The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
We listen’d and look’d sideways up!
Fear at my heart, as at a cup,
My life-blood seemed to sip!
The stars were dim, and thick the night,
The steerman’s face by his lamp gleam’d white;
From the sails the dew did drip—
Till clomb above the eastern bar
The horned Moon, with one bright star
Within the nether tip.
In his confessional titled The Crack-Up, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote
Of course all life is a process of breaking down, but the blows that do the dramatic side of the work-the big sudden blows that come, or seem to come, from outside-the ones you remember and blame things on and, in moments of weakness, tell your friends about, don’t show their effect all at once. There is another sort of blow that comes from within-that you don’t feel until it’s too late to do anything about it until you realize with finality that in some regard you will never be as good a man again.
We are all fractured by life sooner or later. Some people flame out epically like a Roman emperor, but most people suffer quietly from incremental but inevitable disappointments. If there is an upside to this universal frailty, it is in our overwhelming need to love each other. This truth is so powerful; it was the single thing Jesus called out as the earmark of His followers. He said the world will know we are His by the love we have for each other.
As Malcolm Guite writes in Mariner, Chapter Eight:
This sense of being slowly drained, sip by sip, of life itself by fear, as though by the leprous white Night-mare Life-in-Death herself, is unforgettable and it carries with it a subtle and horriﬁc inversion of the redemptive/sacramental frame of the whole poem. For what we see here is an eerie anti-communion: instead of sipping from the chalice the freely given wine that is the life- blood of his redeemer, “him who died on cross,” the mariner has his own life-blood drained away. The detail of the steersman’s face gleaming white in the lamplight, drawn from his Malta voyage notebooks, adds to the sense of the deathly pale and reminds us again of the leprous white skin of the Night- mare Life-in-Death.
How is strength gained through Weakness?
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