cover image: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

“Water, water, everywhere,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, everywhere.

Nor any drop to drink.

Even if you’ve never seen the source, you’ve heard the lines. The figure of “an albatross around his neck” comes from the same place. It’s all thanks to Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834), with due credit to his close contem­porary William Wordsworth (1770–1850).

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was first published in 1798, and reissued many times over the following decades. In particular, 1817 brought a revised edition with “marginal glosses” (I prefer to call them sidenotes). There is probably a dissertation, or at least a Master’s thesis, on all the different versions.

This is Coleridge, so don’t expect a consistent pattern of rhyme and metre. It’s not as chaotic as Kubla Khan, though.


The edition used as the basis for this ebook was illustrated by three established names. Most had no visible signature, but the List of Illustrations names each artist:

“E. H. Wehnert”: Edward Henry Wehnert (1813–1868), also known as a landscape painter, provided almost two-thirds (18 of 26) of the book’s illustrations.

“E. Duncan”: Edward Duncan (1803–1882) is responsible for six further illustrations. As a watercolorist, he was best known for—appropriately enough—maritime scenes.

Birket Foster signature “Birket Foster”: Myles Birket Foster (1825–1899) wore three hats, as illustrator, watercolorist and engraver. He only provided two of the book’s illustrations, but makes up for it by being the only one with a visible signature.

I have added illustrations from two other editions:

Herbert Cole signature Herbert Cole (1867–1930), also known as a portrait painter, made six illustrations for the 1900 L. C. Page (Boston) edition. (One of the six was missing from the best copy, so I filled it in from a different copy of the same edition.)

Noel Paton signature Painter-sculptor-illustrator Joseph Noel Paton (1821–1901) R.S.A. was knighted around 1867, so make that “Sir Noel” and so on. His name appears in the 1875 Kilbourne Tompkins (New York) edition.

Finally there are the engravers:

Harral signature Horace Harral (1817–1905) and Edmund Evans (1826–1905) share credit in the Appleton edition, though only Harral had a visible signature.

Colls signature Walter L. Colls—dates unknown—was known as both a photographer and engraver, hence the “Ph.” in his signature. He engraved the six illustrations in the L. C. Page edition.

Obligatory caution: All three editions used for this ebook are American, and two of them predate the International Copyright Act. So the named engravers may never have touched the editions that carry their names. The same might apply to London-based printer R. Clay, whose name appears twice in the Appleton edition.

Illustrations in the Appleton edition were generally printed at mid-page, without caption; I have moved them to the most appropriate stanza break. The L. C. Page (Cole) and Kilbourne Tompkins (Paton) illustrations were all full-page plates with caption on a separate page. I haven’t included the captions, but did use them in positioning the illustrations. They should be easy to tell apart: Paton’s are line drawings in a rectangular frame; Cole’s are grayscale in a frame. Those from the Appleton edition—all three artists—have no frame.

Final note: All three illustrators gave their respective versions of the albatross hanging at the mariner’s neck. It may look like a wild exaggeration, but if anything, the artists have understated. Albatrosses are simply enormous; the wandering albatross in particular has a wingspan of more than 10 feet (3 m).


This ebook is based on the 1857 Appleton (New York) edition, with added illustrations as described above.

Typographical errors are marked with mouse-hover popups and are listed again at the bottom of the page.

ancient man comes up to three well-dressed young men



angel kneeling before a sea bird


printer’s device: interlocked JC

London: R. Clay, Printer, Bread Street Hill.



Drawn by Page

At length did cross an Albatross

E. H. Wehnert Title.

It is an ancient Mariner,

And he stoppeth one of three

E. H. Wehnert 6

Merrily did we drop

Below the kirk, below the hill

Birket Foster 7

Nodding their heads before her goes

The merry minstrelsy

E. H. Wehnert 9

And ice, mast-high, came floating by,

As green as emerald

E. Duncan 10

And every day, for food or play,

Came to the mariners’ hollo!

E. H. Wehnert 12

With my cross-bow

I shot the Albatross

E. H. Wehnert 13

Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay,

That made the breeze to blow!

