The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Eyes Symbol Icon

Other symbols and many of the themes in the poem exert their presence through the eyes. Firstly, the Mariner holds the Wedding Guest with his story, but also with his “glittering eye.” The eye then symbolizes both a means of control and a means of communication, which makes sense given the spellbinding power of storytelling in the poem. When words fail, humans communicate through their eyes. This point is also exemplified by the silent curses the Sailors give the Mariner when they are too thirsty to speak. This form of communication is powerful, direct, and primal, and it is also continued and pushed into the realm of the supernatural and sublime when the communicative gaze continues even after the sailors’ deaths.

But eyes do not only symbolize a means of primal, ineffably communication between humans. They also symbolize the means of communication between humans and the natural world, and through it, God. It is through the eyes that we observe God’s creatures, nature, and the sublime: the Mariner observes the Albatross, the Sun and Moon, the sublime, and the rest of the natural world with the power of sight. Some of the most terrifying moments of the poem are given through the means of sight and the eyes, for example, when the Mariner spies a ship and realizes its skeletal, ghostly nature as it approaches. The communication signified here is indicating that penance or punishment is coming, but the communication that the eye symbolizes and enables can also carry a message of salvation, as it is the sight of the radiant beauty of the swimming snakes that allows the Mariner to realize his error.

In another way, then, the eye can symbolize the limitations of the poem and of storytelling itself. The Mariner (and through him Coleridge) can use words to communicate the glory of God and the beauty of the world, but this communication will always be indirect. By seeing, we can take one step closer to God, to an appreciation of the sublime in nature, and to understanding for ourselves the lessons which the poem seeks to impart.

Eyes Quotes in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The The Rime of the Ancient Mariner quotes below all refer to the symbol of Eyes. 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 II Quotes

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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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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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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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui offici

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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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupi

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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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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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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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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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Eyes Symbol Timeline in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The timeline below shows where the symbol Eyes 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 three young men who are on their way to a wedding.... (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
...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 thump to the... (full context)
Part IV
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... (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... (full context)
Part V
The Natural and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon
Sin and Penance Theme Icon
Storytelling and Interpretation Theme Icon
...a supernatural phenomenon. The dead Sailors groan, rise up, and, without speaking or moving their eyes, begin working on the ship. Even without wind, the ghastly crew is able to sail... (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
Christian Allegory Theme Icon
...under the moonlit sky beside the dead Sailors. For a moment, his penance and the dead-eyed curse returns, and the Mariner becomes unable to pray. But just as soon as it... (full context)