How does Coleridge tell the story in Part IV of the poem

Topic: ArtPoetry
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Last updated: March 15, 2019

Coleridge in Part IV deliberately introduces the voice of the Wedding Guest (WG) to disjoint the chronology of the narration of the Ancient Mariner’s tale, itself in the ballad style which has been and continues to be strongly linked to the oral tradition. He does this because it shows the natural progression of the story through the course of time and reminds the audience that this is a recollection of events, and to an extent, through these interjections, the story is perhaps more believable.Continuing onwards, Coleridge begins his use of various lexical techniques such as alliteration – “alone, alone, all, all alone” and assonance – “dropt not down” – not only for the purposes of the meter of each line and maintaining it as such, but more to emphasise particular aspects which, in respect of the first one, highlight the fragile nature of the Ancient Mariner’s mind who has become quite clearly isolated and accordingly does not apparently enjoy it. Indeed, the exclamations littered throughout the opening stanzas, along with the caesurae found sporadically after semi-colons reflect the distressed sensitivity the Ancient Mariner (AM) seemingly cannot shake off in the presence of the so-far malevolent Mother Nature. What’s more, the repetition of ‘and’ on lines 241 and 243 alongside the macabre images of “dead men” and “rotting deck” very much give a sense of hyperbole and may in fact also have contextual reasons for their presence given the Gothic production of the poetry in the late 18th century.

Coleridge then goes on, moving the tale-within-a-tale back to the forefront of the narration. Almost immediately archaic language is utilised (perhaps this has depth insofar that it reflects the medieval barbarity of the AM’s killing of the albatross) and the structure of the stanzas also subverts into cinquains and, occasionally, sestets which again emphasise the condemnation enacted by nature and God upon the AM where his provoked guilt lays “like a load” on his “weary” eye. Most interestingly, the dead crew fix their eyes upon the Mariner whose effect is to further prolong the agony of the AM after his senseless killing. If the mood were to be encapsulated by one quote at this point in time, it would most certainly be the “And yet I could not die” which reflects the desperation of the grey-bearded loon for the fact that death should not actively be wanted and so much so, would not be wanted other than in cases of extreme pain.However, there is a turning point later on in Part IV after the sense of foreshadowing created by “A still and awful red” (itself having the connotations of blood and perhaps danger, warning the AM), nature becomes almost benevolent towards the AM but crucially this only occurs when it becomes clear that he begins to regret his acts. “The moving Moon” is personified as “she” and in the presence of this ‘woman’, there is a startling transformation in the mood of the AM.

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His conversion is apparently catalysed by nature itself – he sees the snakes as “shining white” to perhaps symbolise the glaringly obvious innocence that the White Albatross once used to have. Indeed, Coleridge enriches his poem with a creation of sensuous and imaginative images which together form the greater demonstration that the AM has changed. A litany of colours, both vivid and descriptive, are reminiscent of an ‘epiphany’ – “blue, glossy green, and velvet black”, “golden fire”, “hoary flakes” and signify both to the audience and the WG that the AM has resolved himself to becoming more respectful of nature and more conscious of the work he has to do in order for this to continue. In fact, the repetition of the line “I blessed them unaware” underlines and proves the dramatic change in the description of his surroundings earlier can be ascribed to his recognition of the true beauty of nature, which itself cannot be harnessed through destructive acts.In the last stanza, the rhyme scheme and structure returns to normal ballad style with a conventional ABCB rhyme scheme and a quatrain.

To me, this is symbolic in showing that normality has returned to the AM (or at least it has done so at this point in time) where the simile describing the bird as “lead” around the neck of Mariner when it falls into the sea being a true representation of the weight of the guilt and remorse of the AM who now believes he must put right what he has done wrong. Only when the Ancient Mariner is able to appreciate the beauty of the natural world is he granted the power to pray – and, it is implied, eventually redeem himself through the oversight of his past as the killer of a bird that brought good fortune.


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