E. H. Wehnert 14

As idle as a painted ship

Upon a painted ocean

E. Duncan 16

Instead of the cross, the Albatross

About my neck was hung

E. H. Wehnert 18

When looking westward, I beheld

A something in the sky

E. H. Wehnert 19

When that strange shape drove suddenly

Betwixt us and the Sun

E. Duncan 21

The naked hulk alongside came,

And the twain were casting dice

E. H. Wehnert 23

The souls did from their bodies fly,—

They fled to bliss or woe!

E. H. Wehnert 24

I fear thee, ancient Mariner!

I fear thy skinny hand!

E. H. Wehnert 26

The moving Moon went up the sky,

And nowhere did abide

E. Duncan 29

A spring of love gushed from my heart,

And I blessed them unaware

E. H. Wehnert 30

Till noon we quietly sailed on,

Yet never a breeze did breathe

E. Duncan 34

I heard, and in my soul discerned

Two voices in the air

E. H. Wehnert 36

’Twas night, calm night, the moon was high;

The dead men stood together

E. H. Wehnert 39

And on the bay the moonlight lay,

And the shadow of the moon

Birket Foster 41

The skiff-boat neared: I heard them talk,

Why, this is strange, I trow!

E. H. Wehnert 44

The boat came closer to the ship,

But I nor spake nor stirred

E. Duncan 46

I took the oars: the Pilot’s boy,

Who now doth crazy go

E. H. Wehnert 47

To walk together to the kirk,

And all together pray

E. H. Wehnert 49

He prayeth well, who loveth well

Both man and bird and beast

E. H. Wehnert 51

Engraved by Horace Harral and Edmund Evans.



Facile credo, plures esse Naturas invisibiles quam visibiles in rerum universitate. Sed horum omnium familiam quis nobis enarrabit, et gradus et cognationes et discrimina et singulorum munera? Quid agunt? Quæ loca habitant? Harum rerum notitiam semper ambivit ingenium humanum, nunquam attigit. Juvat, interea, non diffiteor, quandoque in animo, tanquam in tabulâ, majoris et melioris mundi imaginem contemplari: ne mens assuefacta hodiernæ vitæ minutiis se contrahat nimis, et tota subsidat in pusillas cogitationes. Sed veritati interea invigilandum est, modusque servandus, ut certa ab incertis, diem a nocte, distinguamus.T.



ancient man seizes the shoulder of one of three well-dressed young men


An ancient Mariner meeteth three gallants bidden to a wedding-feast, and detaineth one.

It is an ancient Mariner,

And he stoppeth one of three.

“By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,

Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?

old man in sandals comes up to well-dressed young people on steps of a mansion


“The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide,

And I am next of kin;

The guests are met, the feast is set:

May’st hear the merry din.”

ship in full sail over rough seas

He holds him with his skinny hand,

“There was a ship,” quoth he.

“Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!”

Eftsoons his hand dropt he.


The Wedding-Guest is spellbound by the eye of the old sea-faring man, and constrained to hear his tale.

He holds him with his glittering eye—

The Wedding-Guest stood still,

And listens like a three years’ child:

The Mariner hath his will.

glum-looking young man sits looking up at old man in sandals

The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:

He cannot choose but hear;

And thus spake on that ancient man,

The bright-eyed Mariner.

“The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared,

Merrily did we drop

Below the kirk, below the hill,

Below the lighthouse top.

The Mariner tells how the ship sailed southward with a good wind and fair weather till it reached the Line.

“The sun came up upon the left,

Out of the sea came he!

And he shone bright, and on the right

Went down into the sea.

“Higher and higher every day,

Till over the mast at noon—”

The Wedding-Guest here beat his breast,

For he heard the loud bassoon.

bride and groom surrounded by guests

The Wedding-Guest heareth the bridal music; but the Mariner continueth his tale.

The Bride hath paced into the hall,

Red as a rose is she;

Nodding their heads before her goes

The merry minstrelsy.

bridal procession passes through a courtyard

The Wedding-Guest he beat his breast,

Yet he cannot choose but hear;


And thus spake on that ancient man,

The bright-eyed Mariner.

bride and groom walk along an arcade

The ship drawn by a storm toward the south pole.

“And now the storm-blast came, and he

Was tyrannous and strong:

He struck with his o’ertaking wings,

And chased us south along.


