Mental and emotional health are extremely important. They both affect a person’s thinking, feelings, moods and behaviors. Having good mental and emotional health is essential in stabilizing any irrational fears, anxieties or hostilities that one may have. Two significant parts of one’s personality is cognitive process of ethical reasoning. These help one to stabilize control of his own or her own emotions and behaviors. Without a good sense of mental and emotional health, an individual is in danger of hurting themselves and/or others. In today’s world, one would use therapy to help cope with his or her well-being. Many people use writing as a form of therapy, and Harry White would agree that Samuel Taylor Coleridge is a true artist when it comes to his form of cognitive reflection and expression of his emotional and physical state. According to Harry White’s interpretation of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Coleridge most likely suffered from a mental or emotional illness and uses the mariner as a way to express his feelings of remorse and despair.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, is a poem that explicitly describes the story of a man who made a grave mistake and is cursed with telling his tale for the rest of eternity. The poem begins when the narrator attends a wedding and is drawn into the mariner’s ancient tale of whoa. The mariner starts when he was out at sea with his crew and feels the random urge to kill an albatross, not knowing that he damned himself and his crew to an ultimate demise. As soon as the mariner finishes the deed, the wind stops, the sea calms, there is no clean drinking water, and evil spirits indirectly ensure that the ancient mariner will warn others to never repeat history. They do this by laying guilt over the mariner for all eternity, and the way to relieve some of his guilt is to tell his rime.
White argues that Coleridge seems to suffer from an overwhelming feeling of guilt. This is very apparent in the actions of the mariner. The mariner, for some odd reason that is not discussed in the poem, kills an albatross. An albatross is a creature which is known to be a symbol of luck and fortune and was supposed to lead him and his crew to safe waters. After he impulsively kills the creature, the mariner’s ship is brought to a halt: “Day after day, day after day, / We stuck, nor breath nor motion; / As idle as a painted ship / Upon a painted ocean” (115-118). The ship is no longer able to move because there is no wind blowing to push the sails. The crew blames this on the mariner because he killed their only sign of good luck, the albatross. They are helpless, all because of the mariner. The crew becomes furious at the mariner, they “each turned their faces with a ghastly pang and cursed him with their eyes” (212-215). The crew is giving the mariner the cold shoulder for inducing them with experiences of hardship that, they think, could have been avoided if he did not act on impulse. They want to make sure the mariner knows that he is at fault.
Matters then start to escalate further. Stranded, there is no clean water to drink. The crew is described “with throats unslaked, with black lips baked could not laugh or wail” (157-158). Because there is no clean water to drink, the crew starts to suffer from dehydration. The crew is shipwrecked and dying from the lack of drinking water, all because of the mariner. White would probably state that Coleridge, at this point, is starting to realize that he was wrong, but was unsure of how to express his apologetic self. Coleridge probably tried to put up a fight to redeem himself, however, fate had a different way of solving this issue.
Coleridge, according to White, is believed to suffer from depression. He uses the mariner to express his feelings of isolation. These feelings come forward after the crew perishes. The mariner is left “alone, alone, all, all alone” and “his soul is in agony” (232-235). He feels so guilty that he was the cause of the crew’s death, and with that, he falls into a deep state of depression. He is all alone because of his own wrongdoing. The mariner is so distraught he says, “I closed my lids, and kept them close, / And the balls like pulses beat; / For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky / Lay like a load on my weary eye, / And the dead wore at my feet” (248-252). The mariner feels as if the world is a dead weight pressing down on top of him. He feels so incredibly guilty and lonely that he wants to shut the world out. The mariner, unfortunately, cannot shut the world out. He is cursed with retelling his story of sin for eternity. He can never make amends for what he has done: “Since then, at an uncertain hour, / That agony returns: / And till my ghastly tale is told, / This heart within me burns” (582-585). If he does not tell his story, the physical pain it brings upon him is unbearable.
Besides the fact that the mariner may likely have some sort of depression, it is clear that the anxiety and ache plays a huge toll on his physical being. The descriptive imagery almost seems too real, leading the educated audience to believe that Coleridge, himself, deals with a terrible emotional roller coaster. It may be that Coleridge had his own mistake that should have and could have been avoided, but suffered a loss greater than himself for it.
Today, it is known that minorities in the United States have so much mental stress that it affects their physical health. Black Americans have higher rates of cardiovascular disease and hypertension than their white counterparts. Knowing this, Coleridge might have had a previous issue with mental illness or chronic disease, and after he made his terrible mistake, it may have sparked a form of insanity. The only cure would be a sixteen page poem which correlates to his loss.
In his interpretation, White states that Coleridge’s use for the wedding scene is well displayed to enforce the fact that the mariner is in an overwhelmingly grotesque state of mind. It is clear that the mariner cannot see the inappropriateness of the situation to tell his story because of how much the past had consumed himself (White, 2009). It may be possible that Coleridge lost the love of his life and being at the wedding was a trigger for his sorrow and sadness. He does not want the same thing to happen to the wedding guest, so he tells him his story to make sure the wedding guest does not make the same mistakes the mariner did during his lifetime.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, according to Harry White’s interpretation, is a tale of mourning. It is a tale of Coleridge’s personal loss and despair and it has been presented as a sixteen page descriptive poem which should send shivers down the spine. Coleridge’s imagery is an important factor of reflection and expression of his sorrows.
Cite this Essay
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below