The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The Ancient Mariner Character Analysis

The protagonist (and in many ways the antagonist) of the poem. The poem is largely the story of how, while sailing in Antarctic waters, the Mariner killed the albatross, and then how both nature and the supernatural rose up against him and his shipmates, until the Mariner comes to recognize that all of God’s creatures are beautiful and must be treated with reverence. Put another way, the poem focuses first around the Mariner’s sin, and then his penance for that sin. And yet the Mariner’s story is also not quite as simple as all that. First, the poem never explains why the Mariner kills the albatross – does he kill it out of a hatred of nature, or out of a desire to master and control nature, or for some other reason entirely? Second, despite the Mariner’s penance and realization, the absolution he receives is only partial: he regains the ability to pray, but at the same time he finds himself compelled to tell his story to others, such as the Wedding Guest. He is doomed to forever spread his story and instruct potential sinners in the best way to live, which is in harmony with and reverent awe of nature and God’s creations. The Mariner becomes a kind of herald of the natural and spiritual worlds that his killing of the albatross outraged, and with his strange and intense demeanor, his “glittering eye,” his ability to recognize from their faces which men must hear his story, and his overwhelmingly compelling storytelling itself, he also takes on aspects of the supernatural or spiritual world that he experienced.

The Ancient Mariner Quotes in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The The Rime of the Ancient Mariner quotes below are all either spoken by The Ancient Mariner or refer to The Ancient Mariner. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin edition of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner published in 0.
Part I Quotes

He holds him with his skinny hand,
'There was a ship,' quoth he.

Related Characters: The Ancient Mariner (speaker), The Wedding Guest
Page Number: 8-9
Explanation and Analysis:

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At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed 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!

Related Characters: The Ancient Mariner (speaker), Sailors
Related Symbols: The Albatross
Page Number: 61-70
Explanation and Analysis:

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'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.

Related Characters: The Wedding Guest (speaker), The Ancient Mariner
Related Symbols: The Albatross
Page Number: 79-83
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part II Quotes

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

Related Characters: The Ancient Mariner (speaker), The Lonesome Spirit from the South Pole
Page Number: 115-122
Explanation and Analysis:

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Ah! well a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.

Related Characters: The Ancient Mariner (speaker), Sailors
Related Symbols: The Albatross, Eyes
Page Number: 139-143
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part III Quotes

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!

Related Characters: The Ancient Mariner (speaker), Sailors, Death, Life-in-Death
Related Symbols: Eyes
Page Number: 157-161
Explanation and Analysis:

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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.

Four times fifty living men,
(And I heard nor sigh nor groan)
With heavy thump, a lifeless lump,
They dropped down one by one.

Related Characters: The Ancient Mariner (speaker), Sailors, Death, Life-in-Death
Related Symbols: Eyes, The Sun and Moon
Page Number: 212-219
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part IV Quotes

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.

Related Characters: The Ancient Mariner (speaker), Sailors, Life-in-Death
Related Symbols: Eyes
Page Number: 257-262
Explanation and Analysis:

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O happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gushed from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware:
Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
And I blessed them unaware,

The selfsame moment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea.

Related Characters: The Ancient Mariner (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Albatross, Eyes, The Sun and Moon
Page Number: 282-291
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part V Quotes

'Is it he?' quoth one, 'Is this the man?
By him who died on cross,
With his cruel bow he laid full low
The harmless Albatross.

Quoth he, 'The man hath penance done,
And penance more will do.'

Related Characters: First Voice and Second Voice (speaker), The Ancient Mariner, The Lonesome Spirit from the South Pole
Related Symbols: The Albatross
Page Number: 398-409
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part VI Quotes

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.

Related Characters: The Ancient Mariner (speaker), Sailors, The Lonesome Spirit from the South Pole
Related Symbols: Eyes, The Sun and Moon
Page Number: 492-499
Explanation and Analysis:

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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.

Related Characters: The Ancient Mariner (speaker), Hermit
Related Symbols: The Albatross
Page Number: 508-513
Explanation and Analysis:

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Part VII Quotes

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.

Related Characters: The Ancient Mariner (speaker), The Wedding Guest, Hermit
Related Symbols: Eyes
Page Number: 586-560
Explanation and Analysis:

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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.

Related Characters: The Ancient Mariner (speaker), The Wedding Guest
Related Symbols: The Albatross
Page Number: 612-617
Explanation and Analysis:

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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.

