From Pole To Pole

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lines 292-96

Oh sleep! it is a gentle thing,
Beloved from pole to pole!
To Mary Queen the praise be given!
She sent the gentle sleep from Heaven,
That slid into my soul.


Aristotle argued for a golden mean, which is to say a “middle way” between two opposites.  The value of this balance is echoed in every major religion, but it is ambiguous and requires subjective discernment.  Absent the steadying gyroscope of the Holy Spirit, man is whipsawed across bi-polar extremes.

As Malcolm Guite writes:

It is interesting to note how gently in the second line of this stanza he reminds us of the “polar” frame in which his story is set. The journey moves from the northern to the southern polar hemispheres and back, and each occasion they reach or cross “the line” is carefully emphasized in the poem. At a symbolic and thematic level, the poem also operates in the tension between different polarities: freedom and constraint, community and isolation, blessing and curse, redemption and guilt, and, indeed, sleep and waking; and all the transitions between these states, the crossings of invisible lines, are also significant.

Is mature, spiritual life ambigious?

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Rick Wilcox is Editor in Chief