“With sloping masts and dipping prow,

As who pursued with yell and blow

Still treads the shadow of his foe,

And forward bends his head,

The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,

And southward aye we fled.

ship on stormy seas among icebergs


“And now there came both mist and snow,

And it grew wondrous cold:

And ice, mast-high, came floating by,

As green as emerald.

The land of ice, and of fearful sounds where no living thing was to be seen.

“And through the drifts the snowy clifts

Did send a dismal sheen:

Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken—

The ice was all between.

“The ice was here, the ice was there,

The ice was all around:

It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,

Like noises in a swound!

crowd of sailors on shipboard

Till a great sea-bird, called the Albatross, came through the snow-fog, and was received with great joy and hospitality.

“At length did cross an Albatross,

Thorough the fog it came;

As if it had been a Christian soul,

We hail’d it in God’s name.

“It ate the food it ne’er had eat,

And round and round it flew.

The ice did split with a thunder-fit;

The helmsman steered us through.

sailors cling to rigging, pointing to a distant albatross

And lo! the Albatross proveth a bird of good omen, and followeth the ship as it returned northward through fog and floating ice.

“And a good south wind sprung up behind;

The Albatross did follow,

And every day, for food or play,

Came to the mariners’ hollo!


sailors look at albatross flying overhead

“In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,

It perched for vespers nine;

Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,

Glimmered the white moon-shine.”


sailor holding a crossbow looks at falling albatross

The ancient Mariner inhospitably killeth the pious bird of good omen.

“God save thee, ancient Mariner!

From the fiends, that plague thee thus!

Why look’st thou so?”—“With my cross-bow

I shot the Albatross.”


sailors look reproachfully at man with crossbow, standing over fallen albatross


The Sun now rose upon the right

Out of the sea came he,

Still hid in mist, and on the left

Went down into the sea.


“And the good south wind still blew behind,

But no sweet bird did follow,

Nor any day for food or play

Came to the mariners’ hollo!

His shipmates cry out against the ancient Mariner, for killing the bird of good luck.

“And I had done a hellish thing,

And it would work ’em woe:

For all averred, I had killed the bird

That made the breeze to blow.

‘Ah wretch!’ said they, ‘the bird to slay,

That made the breeze to blow!’

crowd of sailors around fallen albatross

But when the fog cleared off, they justify the same, and thus make themselves accomplices in the crime.

“Nor dim nor red, like God’s own head,

The glorious Sun uprist:

Then all averred, I had killed the bird

That brought the fog and mist.

‘’Twas right,’ said they, ‘such birds to slay,

That bring the fog and mist.’

The fair breeze continues; the ship enters the Pacific Ocean, and sails northward, even till it reaches the Line.

“The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,

The furrow followed free;

We were the first that ever burst

Into that silent sea.

The ship hath been suddenly becalmed.

“Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,

’Twas sad as sad could be;

And we did speak only to break

The silence of the sea!

“All in a hot and copper sky,

The bloody Sun, at noon,


Right up above the mast did stand,

No bigger than the Moon.

ship in full sail motionless on glassy sea

“Day after day, day after day,

We stuck, nor breath nor motion;

As idle as a painted ship

Upon a painted ocean.


And the Albatross begins to be avenged.

“Water, water, everywhere,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, everywhere.

Nor any drop to drink.

“The very deep did rot: O Christ!

That ever this should be!

Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs

Upon the slimy sea.

A spirit had followed them; one of the invisible inhabitants of this planet, neither departed souls nor angels; concerning whom the learned Jew, Josephus, and the Platonic Constantinopolitan, Michael Psellus, may be consulted. They are very numerous, and there is no climate or element without one or more.

“About, about, in reel and rout

The death-fires danced at night;

The water, like a witch’s oils,

Burnt green, and blue and white.

“And some in dreams assured were

Of the spirit that plagued us so;

Nine fathom deep he had follow’d us

From the land of mist and snow.

man with clasped hands, with albatross tied to his neck

“And every tongue, through utter drought,

Was withered at the root;

We could not speak, no more than if

We had been choked with soot.

sailors tie an albatross to grieving man’s neck

The shipmates, in their sore distress, would fain throw the whole guilt on the ancient Mariner, in sign whereof they hang the dead sea-bird round his neck.

