The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge 5E

Hi everybody. Today we’re going to read the first part of a  beautiful long poem, a ballad by the romantic poet S.T.Coleridge who, as you already know, was Wordsworth’s best friend.

STEP 1: I’ll introduce the author and his work (10 m’ presentation). You can take down some notes & then check the info in your textbook. (page 178/9)

STEP 2: We’ll watch a video of the ballad. You’ll find a translation of the first part of the Ballad by S.T.Coleridge. Look at the illustrations by GUSTAVE DORE’. (Trad. It. di Franco Buffoni). Music by King Crimson, ‘Sailor’s Tale’.

Here’s the complete Ballad in Englishcon traduzione in Italiano a fronte).

At home to revise it or if you’ve missed class, you can also LISTEN to the poem while reading the text in Italian.(Click download and you can listen to the MP3 for FREE)

If you want you can have a look at this video of the ballad with the soundtrack by Iron Maiden. 

When you’ve studied the text, try to TAKE the QUIZ.

In editions where it is included, the LATIN EPIGRAPH serves as a semi-thesis for the poem. It is a Latin quote from Burnet’s “Archaeologiae Philosophicae (1692), which Coleridge translates as follows:  “I readily believe that there are more invisible than visible Natures in the universe. But who will explain for us the family of all these beings, and the ranks and relations and distinguishing features and functions of each? What do they do? What places do they inhabit? The human mind has always sought the knowledge of these things, but never attained it. Meanwhile I do not deny that it is helpful sometimes to contemplate in the mind, as on a tablet, the image of a greater and better world, lest the intellect, habituated to the petty things of daily life, narrow itself and sink wholly into trivial thoughts. But at the same time we must be watchful for the truth and keep a sense of proportion, so that we may distinguish the certain from the uncertain, day from night.”

As regards the ALBATROSS:

  1. There’s a reference to the Albatross also in the Pink Floyd ‘Echoes:

“Overhead the albatross hangs motionless upon the air

And deep beneath the rolling waves, in labyrinths of coral caves,

The echo of a distant tide comes willowing across the sand,

And everything is green and submarine.”

2. In Mary Shelley’s “Frankestein” the doctor promises his sister he shan’t kill any albatross.

“[…] I cannot describe to you my sensations on the near prospect of my undertaking. It is impossible to communicate to you a conception of the trembling sensation, half pleasurable and half fearful, with which I am preparing to depart. I am going to unexplored regions, to “the lend of mist and snow;” but I shall kill no albatross, therefore do not be alarmed for my safety. […]” .

3. During the nineteenth century, in the maritime folklore sailors believed that their old mates who died at sea were reborn as albatrosses.

4. Finally to the Maori, the albatross was a spiritual symbol of peace, beauty and power. Its feathers and bones get a break and people who wear pendants made of feathers or bones were the same qualities as albatross’ ones. Garlands of feathers sometimes adorned the prow of waka taua (war canoes).

5. In Hawaiian mythology the albatross appears in stories as intercessors come from the heaven.

Here’s what I found about the albatross in music. You may know some of the groups 🙂 (source WIKIPEDIA

La band Indie-Rock Guided by Voices cita un albatros nella canzone “Peep Hole”, inclusa nell’album Bee Thousand del 1994. Il testo è il seguente:« give me the cost of the albatross and wear it ’round your neck for size don’t let it get you down » « dimmi quanto costa l’albatros e indossalo avvolgendotelo al collo per provarne la misura non lasciarti abbattere »  (Bee Thousand, “Peep Hole”)

La band post-Punk Public Image Ltd ha inciso una canzone chiamata “Albatross” nell’album “Metal Box”. Il testo include i seguenti versi:

(EN)« getting rid of the albatross sowing the seeds of discontent riding along on the crest of a wave » « liberarsi dell’albatros piantare i semi del malcontento cavalcando la cresta dell’onda » (Public Image Ltd, “Albatross”)

La canzone “Echoes”, della band psychedelic rock/progressive rock Pink Floyd, contenuta nell’album Meddle del 1971, riprende il tema del sublime e dell’incomprensibilità della natura, espresso anche nella ballata di Coleridge. Viene messa in evidenza la solitudine dell’uomo di fronte alle grandiose bellezze della natura, e la sua incapacità di trovare in essa un qualsivoglia scopo. Il testo inizia così:

