Sadder And Wiser

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Lines 618 to the end

The Mariner, whose eye is bright,
Whose beard with age is hoar
Is gone: and now the Wedding-Guesti
Turned from the bridegroom’s door.

He went like one that hath been stunned,
And is of sense forlorn:
A sadder and a wiser man,
He rose the morrow morn.


The poem’s conclusion finds the wedding guest a “sadder and a wiser man.”  We can easily imagine the weariness that comes from fully confronting sin’s consequences, but does that automatically result in wisdom?

As Malcolm Guite writes:

And so the poem ends. It has taken us out, away from the familiar and out to the ends of the earth; it has made us conscious of the spirit in our depths and of the beautiful numinous flight of wings in the highest places of our being; it has reminded us of the deep capacity for evil in each of us and how easy it is to unleash hell; it has shown us moments of utterly undeserved and unlooked- for grace, moments when the sheer beauty of things can teach us almost everything. And finally it has brought us home, home to ourselves, sadder perhaps, but wiser, home to our situation in the world, as the balance we have wantonly broken in nature unleashes terrifying forces on us foretold in the breaking of polar ice and death of the albatrosses on Midway Island, and home to the chance to change, to begin again, with that rich intertwining of love and prayer upon “the morrow morn.”

Does wisdom require sorrow?

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Rick Wilcox is Editor in Chief