“Ah! well a-day! what evil looks

Had I from old and young!


Instead of the cross, the Albatross

About my neck was hung.”

man stands grieving, with albatross hung at his neck


sailor pointing into the distance while others lie fallen on deck


The ancient Mariner beholdeth a sign in the element afar off.

There passed a weary time. Each throat

Was parched, and glazed each eye.

A weary time! a weary time!

How glazed each weary eye,

When looking westward, I beheld

A something in the sky.


“At first it seemed a little speck,

And then it seemed a mist;

It moved and moved, and took at last

A certain shape, I wist.

“A speck, a mist, a shape, I wist!

And still it neared and neared:

As if it dodged a water-sprite,

It plunged and tacked and veered.

sailor points excitedly at distant sight, while others look over the railing

At its nearer approach, it seemeth him to be a ship; and at a dear ransom he freeth his speech from the bonds of thirst.

“With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,

We could nor laugh nor wail;

Through utter drought all dumb we stood;

I bit my arm, I sucked the blood,

And cried, A sail! a sail!

“With throats unslaked, with black lips baked

Agape they heard me call:

A flash of joy;

Gramercy! they for joy did grin,

And all at once their breath drew in,

As they were drinking all.

And horror follows. For can it be a ship that comes onward without wind or tide?

“See! see! (I cried) she tacks no more!

Hither to work us weal;

Without a breeze, without a tide,

She steadies with upright keel!

“The western wave was all a-flame,

The day was well-nigh done!


Almost upon the western wave

Rested the broad bright Sun:

When that strange shape drove suddenly

Betwixt us and the Sun.

sailing ship approaches skeleton ship on still sea


It seemeth him but the skeleton of a ship.

“And Straight the Sun was flecked with bars,

(Heaven’s Mother send us grace!)

As if through a dungeon grate he peered

With broad and burning face.

“Alas! (thought I, and my heart beat loud)

How fast she nears and nears!

Are those her sails that glance in the Sun,

Like restless gossameres?

And its ribs are seen as bars on the face of the setting Sun. The spectre-woman and her death-mate, and no other on board the skeleton-ship.

“Are those her ribs through which the Sun

Did peer, as through a grate?

And is that Woman all her crew?

Is that a Death? and are there two?

Is Death that woman’s mate?

“Her lips were red, her looks were free,

Her locks were yellow as gold:

Like vessel, like crew!

Her skin was as white as leprosy,

The Night-mare Life-in-Death was she,

Who thicks man’s blood with cold.

Death and naked woman playing dice

Death and Life-in-death have diced for the ship’s crew: she (the latter) winneth the ancient Mariner.

“The naked hulk alongside came,

And the twain were casting dice;

‘The game is done! I’ve won, I’ve won!’

Quoth she, and whistles thrice.

skeletal Death and naked woman talk excitedly

No twilight within the courts of the Sun.

“The Sun’s rim dips; the stars rush out

At one stride comes the dark;

With far-heard whisper, o’er the sea,

Off shot the spectre-bark.


shrouded figure and lightly clad woman at a table

At the rising of the Moon,

“We listened and looked sideways up!

Fear at my heart, as at a cup,

My life-blood seemed to sip!

The stars were dim, and thick the night,

The steersman’s face by his lamp gleamed white;

From the sails the dew did drip—


Till clomb above the eastern bar

The horned Moon, with one bright star

Within the nether tip.

deck littered with fallen sailors, while spirits gather behind

One after another,

“One after one, by the star-dogged Moon,

Too quick for groan or sigh,


Each turned his face with a ghastly pang,

And cursed me with his eye.

His shipmates drop down dead.

“Four times fifty living men,

(And I heard nor sigh nor groan,)

With heavy thump, a lifeless lump,

They dropped down one by one.

But Life-in-Death begins her work on the ancient Mariner.

“The souls did from their bodies fly,—

They fled to bliss or woe!

And every soul, it passed me by,

Like the whizz of my cross-bow!”

one man stands alone over fallen sailors, surrounded by spirits


young man recoils from seated older man


The Wedding-Guest feareth that a spirit is talking to him.

I fear thee, ancient Mariner!

I fear thy skinny hand!

