The Night-mare Life-in-Death

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lines 143-48

There passed a weary time. Each throat
Was parched, and glazed each eye.
A weary time! a weary time!
How glazed each weary eye,
When looking westward,
I beheld A something in the sky.

Chapter Eight of Mariner brings us to the point of reckoning.  As one created imago Dei, man is exceptional in creation.  He, like God, is a free agent whose actions bear the spiritual and everlasting consequence.  In this chapter, Samuel Taylor Coleridge presents the moment of dread which is common to man, yet unique to each life; when accountings come due.

Malcolm Guite writes:

In this third section of the poem we encounter a ghost ship, the skeletal figure of death, and the even more frightening figure of the “night-mare life-in-death,” some of the classic motifs and images of the gothic horror genre on the one hand, and of sailors’ tales of the supernatural on the other. But Coleridge is doing much more than recycling the standard fare of a gothic ballad. In this poem all these images are subtly transformed from their various sources. In Coleridge’s hands they are more than the passing images of stock hair-raising gothic imagery, or standard Flying Dutchman–type narratives, but become much deeper emblems of the experiences of alienation and dread so familiar to our own age—experiences which Coleridge himself was about to enter.

What parallels can be drawn between Chapter Eight and the #metoo movement?






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Rick Wilcox

Editor in Chief | Literary Life