Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" tells the
story of a sailor who offended the powers of nature. In a dream, he comes
to understand the nature of his sin, and he shares his insights with a
stranger, a man on his way to a wedding.
This poem was written at the end of the 18th century, at the beginning
of the industrial revolution. Coleridge's story encourages a respect for
all forms of life, and describes all sorts of horrors he had to face
because he killed an albatross that had apparently aided him and his
shipmates for no apparent reason.
The wedding guest cannot pull himself away, and so hears all the
terrible things that happened to Coleridge, how all his shipmates died,
were re-animated in supernatural ways, and how the mariner's perception of
the world around him changed as he came to understand the gravity of what
he had done.
As the wedding guest listens, he is sometimes moved and sometimes
scared, but he cannot tear himself away, and so hears the story from
beginning to end. The story represents how a state of sin interferes with a
person's relationship with God: until the mariner can truly appreciate the
sanctity of all life by recognizing the beauty in creatures he had
previously loathed (sea snakes), he cannot pray, and the dead albatross
remains around his neck. Once he has this insight, he can pray again, and
the albatross drops off.
The poem is didactic. The wedding guest says he is sadder but wiser,
but does not tell us what lesson he has learned. Presumably, he has learned
that all beings in God's world are connected and to not treat the life of
any creature casually....