« Overhead the albatross hangs motionless upon the air/And deep beneath the rolling waves, in labyrinths of coral caves,/The echo of a distant tide comes willowing across the sand,/And everything is green and submarine. »

« Sopra la mia testa l’albatros è sospeso immobile in aria/e in profondità sotto il rollìo delle onde, nel labirinto di grotte coralline/giunge l’eco di una lontana marea, sfilacciandosi tra la sabbia,/ e tutto è verde e sottomarino. »(Pink Floyd, “Echoes”)

(Il musicista sperimentale Momus (Nick Currie), inglese di origini scozzesi, allude a questa metafora nella sua canzone del 1988 “The Charm of Innocence.” Il ritornello è:

« :I was born with the charm of innocence/On my back like a cross/Thorns upon my forehead/Round my neck I wore it/Sometimes a rabbit’s claw/Sometimes an albatross »

Anche  Rickie Lee Jones si riferisce a questa metafora nella sua canzone ‘The Albatross’

“There, there is my ship/Finally come in/I see the mast rolling on the steps/Over the garden wall/I hear the sailor’s call/I see the albatross/And I never want to lose their inspiration”

Anche il gruppo rock punk Bad Religion si riferisce all’albatross nella sua canzone “It’s a Long Way to the Promised Land.” Il testo starts out: “It’s a long way/To the promised land/So you better well know your way/There’s a ship on the ocean/And an albatross who is trying to lead you astray”

Anche Brave Saint Saturn ha una canzone dal titolo “Albatross” in cui si paragona l’albatross con la croce cristiana.”Around my neck there is an albatross./Some people think it looks, looks like a cross,/But it’s not, it’s – well it’s an albatross./There to remind me of who I’ll never be, never be, never be.”

Nella canzone Rebels of the Sacred Heart del gruppo “punk” irlandese/californiano Flogging Molly il cantante Dave King canta:”the albatross hanging round your neck, is the cross you bear for he sins he bleeds”…paragonando l’albatross alla croce Cattolica, essendo la canzone riferita alla vita di un giovanotto ribelle di scuola Cattolica irlandese

La band hardcore/progressive Converge ha scritto una canzone dal titolo “Albatross,” che usa la metafora per descrivere il dispiacere e il senso di colpa provato dopo la morte di cinque amici. Il termine albatross era usato anche nel poema “Snake” di D. H. Lawrence. (fonte Wikipedia)

  •  Has this post helped you study and appreciate Coleridge’s ballad?
  • Do you know any other references to the Albatross in music or literature?

31 thoughts on “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge 5E

  1. I personally didn’t like Coleridge, and the ballad as well. It’s just my personal taste (I generally love poems which catch my curiosity with themes concerning human relationships, like love or friendship, or naturalistic poems). Althought he isn’t my favourite I assimilated him as author very well, I guess thank to the power point because I have a visive memory, and listening to the poem because I can understand more deeply the author poetry by reading his works, of course.
    About Albatrosses in music, I MUST remind the great band The Fleetwood Mac (and their album ‘Rumors’, one of the greatest of the music history 🙂 ), who wrote “Albatross”, a guitar-based instrumental, released as a single in 1968, composed byPeter Green. Nice song.

  2. I think that reading this post is useful to understand the poem especially with the first an the second videos because you can listen to the poem and at the same time you can understand what the speaker are telling by the imagines; so isn’t necessary the translation in Italian. This method should be used also for the next poems. I don’t like the third video because this genre of music isn’t my favourite but however I think that isn’t useful to understand better this poem . I found interesting the different meanings of the albatross in the story of the literature and in the music.Now I don’t know other reference of the albatross in the music and literature; personally I met the symbol of the albatross in the scout. The albatross in fact is the icon of a female squadron; it’s chosen by the scout because it symbolize the freedom and the independence.

