Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Select Poems

"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?'" (lines 1-4)

I recently read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  I was feeling the need for something classic.  I've also been feeling lately that I've been neglecting my poetry needs.  I read the Kindle edition of Rime of The Ancient Mariner, which comes with "selected poems" and a very lengthy introduction.

A quick note on "Introductions", the ones with the capital "I".  I don't often like them.  I find them mostly at the beginning of classics. Sometimes they are utterly boring.  The ones that aren't boring sometimes give away the plot!  It makes me mad.  After learning my lessons, I've started skimming “Introductions,” then after the book (or poems in this case), I go back and read the parts I’m actually interested in. Sometimes they do offer an insight into the story, sometimes I'm bored to tears and I just skip it again.  The Introduction to this collections various poems were good (though not necessary).  I found they did help, but I recommend reading the specific poem discussions after you've read the actual poem instead of before.

I read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner first about 11 or 12 years ago.  I remember really liking it.  As with a lot of poetry at the time, I found The Rime of the Ancient Mariner to be a story told in verse.  It's all about the Ancient Mariner and the curse he has brought down upon himself and his crew by killing the lucky Albatross.  It's a ghost/paranormal/angels & demons sort of story.  It would probably make a very scary movie (if done right).  It has one of my favourite lines of all time:

"Like one, that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turn’d round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread." (lines 446-451)

It gives me chills. Coleridge could certainly turn a phrase. If you like giving yourself the creeps and you like poetry, then The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is for you.

In the collection were several other poems by Coleridge.  I'm not going to talk about all of them, just a quick blurb on two.  The first is, Kubla Khan.  If I didn't mention it, I'd be remiss.  Kubla Khan is full of vision and everything you can imagine during an Opium trip.  It's a beautiful poem that will continue to endure the test of time and fascinate generations of scholars.

One of my favourites (I liked it better than Kubla Khan), is Christabel.  It's another creepy story.  It's lovely and again, full of supernatural elements.  It is also unfinished, though it has a conclusion.  Coleridge wrote that he considered it unfinished.  What else did he need to say though?  You should not pick up strange women after praying in the woods at night.  Why would you pray in the woods at night?  Crazy nobles.  

After reading these poems, I've come to realize how much I enjoy poetry that tells tales. I’m also reminded of how much I enjoyed studying the Romantic era during school.  I think I’ll be looking up one of my favourite Romantic poets (and Coleridge’s friend), William Wordsworth.  If you’re hesitant about reading poetry, I think something like The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a nice place to start.  It’s easy to follow what is happening and though it’s a “long” poem, you can easily read it in one sitting.

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