And thou art long, and lank, and brown,

As is the ribbed sea-sand.


“I fear thee and thy glittering eye,

And thy skinny hand, so brown.”—

But the ancient Mariner assureth him of his bodily life, and proceedeth to relate his horrible penance.

“Fear not, fear not, thou Wedding-Guest!

This body dropt not down.

“Alone, alone, all, all alone,

Alone on a wide, wide sea!

And never a saint took pity on

My soul in agony.

He despiseth the creatures of the calm.

“The many men, so beautiful!

And they all dead did lie:

And a thousand thousand slimy things

Lived on; and so did I.

And envieth that they should live, and so many lie dead.

“I looked upon the rotting sea,

And drew my eyes away;

I looked upon the rotting deck,

And there the dead men lay.

“I looked to heaven, and tried to pray

But or ever a prayer had gusht,

A wicked whisper came, and made

My heart as dry as dust.

“I closed my lids, and kept them close,

And the balls like pulses beat;

For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky,

Lay like a load on my weary eye,

And the dead were at my feet.


But the curse liveth for him in the eye of the dead men.

“The cold sweat melted from their limbs,

Nor rot nor reek did they:

The look with which they looked on me

Had never passed away.

“An orphan’s curse would drag to hell

A spirit from on high;

But oh! more horrible than that

Is the curse in a dead man’s eye!

Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse,

And yet I could not die.

In his loneliness and fixedness he yearneth towards the jour­neying Moon, and the stars that still sojourn, yet still move onward; and every­where the blue sky belongs to them, and is their appointed rest, and their native country and their own natural homes, which they enter unan­nounced, as lords that are certainly expected, and yet there is a silent joy at their arrival.

“The moving Moon went up the sky,

And nowhere did abide:

Softly she was going up,

And a star or two beside—

“Her beams bemocked the sultry main,

Like April hoar-frost spread;

But where the ship’s huge shadow lay,

The charmed water burnt alway

A still and awful red.

By the light of the Moon he beholdeth God’s creatures of the great calm.

“Beyond the shadow of the ship,

I watched the water-snakes:

They moved in tracks of shining white,

And when they reared, the elfish light

Fell off in hoary flakes.


“Within the shadow of the ship

I watched their rich attire:

Blue, glossy green, and velvet black,

They coiled and swam; and every track

Was a flash of golden fire.

ship with drooping sails heading toward full moon


Their beauty and their happiness.

“O happy living things! no tongue

Their beauty might declare:

A spring of love gushed from my heart,

He blesseth them in his heart.

And I blessed them unaware:

Sure my kind saint took pity on me,

And I blessed them unaware.

man crosses his hands over his breast while sailors lie dead


The spell begins to break.

“The selfsame moment I could pray;

And from my neck so free

The Albatross fell off, and sank

Like lead into the sea.”

ragged sailor sitting on prow of ship


Oh Sleep! it is a gentle thing,

Beloved from pole to pole!

To Mary Queen the praise be given!

She sent the gentle sleep from Heaven,

That slid into my soul.

spirits and dead sailors litter a ship’s deck

By grace of the holy Mother, the ancient Mariner is refreshed with rain.

“The silly buckets on the deck,

That had so long remained,

I dreamt that they were filled with dew;

And when I awoke, it rained.

“My lips were wet, my throat was cold,

My garments all were dank;

Sure I had drunken in my dreams,

And still my body drank.

“I moved, and could not feel my limbs:

I was so light—almost

I thought that I had died in sleep,

And was a blessed ghost.


He heareth sounds and seeth strange sights and commotions in the sky and the elements.

“And soon I heard a roaring wind:

It did not come anear;

But with its sound it shook the sails,

That were so thin and sere.

“The upper air burst into life!

And a hundred fire-flags sheen,

To and fro they were hurried about!

And to and fro, and in and out,

The wan stars danced between.

“And the coming wind did roar more loud,

And the sails did sigh like sedge;

And the rain poured down from one black cloud

The Moon was at its edge.

“The thick black cloud was cleft, and still

The Moon was at its side:

Like waters shot from some high crag,

The lightning fell with never a jag,

A river steep and wide.

The bodies of the ship’s crew are inspired, and the ship moves on;

“The loud wind never reached the ship,

Yet now the ship moved on!

