The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
The Mundane and the Sublime Theme Icon

The idea of the sublime is an important Romantic idea. In modern times, the word “sublime” usually refers to something especially breathtaking or beautiful. But as demonstrated by the strange beauty – both terrible and wonderful – that Coleridge presents in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the Romantic idea of the sublime isn’t confined to just beauty, but rather suggests an overwhelming awe, and is often connected to nature. In the poem, for instance, the natural world is filled with beautiful yet horrible sights and events. The storm, which drives the ship to the pole, is incredibly powerful and majestic at once. The ice, snow, and giant, ship-high glaciers that the Mariner encounters in the pole are at once incredibly beautiful, eerie, and dangerous. The sublime then can be seen as the intersection of beauty and terror, awe and horror. Thus the sublime, like nature, must be approached with the right attitude. If we approach it and only appreciate its beauty, we risk falling prey to its danger, and if we approach the sublime only with fear of its horror, we mistakenly forget the awe that God’s creations should rightly inspire. And the poem makes it clear that experiencing the sublime can transform, just as it transforms both the Mariner and the Wedding Guest through the Mariner’s story.

The poem does not only find the sublime in nature, however. As described by the Mariner, it is also possible to see the act of prayer as sublime, as a spiritual, powerful act within a bounded, mundane civilization. In this view, both praying and appreciating nature involve both the beauty and overwhelming awe of connecting to God, of seeing past the mundane moments of daily life in civilization to the sublime.

In contrast, it is possible to see the Mariner’s killing of the Albatross as an attempt to assert the mundane over the sublime, or to force what is sublime (an uncanny, flying animal appearing out of the fog) to become mundane (a dead bird).

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The Mundane and the Sublime ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of The Mundane and the Sublime appears in each Part of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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The Mundane and the Sublime Quotes in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Below you will find the important quotes in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner related to the theme of The Mundane and the Sublime.
Part I Quotes

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:

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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Part III Quotes

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:

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.

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:

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.

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:

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 VII Quotes

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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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.