Related Characters: The Ancient Mariner, The Wedding Guest
Related Symbols: Eyes
Page Number: 618-625
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Ancient Mariner Character Timeline in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The timeline below shows where the character The Ancient Mariner appears in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part I
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Storytelling and Interpretation Theme Icon
The Ancient Mariner, an old man with a grey beard and a “glittering eye,” stops one out of... (full context)
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Storytelling and Interpretation Theme Icon
The Mariner then launches into the story of his experiences at sea, describing how the ship itself... (full context)
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
After the Wedding Guest quiets down again, the Mariner’s story moves on to the great storm, which pushed the ship towards the South Pole.... (full context)
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
Storytelling and Interpretation Theme Icon
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
...suddenly interjects into the story, revealing that while telling this part of his tale the Mariner looks like he is greatly plagued by fiends. The Mariner then shares his tragic mistake... (full context)
Part II
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
Storytelling and Interpretation Theme Icon
The Mariner says that after he shot the Albatross, the ship began sailing northward. While the winds... (full context)
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
Storytelling and Interpretation Theme Icon
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
...sea becomes extremely calm. Below a “hot and copper sky” and “the bloody Sun,” the Mariner and the Sailors become stranded in the ocean without water. Ironically, they are surrounded by... (full context)
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
During this period of dryness, completely stuck and increasingly thirsty, the Mariner cries out to Christ in terror afraid of the slimy creatures crawling on the surface... (full context)
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
Storytelling and Interpretation Theme Icon
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
So thirsty that they cannot speak, the Sailors all give the Mariner evil looks, seeking to “throw the whole guilt” on him for what he did. Thus... (full context)
Part III
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
Storytelling and Interpretation Theme Icon
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
The Mariner and the Sailors spend a long “weary time” stuck in the state of thirst on... (full context)
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
Storytelling and Interpretation Theme Icon
The Sailors at first take great joy in the Mariner’s announcement that another ship is approaching, since they believe that they are going to be... (full context)
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
Through the ‘ribs’ or ‘grate’ of the skeleton ship, the Mariner perceives its sole passengers: Death himself and Life-in-Death, a woman described with yellow hair, red... (full context)
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
Storytelling and Interpretation Theme Icon
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
...rises. In the moonlight, one by one each of the Sailors turns to curse the Mariner with their eyes. Then one by one, all two hundred Sailors drop down dead and... (full context)
Part IV
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Storytelling and Interpretation Theme Icon
...hearing that all the Sailors died, the Wedding Guest interrupts the story, afraid that the Mariner, too, perished that day and is telling the story as a sort of zombie or... (full context)
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
As the Mariner returns to his story, this solitude becomes a terrible part of the penance he must... (full context)
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
After closing his eyes in an attempt to escape his punishment, the Mariner finds that he is still being cursed by the look in the dead men’s eyes.... (full context)
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
Storytelling and Interpretation Theme Icon
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
Following this weeklong dead-eyed curse, the Mariner comes to his great realization. In the moonlight, while the ship’s shadow remains an “awful... (full context)
Part V
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
...(that is, has learned to appreciate nature) and been opened back up to prayer, the Mariner is then able to fall asleep. In this sleep he dreams of rain, and he... (full context)
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
But soon after drinking, the Mariner notices the wind begin to rage and nature and supernatural spirits begin to act out.... (full context)
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
Storytelling and Interpretation Theme Icon
...to sail the ship. The Wedding Guest reacts to this detail in horror, but the Mariner assures him that it was not demons that reanimated the corpses, or the original souls... (full context)
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
The Mariner then describes how when the night ended and the sun rose, the angels too rose... (full context)
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
Storytelling and Interpretation Theme Icon
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
Suddenly, the Mariner is thrown into a fit, and in that strange state he hears two voices (the... (full context)
Part VI
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
Storytelling and Interpretation Theme Icon
...the ship. They then fly away, indicating that the ship will slow again once the Mariner awakens from his trance. (full context)
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
Storytelling and Interpretation Theme Icon
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
Upon their departure, the Mariner wakes under the moonlit sky beside the dead Sailors. For a moment, his penance and... (full context)
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
Storytelling and Interpretation Theme Icon
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
This breeze moves the ship swiftly and sweetly, until the Mariner cries out with joy: he has been brought home to his native land. At this... (full context)
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
Storytelling and Interpretation Theme Icon
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
But this silent music is broken by the sound of oars, as the Mariner hears and then sees a small boat carrying a Pilot, a Pilot’s Boy, and a... (full context)
Part VII
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Storytelling and Interpretation Theme Icon
The Mariner begins the final part of his tale by describing the Hermit, a pious man who... (full context)
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
Suddenly, the Mariner’s ship begins to sink. The water rumbles and whirls and the ship goes down like... (full context)
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
Storytelling and Interpretation Theme Icon
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
Once upon land, the Mariner throws himself at the Hermit and begs for forgiveness and absolution. When the confused Hermit... (full context)
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
Storytelling and Interpretation Theme Icon
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
At this point, the Mariner refers for the first time to the wedding that has been looming for the entire... (full context)
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
Storytelling and Interpretation Theme Icon
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
His tale finished, the Mariner leaves, and the Wedding Guest turns away from the wedding feast. The poem ends with... (full context)