  3. I didn’t know that the albatross was so famous in the popular believes, so much that it can be nominated in literature and even be the main character of a poem; even nowadays it can be seen as famous, being it present in many songs and movies. The blog was useful to understand the story that it’s quite complex and difficult to visualize. The videos contributed a lot for the understanding of the poem and it’s easier to remember and study a poem which I have heard and seen the related images which narrates the plot. I’ve never heard about the albatross as a poetic figure, I have always seen it as a bird with a scientific view.

  4. I think the first videos are charming and I liked them although they’re very simple. I focused more to the images than to the words because I have a visual memory and I can remember photos or images too better than words, that I forget in slower time.
    So, even though they’re not recent and so less suitable for our age, they can be helpful to understand better Coleridge, but also the other authors, and to have a more pleasant study.
    I found less helpful to study Coleridge the different references to the albatross in Pink Floyd, Frankenstein… but I found however interesting because I discovered new reasons of why Coleridge decided to insert this animal in his ballad.
    I don’t know any references to the albatross in music, because I’m very unaware in music and I usually don’t spend a lot of time listening to it.
    But I discovered a reference to the albatross in literature I didn’t know before. In fact a lyric poem of Charles Baudelaire is named “Albatross”.
    I read his lyric poem and I found it really nice because there’s an accurate description of the albatross in the first part and then because Baudelaire is really able to use words because when I read it I immediately think about the context descripted. There’s a comparison between the condition of the albatross and poet’s condition. As the poet the albatross is free and he can fly in the sky but in contrast there are sailors, who are common people who scoff at the albatross.
    People have the same behavior of the sailors because the poet is excluded by the society and he lives hardly in a world that doesn’t belong to him, and so he has a secluded life.

  5. I think that this topic helped me to understand Coleridge’s ballad because the videos exlpained well the story of the it also recreating the athmosphere of the trip in the ship. I liked very much the second video because with simply animations can make you understand better the plot. For me the third video is a good idea to reinterpret Coleridge’s ballad but I don’t like that kind of music. Videos are also a good way to listen the pronunciation of those new words and learn them.
    I can’t think of other references to the albatross in music or literature because before this lesson I only knew his name and nothing more.

  6. I think that this this post helped me study and appreciate Coleridge’s ballad because the topic describe different figures of the Albatross and show me different interpretations of it. I appreciate also the presentation that we have done in class, with the integration of the videos and the link for listening the poem. The structure and the elements of this topic surely helped me to remember better the information of this ballad and different symbols/views of the Albatross.
    An other reference to the Albatross in music is the instrumental song of Fleetwood Mac called “Albatross”, song of a split album of 1977 (single in 1968) composed by Peter Green. He inspired the song by this ballad, but it is unclear whether Fleetwood Mac intended the title to invoke the meaning of the Albatross of “The Rime Of Ancient Mariner” or if it refers to the bird. I think that it symbolize freedom and tranquillity of this solitaire bird, when it flies around the world.

  7. I found the post interesting to improve our knowledge. The videos are useful to better understand the musicality and rhyme scheme of the ballad and besides images help to remember the plot, through photographic memory. I think also that the post could tease our knowledge, because it drives us to analyze what we already know to find some recollections to the topic and at the same time it leads us to be interested in something we don’t know yet. For example I didn’t know that albatross was a so famous animal in literature and music. I don’t have a wide music knowledge so I don’t know other songs about albatross but I remember I read a book in English that had an albatross as protagonist but I was at the primary school… 🙂

  8. Didn’t know that an animal like the albatross was so popular! It seems that this bird is considered kind of sacred, a poetical inspiration, probably ‘cause it lives in such hostile places and this elegant animal, being it the only animal around these places, gives hope to the mariners who see it. I really appreciated the poem even the first time I heard it, but reading all these news about the albatross made me like it even more. I found the blog useful for memorizing the author and the poem that he wrote, ‘cause probably now every time I hear the word “albatross” I will have this image of a dead bird around the neck of a mariner. Such a beautiful image 🙂

    • Of course it is popular! It’s the only type of chicken in which the tastier wing is also bigger than the haunch!