Beneath the lightning and the moon

The dead men gave a groan.

“They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose,

Nor spake, nor moved their eyes;

It had been strange, even in a dream,

To have seen those dead men rise.


“The helmsman steered, the ship moved on;

Yet never a breeze up blew;

The mariners all ’gan work the ropes,

Where they were wont to do;

They raised their limbs like lifeless tools—

We were a ghastly crew.

“The body of my brother’s son

Stood by me, knee to knee:

The body and I pulled at one rope,

But he said nought to me.”

But not by the souls of the men, nor by demons of earth or middle air, but by a blessed troop of angelic spirits, sent down by the invocation of the guardian saint.

“I fear thee, ancient Mariner!”

“Be calm, thou Wedding-Guest!

’Twas not those souls that fled in pain,

Which to their corses came again,

But a troop of spirits blest:

For when it dawned—they dropped their arms,

And clustered round the mast;

Sweet sounds rose slowly through their mouths,

And from their bodies passed.

“Around, around, flew each sweet sound,

Then darted to the Sun;

Slowly the sounds came back again,

Now mixed, now one by one.

“Sometimes a-dropping from the sky

I heard the sky-lark sing;

Sometimes all little birds that are,

How they seemed to fill the sea and air

With their sweet jargoning!


distant view of sailing ship on still sea

“And now ’twas like all instruments,

Now like a lonely flute;

And now it is an angel’s song,

That makes the heavens be mute.


“It ceased; yet still the sails made on

A pleasant noise till noon,

A noise like of a hidden brook

In the leafy month of June,

That to the sleeping woods all night

Singeth a quiet tune.

“Till noon we quietly sailed on,

Yet never a breeze did breathe:

Slowly and smoothly went the ship,

Moved onward from beneath.

The lonesome spirit from the south-pole carries on the ship as far as the line, in obedience to the angelic troop, but still requireth vengeance.

“Under the keel nine fathom deep,

From the land of mist and snow,

The spirit slid: and it was he

That made the ship to go.

The sails at noon left off their tune,

And the ship stood still also.

“The Sun, right up above the mast,

Had fixed her to the ocean:

But in a minute she ’gan stir,

With a short uneasy motion—

Backwards and forwards half her length

With a short uneasy motion.

“Then like a pawing horse let go,

She made a sudden bound:

It flung the blood into my head,

And I fell down in a swound.


The Polar Spirit’s fellow demons, the invisible inhabitants of the element, take part in his wrong; and two of them relate, one to the other,

“How long in that same fit I lay,

I have not to declare;

But ere my living life returned,

I heard, and in my soul discerned

Two voices in the air.

angels look over fallen man


that penance long and heavy for the ancient Mariner hath been accorded to the Polar Spirit, who returneth southward.

“‘Is it he?’ quoth one, ‘Is this the man?

By Him who died on cross,

With his cruel how he laid full low

The harmless Albatross.

grieving spirit surrounded by ice and snow

“‘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.’”

two spirits look over ship’s rail at fallen man

two flying angels look down at distant ship



“‘But tell me, tell me! speak again,

Thy soft response renewing—

What makes that ship drive on so fast?

What is the ocean doing?’


“‘Still as a slave before his lord,

The Ocean hath no blast;

His great bright eye most silently

Up to the Moon is cast—


If he may know which way to go;

For she guides him smooth or grim.

See, brother, see! how graciously

She looketh down on him.’


The Mariner hath been cast into a trance; for the angelic power causeth the vessel to drive northward faster than human life can endure.

“‘But why drives on that ship so fast,

Without or wave or wind?’


‘The air is cut away before,

And closes from behind.

“‘Fly, brother, fly! more high, more high!

Or we shall be belated:

For slow and slow that ship will go,

When the Mariner’s trance is abated.’

The supernatural motion is retarded; the Mariner awakes, and his penance begins anew.

“I woke, and we were sailing on

As in a gentle weather:

’Twas night, calm night, the moon was high;

The dead men stood together.

“All stood together on the deck,

For a charnel-dungeon fitter:

All fixed on me their stony eyes,

That in the Moon did glitter.

“The pang, the curse, with which they died,

Had never passed away:

I could not draw my eyes from theirs,

Nor turn them up to pray.


