Two Voices – Conclusion

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lines 508-13

I saw a third—I heard his voice:
It is the Hermit good!
He singeth loud his godly hymns
That he makes in the wood.
He’ll shrieve my soul, he’ll wash away
The Albatross’s blood.


Coleridge at last began to understand grace. His life, like the mariner had been a journey of both trial and tribulation. He knew the refining fire of sanctification, but he also experienced the residual effects of consequence bearing decisions that affected him holistically.

As Malcolm Guite writes:

However new the morning may have been when Coleridge rose from his knees at the little chapel in Halsted, he was by no means a renovated man. He still had much further to travel than his mariner, even though for him, too, the lighthouse top of reason, the hill of nature, and most important of all, the kirk of his faith were coming back into view. If the mariner in his trance had heard two voices—the one revealing his guilt and the other his penance—then for Coleridge, too, in the desperate decade between his return in 1806 and his final shelter and sanctuary with Dr. Gillman in 1816, there were likewise two voices “taking part,” taking sides, and sometimes tearing him to pieces.

There was the voice he had seemed to hear in that Malta moonrise: “the logos, the creator, the evolver.” Intellectually, he was more than on the mend; he was beginning that great reintegration of faith and reason rooted in the Trinity and in our being made in the image of our Maker, which would bear fruit in Biographia Literaria and Sibylline Leaves, the two great publications of his new life post-1816. But for now, however true and beautiful, all that the- ology was still a matter of intellectual exploration and assent; it had not yet reached and renovated his heart. In his heart Coleridge was still haunted by “wicked whispers,” whispers that had yet to be exorcised. For the second of Coleridge’s two voices was one of utter condemnation, guilt, and despair.

What is Sanctification?

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Rick Wilcox is Editor in Chief