  9. I think that study also using this post on the blog can be very useful, but personally this method don’t make me appreciate more this poet, or poetry in general.
    May be it’s more simple by the blog because is a sort of interactive study because of the videos and the link and so you don’t get distracted by the first noise.
    I’ve think about some albatross in other important poem but i don’t found anything, but i remembered that when I was a child I used to see a cartoon called ‘Bianca and Bernie’ and in this cartoon there is an albatross named Orville that role the part of the helper also in that adventure like in the ancient mariner.
    Fortunatly noone kills him!! 🙂

    Oville’s video:

  10. Sure it helps me and I think it helps everybody because it’s easiest to learn about a poem that seems to be familiar: using of video it’s great because you can use different type of memories to impress it in your mind and visualize a poem while you’re studying makes it familiar to you. Really interesting were also all the albatross’s infos, next time I’m going to see an albatross I cannot but thinking to Coleridge! However I never thought that those birds were so “famous”, I’ve never heard about them in literature but I have any memories of a village in Sardinia that use to celebrate it or something like that every summer for some reasons but I don’t remember it very good, I was too young and my parents are not here so I cannot ask them for more details

  11. I found this post..instructive, because I didn’t know the albatross was such an important figure in music/poetry. Coleridge is the first poet that talks about the albatross, and as he describe the bird it seems like something sent from God, from Heaven. I have thought about a sort of similarity, between the dove, who is the symbol of purity and guides us to Christianity, so for Christians the dove save us from Hell and guides on the right way, exactly as the albatross, who guides the boat of the Ancient Mariner through ice lands and save them.

  12. I think that its really useful use videos, music and some connections to others poets to understand better this topic. In this case you can have a complet sphere of the topic (Coleridge and his ballad). You can also give a sense in your study because you can undestrand it isn’t a thing an end to itself. I appreciate all the videos. The best in my opinion is the third because is more involving and has a younger style than the others two.
    Unfortunatelly i don’t know other reference to Albatros. The only thing that i know is that in Italy there is a band ans his name is ‘Albatros’.
    See u

  13. If I have to be sincere I don’t like Coleridge and The Rime of Ancient Mariner but this post’s helped me to understand the author’s conception of the nature and the relationships between the text and the literary background(romanticism).
    I think it’s helped me because links with others kind of art ,most of all music and films, make it more interesting and pleasant. Moreover it make you understand that poetry could be the mirror of an historical period, universal and timeless(Metallica’s song is an example of this).I also enjoying the listening/vision of different points of view or parodies.
    I love the squirrel of the daffodils in the last post because it’s brilliant and absurd in the same time!!!:)

    • I appreciate your being frank and sincere and respect your taste. All art is connected and nowadays we speak of MULTIMEDIA art that uses a wide range of media to communicate. As a teacher I’m trying to do the same in order to … reach all of you!

  14. I found your post very interesting, not only cause it helped me to understand better the ballad (in particular with the quiz), but especially because you show the importance of the figure of the Albatross and makeS it clear with many examples that are easily to remember and connect to our life, like in music.
    I had never hearD nothing about this birds in literature or else but searching the internet I have found a poem of Charles Baudelaire where he talkS about an Albatross and compares the difficult situation that the bird haS to live when is captured from/BY sailors to the life of a poet that is often derided by common people that didn’t understand the essential role of artists.
    Here the link of the poem

  15. Since I was a child I have always compared things, words or concepts that I could not remember or maybe because I don’t like them I didn’t want to remember to something that I appreciate. Lately it is happening with history or Italian literature where I associate names of authors or kings or something similar to names of soccer or basketball players that help me to remember them, but I remember that it happened also last year in english with Defoe. So I think that this solution, in my opinion, really help the student. With this post I think that I undesrstood better the poem, I like the intro song of the second video; instead I think that, for a guy (not english or american) that have to listen it, it is better that the reader is young so you could unerstand better the pronounciation and the sounds of some words and I think also that sometimes is better a female voice. To conclude I’m sorry but I don’t know other references to the albatros.