The curse is finally expiated;

“And now this spell was snapt: once more

I viewed the ocean green,

And looked far forth, yet little saw

Of what had else been seen—

robed spirits gather on ship’s deck


“Like one that on a lonesome road

Doth walk in fear and dread,

And having once turned round walks on,

And turns no more his head;

Because he knows, a frightful fiend

Doth close behind him tread.

“But soon there breathed a wind on me,

Nor sound nor motion made:

Its path was not upon the sea,

In ripple or in shade.

“It raised my hair, it fann’d my cheek,

Like a meadow-gale of spring—

It mingled strangely with my fears,

Yet it felt like a welcoming.

“Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship,

Yet she sailed softly too:

Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze—

On me alone it blew.

And the ancient Mariner beholdeth his native country.

“Oh! dream of joy! is this indeed

The light-house top I see?

Is this the hill? is this the kirk?

Is this mine own countree?

“We drifted o’er the harbour-bar,

And I with sobs did pray—

O let me be awake, my God!

Or let me sleep alway.


“The harbour-bay was clear as glass,

So smoothly it was strewn!

And on the bay the moonlight lay,

And the shadow of the moon.

distant view of sailing ship entering a harbor

“The rock shone bright, the kirk no less,

That stands above the rock:


The moonlight steeped in silentness,

The steady weathercock.

“And the bay was white with silent light

Till, rising from the same,

The angelic spirits leave the dead bodies,

Full many shapes, that shadows were,

In crimson colours came.

And appear in their own forms of light.

“A little distance from the prow

Those crimson shadows were:

I turned my eyes upon the deck—

Oh, Christ! what saw I there!

“Each corse lay flat, lifeless and flat,

And by the holy rood!

A man all light, a seraph-man,

On every corse there stood.

group of angels stand over ragged sailor

“This seraph-band, each waved his hand,

It was a heavenly sight!

They stood as signals to the land,

Each one a lovely light;

“This seraph-band, each waved his hand,

No voice did they impart—

No voice; but oh! the silence sank

Like music on my heart.

“But soon I heard the dash of oars,

I heard the Pilot’s cheer;

My head was turned perforce away,

And I saw a boat appear.


“The Pilot and the Pilot’s boy,

I heard them coming fast:

Dear Lord in Heaven! it was a joy

The dead men could not blast.

“I saw a third—I heard his voice:

It is the Hermit good!

He singeth loud his godly hymns

That he makes in the wood.

He’ll shrieve my soul, he’ll wash away

The Albatross’s blood.”


The Hermit of the wood

This Hermit good lives in that wood

Which slopes down to the sea.

How loudly his sweet voice he rears!

He loves to talk with marineres

That come from a far countree.

“He kneels at morn, and noon, and eve—

He hath a cushion plump:

It is the moss that wholly hides

The rotted old oak stump.

“The skiff-boat neared: I heard them talk,

‘Why, this is strange, I trow!

Where are those lights so many and fair,

That signal made but now?’


three people in small skiff coming up to silent ship

Approacheth the ship with wonder.

“‘Strange, by my faith!’ the Hermit said,—

‘And they answered not our cheer.

The planks looked warped! and see those sails,

How thin they are and sere!


I never saw aught like to them,

Unless perchance it were

“‘Brown skeletons of leaves that lag

My forest-brook along;

When the ivy-tod is heavy with snow,

And the owlet whoops to the wolf below

That eats the she-wolf’s young.’

rowboat approaches empty ship

“‘Dear Lord! it hath a fiendish look—

(The Pilot made reply)

I am a-feared’—‘Push on, push on!’

Said the Hermit cheerily.

“The boat came closer to the ship,

But I nor spake nor stirred;

The boat came close beneath the ship,

And straight a sound was heard.

The ship suddenly sinketh.

“Under the water it rumbled on,

Still louder and more dread:

It reached the ship, it split the bay;

The ship went down like lead.

The ancient Mariner is saved in the Pilot’s boat.

