Instead of the Cross, the Albatross

The Rime of The Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lines 83-6

The Sun now rose upon the right:
Out of the sea came he,
Still hid in mist, and on the left
Went down into the sea.

This week we will read and discuss Chapter Seven of Malcolm Guite’s Mariner.  The poem’s opening highlights the importance of oneness with nature as the ship departs, and soon we will see the natural working alongside the supernatural.  We will examine man’s role as a participant in this order and look at the effects of his vacillation between self-centeredness and selflessness.

As Malcolm Guite writes in Mariner, Chapter Seven:

In fact, this takes us straight to one of the most important questions that Coleridge is raising in this poem: “What is our proper relation to the natural world?” Is it a sacred web of exchange of which we are only one small part, or is it simply an agglomeration of “stuff,” which we can use at will for our own purposes? At this point, the whole ship’s crew and, perhaps, the mariner himself have taken an instrumental rather than a sacral view of nature. The albatross is not considered to have an intrinsic value, or rights, in itself, but is merely an instrument that might assist human beings for their own ends. If the bird were useful for the human agenda, then it would be right to preserve it, but if it hinders an immediate human goal, then it is right to kill it. In one sense, the terrible curse that falls on the ship and its crew and the dreadful experience of loneliness and alienation suffered by the mariner are a consequence of this instrumental view of nature, but in a deeper sense the instrumental view is, itself, the curse, and there can be no blessing or release until the mariner experiences a radical conversion of heart and mind in which he can look out from the deck of the ship at the other living things around him and simply bless them and love them for themselves, without any reference to a private or even purely human agenda.

Has your perspective of your place in nature evolved over time?





Rick Wilcox is Editor in Chief


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Rick Wilcox

Rick is an ordained minister who is voraciously interested in the holistic transformation of people individually and in an organizational context - enabled by technology, educated continuously through multi-channel systems and informed by the wisdom of history's greatest thinkers. He is a Ph.D. student at Faulkner University, focusing on English Literature in the context of Classical Education. He earned a Master of Arts in Christian Education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Master of Science in Management from Sam Houston State University. His undergraduate studies earned a BA with double majors in Sociology and Theology from Houston Baptist University. Rick is Deputy Director of PACES PAideia Classical School and leads the Parenting Teens Adult Community at Faith Bible Church in The Woodlands Texas.