Water, Water, Everywhere

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lines 115-22

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


The lines selected in today’s post are perhaps the poem’s best known, though their warning is generally unheeded.  In the poem, the rotting sea is a consequence of man’s caviler and capricious killing of the symbol of God’s favor, but today the scale of that truth goes broadly to the hubris that destroys the ecology of the planet.

As Malcolm Guite writes in Mariner, Chapter Seven:

Never has every whim of so many people been so completely catered to, so many needs at once stimulated and “satisfied,” and yet, far from being made happy by all these little satisfactions of impulse and appetite, we find a growing discontent and anomie in all Western consumer societies, until we are forced at last to make a distinction between “standard of living” and “quality of life.” It is particularly telling that a poem whose overarching meaning is so prophetic of the current ecological crisis should also so acutely express the hollow center of the consumerism which has itself led to that ecological catastrophe. Like the mariner, we have disturbed a delicate polar balance and unleashed forces beyond our comprehension which are quite likely to destroy us, and like the mariner, we do not even experience an interim satisfaction as a consequence of our actions, merely emptiness and thirst in the midst of plenty.

Can our planet be saved from the effects of pollution or is it too late?

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Rick Wilcox is Editor in Chief