“Stunned by that loud and dreadful sound,

Which sky and ocean smote,

Like one that hath been seven days drowned

My body lay afloat;

But swift as dreams, myself I found

Within the Pilot’s boat.


rowboat with full-masted ship in the distance

“Upon the whirl, where sank the ship,

The boat spun round and round;

And all was still, save that the hill

Was telling of the sound.

three men in rowboat recoil from collapsed man


“I moved my lips—the Pilot shrieked

And fell down in a fit;

The holy Hermit raised his eyes,

And prayed where he did sit.

sailor rows while ship’s boy laughs


“I took the oars: the Pilot’s boy,

Who now doth crazy go,

Laughed loud and long, and all the while

His eyes went to and fro.

‘Ha! ha!’ quoth he, ‘full plain I see,

The Devil knows how to row.’

“And now, all in my own countree,

I stood on the firm land!

The Hermit stepped forth from the boat,

And scarcely he could stand.

ragged sailor kneels before robed hermit

The ancient Mariner earnestly entreateth the Hermit to shrieve him: and the penance of life falls on him:

“‘O shrieve me, shrieve me, holy man!’

The Hermit crossed his brow.

‘Say quick,’ quoth he, ‘I bid thee say—

What manner of man art thou?’

“Forthwith this frame of mine was wrenched

With a woful agony,

Which forced me to begin my tale;

And then it left me free.

And ever and anon throughout his future life an agony constraineth him to travel from land to land.

“Since then, at an uncertain hour,

That agony returns:

And till my ghastly tale is told,

This heart within me burns.

“I pass, like night, from land to land;

I have strange power of speech;

That moment that his face I see,

I know the man that must hear me:

To him my tale I teach.


wedding guests retreat behind a railing

“What loud uproar bursts from that door!

The wedding-guests are there:

But in the garden-bower the bride

And bride-maids singing are:


And hark the little vesper bell,

Which biddeth me to prayer!

wedding celebrations continue

“O Wedding-Guest! this soul hath been

Alone on a wide, wide sea:

So lonely ’twas, that God himself

Scarce seemèd there to be.

“O sweeter than the marriage-feast,

’Tis sweeter far to me,

To walk together to the kirk

With a goodly company!—

wedding procession before the altar

“To walk together to the kirk,

And all together pray,

While each to his great Father bends,

Old men, and babes, and loving friends,

And youths and maidens gay!

And to teach, by his own example, love and reverence to all things that God made and loveth.

“Farewell, farewell! but this I tell

To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!

He prayeth well, who loveth well

Both man and bird and beast.

“He prayeth best, who loveth best

All things both great and small;

For the dear God who loveth us,

He made and loveth all.”

well-dressed wedding guest walking in the door

The Mariner, whose eye is bright,

Whose beard with age is hoar,

Is gone: and now the Wedding-Guest

Turned from the Bridegroom’s door.


He went like one that hath been stunned,

And is of sense forlorn:

A sadder and a wiser man

He rose the morrow morn.

hermit praying before crucifix

London:—Printed by R. Clay.

Notes and Corrections


[This passage isn’t included in all editions of the Ancient Mariner. It’s from Thomas Burnet (1635?–1715), Archæologiæ philosophicæ: sive Doctrina antiqua de rerum originibus. (Philosophical archeology, or, Ancient teachings about the origins of things), 1692. The quoted passage starts near the top of page 68 and then skips to near the bottom of the page, winding up at the top of 69. To further confuse us, the “Quid agunt” bit comes before “Facile credo”. See this helpful lsite if you need a translation.]

Part I

[Sidenote] An ancient Mariner meeteth three gallants bidden to a wedding-feast, and detaineth one.
[Most of the marginal glosses will be pretty superfluous, but I’m glad for this first one. Otherwise “he stoppeth one of three” sounds as if the Mariner stopped every third person.]

Part II

The bloody Sun, at noon . . . No bigger than the Moon
[Samuel, you know perfectly well that the Sun and Moon as seen from the earth are almost identical in size (half a degree of arc), because the sun is 400 times as big, but also 400 times as far away.]

Part III

‘The game is done! I’ve won, I’ve won!’
[Text has “I’ve, I’ve won!” The metrically required missing word “won” was supplied from other editions.]

Part IV

But or ever a prayer had gusht
[I don’t perfectly understand why it isn’t “ere”, but the other two editions had the same spelling (even while varying between “gusht” and “gushed”).]

The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.