placing between the death of the Albatross and the death of Jesus Christ.
“God save thee, ancient mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus! –
Why lookst thou so?” – “With my crossbow
I shot the Albatross. (Mariner, Line 80).

The bird that came to lead the men to freedom and safety, the Albatross, was slain by a crossbow. Jesus Christ, the One who came to lead man back to righteousness and the glory of the Almighty Father in heaven, was crucified on a cross.
There are other symbolic similarities to be found between the ballad by Coleridge and Scripture. For instance, we see similarities between the two when we read of the men on the ship once again losing their way without the guidance of the Albatross. Likewise, man once again loses his way on the ocean of life without the guiding hand of his savior, Jesus Christ. The number seven is also of great significance, in both the ballad and in Scripture. For example, the mariner stayed afloat on the ship while being haunted by the dead bodies of his crewmates for seven days and seven nights. There are also seven parts to the ballad. In the Bible, the number seven is a symbol for completion and perfection, as identified in Gen 2:2 (NKJV) where it states “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.” The Bible, as a whole, was originally divided into seven major parts which include the Law, the Prophets, Psalms, Acts, the General Epistles, the Epistles of Paul, and the book of Revelation. The Apostle Paul used seven different titles when referring to Christ. Finally, we have the mariner having the unquenchable desire to go about and tell his story to anyone who will listen. This is a lot like a preacher that is called to spread the Word of God. He feels as if he must convey this very important message, as if to get a burden off of his chest in order to feel some relief knowing he is obeying Gods’ calling. The listener of this message, just like the wedding guest in the ballad who was mesmerized by what the mariner had to say, may come away from the experience sadder, learning of the fate behind mere mortals if they take their eyes off of the deliverer, but wiser, because he will know that there is a savior that can guide him through the stormy sea of life towards their heavenly Father if they choose to follow.

Coleridge, Samuel T. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

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