  16. I think the post helped me a lot to review and revise things and I have also learned new ones. This method is very effective and interesting because it makes me want to try other news and because we can find links to the things closest to us for example for me Pink Floyd. I think that read the post and watch it’s relaxing.
    This posts also help the students because we can read the comments of our classmates so we deal with them and we help each other.
    I did not know any reference albatross and to tell the truth I had heard a few times in my life but now I know a lot of things.
    See you tomorrow bye 🙂

  17. Yes, the post helped me so much because through it I could listen Coleridge’s ballad more than once and at the same time I could also read what I was listening.
    All this helped me to memorize the ballad’s plot.
    I loved so much the fact that there are so much stuff connected to the word albatross in music, literature and mythology.
    For this reason this post make me discover lot of things that I didn’t know before and also makes me curious about the animal, so I surfed the net and I found other interesting things.
    The first is that 19 of the 21 species of this animal are protected species because their life is threaten by massive fishing and by cat and rat that eat their eggs.
    Then I found that there are lot of songs that talk about the albatross and the one who’s more recent is the song of Marracash, an italian rapper. I also discovered that Totó Cutugno found a group called the “albatros” in 1974 and they had quiet success in the summer of the 1976.

    • I knew the albatross is endangered and threatened by other animals 🙁 Thanks for the reference to Marracash :)Toto Cotugno … I’d rather forget about that LOL

  18. This topic helped me to understand better the figure of the Albatroos in literature and in music. I didn’t think that the Albatroos could be found in different subjects, in different ages of history, with several examples. From this topic we can learn how to make connection among different subjects that will be fundamental later. More connection we have for one topic, better we can understand it and compare it to others mythological figure or others history periods.
    I’m not so interested in music and I have a little knowledge of literature, so honestly I don’t know any other references to the Albatroos.

  19. Sincerely this post don’t help me too much to study this Coleridge ballad, but I really appreciate some parts of this.
    Indeed I think that the useful links are mainly two:
    The first is the one who open the web page about the translation of the ballad (to understand quickly the story);
    The second link that I found very effective is that which a person can practice with the quiz about The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and there I discover new things that don’t appear in the story and in our text book.
    I remain moved about the different uses of the “albatross” in societies (as a symbol), and his “anniversary” in various music scripts.
    Despite these and the videos (original the second one), honestly I prefer Wordsworth than Coleridge and relative ballads, maybe because I love natural and “real” things of life and not supernatural and fantasy objects.
    Since I’m not a music expert, I don’t know about other references of the albatross “figure” in songs!
    Also in literature I haven’t examples, but searching in the web I found that a French poet, Charles Baudelaire, wrote a poem where there is the image of an albatross to make a comparison between the life condition of this bird and the poets in general of that period (middle of the nineteenth century), where the albatross is like the poet, free and able to rise up from the ground and fly high, and the sailors, who tease the albatross, are like the ordinary people who scoff the poet.
    Here is the poem (both in English and French):

  20. This post helped me a lot studying Coleridge’s ballad because the videos, in particular the first, explained very well the story. Moreover the links to other music about the albatross are interesting, because they help us to remember it, linking it with other things that we may know, and we will remember it easily.
    Unfortunately I don’t know other references to the albatross because I didn’t know anything about it before studying it.

  21. The post was nice (mostly because it has a direct video to Iron Maiden (jk)), but I’m not sure it helped me like Coleridge more since I was very into it at lesson already. The rythm and the sounds he produces are evocative and powerful, while the lexicon he chooses is just what I love, antique and outlandish.
    In regards to the references, I always try to find all the existing references when I like something, because it makes it more interesting and, as Pippo said, probably much easier to recall when asked about it.
    Just so you people know: the albatross is the bird with the largest wingspans in existence, reaching over 3.5m! Now THAT is wide.

  22. Surely studying something with reference to other fields (like music, literature, art…) helps to remember information, because it’s not just something thrown in your mind between very different contents, but it’s something related and connected with other things you already know. So when at the exam we will be asked what kind of bird Coleridge used, we will only have to think about Frankenstein, or the Pink Floyd, or anything we can associate with the albatross. This kind of learning is useful because it makes easier to understand and memorize new concepts and it also exploit things that we already know, leading us to think that what we learn is useful and it’s not just garbage that fills our brain.
    Before reading “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” I barely knew about the existence of the albatross, so I don’t know any other reference to it.

    • No garbage to fill your brains I hope … poetry, art cannot be so but is just food for our souls. Thanks for your comment, interesting & honest as usual. I’m glad you’ve learnt something new 😉

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