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MEDIEVAL ATMOSPHERE IN THE ANCIENT MARINER:

Almost all the Romantic poets except Wordsworth used a touch of Medievalism to their
poems. Their romantic temper inclined them towards remoteness and distance that bestowed an
exotic quality to their works. As Coleridge usually dealt in supernaturalism, he was all the more
attracted by the legends and romances of the medieval times. Walter Peter, call it “a flower of
medieval or later German romance”.

The people at that age were used to be superstitious and their strong faith in supernatural
elements provided Coleridge not only with themes, but also the most appropriate settings and
atmosphere for the enactment of those themes. The Rime of an Ancient Mariner is one among so
many of Coleridge's poem which presents the glamour of the Middle Ages.

The medieval stories used to have moated-castles, feudal lords, serpent women, bards and
pages. Though The Ancient Mariner do not possess any such element, still the medieval touch is
quite obvious here and there in the poem:

• Use of the word ‘Ancient’: Especially the very opening line, “It is an Ancient
Mariner”, strikes the medieval image of the man. He is presented not only old in
age, but also distinctly belonging to olden times. Thus, in this way, the readers are
warned at the outset to be ready to be wafted to the ancient times.

• Old rituals: Even the ceremonies and rituals mentioned in the beginning are
connected with the medieval church. So, the “loud bassoon”¸ the “merry
minstrelsy” and “the blushing bride” suggest a medieval wedding.

• Navigation through unknown seas: The Mariner and his companions set out on an
adventurous voyage on the unknown seas, presenting the earlier history of English
navigation. Everything from the ship to the masts, the oars, the sails, the Pilot and
the Pilot’s boy and even the lighthouse pointed to the past ages.

• Belief in omens: Like superstitious people of the middle Ages, sailors believe in
portents and omens, for example:

- Albatross is a bird of good omen


- Mariner’s killing it was a bad omen and condemnable

- When sun started shining later, Albatross was regarded as the one who had
brought fog and mist with it.

- Even a slightest change in the sea-shape or the sky-shape fills them with
ominous fear.

- Mariner is filled with superstitious horror when the skeleton ship appears
on the horizon and the sun is flecked with bars. Sun’s peering through the mast
grill presents him with an image of spiritual imprisonment.

- The hanging of Albatross, instead of the cross, round the Mariner’s neck
presented an anti-protection against evil powers.

• Moral theme of the poem: Coleridge has presented the catholic idea of redemption
and regeneration through penance and expiation as the moral theme that is also a
medieval spirit. He has used enough elements of medieval age to press this touch
obvious. For example:

- The hermit who shrives the Mariner

- The little vesper bell who bids the Mariner to prayer

- Numerous pious oaths and ejaculations

- The use f cross bow to shoot at Albatross

Thus, any interpretation of this poem will be faulty without the background of medieval
piety and superstition as it will lose much of the poignancy and intensity of the Mariner’s
sufferings and agony.