The Sinking Ship

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lines 542-5

The boat came closer to the ship,
But I nor spake nor stirred;
The boat came close beneath the ship,
And straight a sound was heard.

Under the water it rumbled on,
Still louder and more dread:
It reach’d the ship, it split the bay;
The ship went down like lead.

Stunned by that loud and dreadful sound,
Which sky and ocean smote,
Like one that hath been seven days drown’d
My body lay afloat;
But swift as dreams, myself I found
Within the Pilot’s boat


The last great turning point of the poem is perhaps the greatest.  The ravaged ship was finally brought down by force from deep within the sea. The is much to be learned here because the real mystery was not why it sank, but rather how it stayed afloat so long.  Many people likewise wonder why there is evil in the world when a better question would be “How can pervasive good exist in a fallen world?”

As Malcolm Guite writes:

There is, though, another way of looking at the sudden sinking of the mariner’s ship. The real question is not why did the ship sink here, but why has it not already sunk—how did it get so far? The sails are in rags, the planks are warped, there is no one at the helm. The ship should have sunk back in the tropics, and should certainly not have held together when it was being driven northward at supernatural speed. The answer seems to be that the ship is held together by the angelic power for the express purpose of bringing the mariner back to his beginning and enabling his redemption and new life. Once the angels leave the ship, it falls to pieces.

How can pervasive good exist in a fallen world?

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Rick Wilcox is Editor in Chief