A POEM TO WELCOME THE NEW YEAR.

In Scotland this evening, the 31st of December is called Hogmanay. Usually it is a time of celebration, of gleeful gathering and communal hope. All that this year, however, is not to be. There will be no social revelry, no communality, no first footing of friends and neighbours. For, despite welcome and hopeful news of new vaccines, given the threat of a new variation of Covid our government has decided that social mixing is not to be allowed. Many will feel depressed by all this; yet with the vaccines there is still some sense of hope.

Here is a poem by Thomas Hardy that seems to me to express very well our mixed feelings. “The Darkling Thrush” was written on the 31st December 1900 by Thomas Hardy, a great poet, who has a dark fatalistic streak, but is also open to something at variance with his predisposition.

            THE DARKLING THRUSH

I leant upon a coppice gate 
   When Frost was spectre-gray, 
And winter's dregs made desolate 
   The weakening eye of day. 
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky 
   Like strings of broken lyres, 
And all mankind that haunted nigh 
   Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to be 
   The Century's corpse outleant, 
His crypt the cloudy canopy, 
   The wind his death-lament. 
The ancient pulse of germ and birth 
   Was shrunken hard and dry, 
And every spirit upon earth 
   Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among 
  The bleak twigs overhead 
In a full-hearted evensong 
  Of joy illimited; 
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small, 
  In blast-beruffled plume,-
Had chosen thus to fling his soul 
  Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carollings 
  Of such ecstatic sound 
Was written on terrestrial things 
  Afar or nigh around, 
That I could think there trembled through 
  His happy good-night air 
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew 
  And I was unaware.

How brilliantly the poet provides the contrast between the dreary deadened limitation of an earthly December with its lack of solid grounding for any kind of optimism and the wondrous outporing of the little bird!. How beautiful is the expression of its creative urge in the face of all bleakness:

An aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small,
   In blast-beruffled plume, 
Had chosen thus to fling his soul 
   Upon the growing gloom.

  

Let Hardy’s thrush thrush be our example. I love the phrase “fling his soul” . It expresses faith, courage, determination, creativity. May these qualities be ours this coming year.

I wish all readers “A Happy New Year”.

THE HOLLY AND THE IVY

One of my favourite carols is “The Holly and the Ivy” an old carol which developed in the Christian Middle ages from medieval roots.

The holly and the ivy
When they are both full grown 
Of all the trees that are in the wood 
The holly bears the crown.

[Chorus]
O the rising of the sun 
And the running of the deer 
The playing of the merry organ 
Sweet singing in the choir. 

The holly bears a blossom 
As white and lily flow'r 
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ 
To be our dear Saviour.
(Chorus)

The holly bears a blossom 
As red as any blood 
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ 
To be our dear Saviour.
(Chorus)

The holly bears a prickle 
As sharp as any thorn 
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ 
On Christmas Day in the morn.
(Chorus)

The holly bears a bark 
As bitter as any gall 
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ 
For to redeem us all
(chorus)

The holly and the ivy 
When they are both full grown 
Of all the trees that are in the wood
The holly bears the crown.


O, the rising of the sun 
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ 
Sweet singing in the choir.

     

The origin of this carol is very early but its appearance in print is relatively recent. It was “discovered” by the famous English folk song collector Cecil Sharpe in 1913 as sung to its present tune. The song had been passed on orally over the generations from the medieval period. The signs of its origins from pagan times are still clear. The choral lines appear to show a mixture of pagan and church influence: so you get the pleasing combination of the natural and outdoor with indoor church worship: the celebration of the rising of the sun in a world which lived, not by clock time but by the summons of dawn and the deer running in deer parks would have been welcome not just aesthetically but for sport.

In fact there is still extant a cluster of medieval holly and ivy songs which are associated with deeply embedded folk customs, ritual, song and dance. Holly represented the male and ivy the female. In both England and France there was a custom at Shrove-tide ( ie. the period before Lent) to burn effigies of the Holly -Boy carried by girls and the Ivy-Girl by boys. This custom according to R.L.Greene (“Early English Carols” 1935) had its origin in early fertility rites. A development from such were the flyting songs (ie. songs exchanging insults common in the meieval period) between male and female where the two sexes would contend for the “maistrie” with one sex praising its own tree and mocking the other. In one song “Holver and Heivy” after the contention there is reconciliation “essential if life is to go on”. (John Speirs Medieval English Poetry. Faber 1971)

Christianity found that to become accepted, it needed to evolve its practice to accommodate the rituals of country life in the variety of peasant cultures through Europe. The pleasing result was evolution rather than revolution. This is shown by the adaptation of the Christmas story to mid-winter pagan solstice festivals. These developments are illustrated by the development of “The Holly and the Ivy” from the pagan roots as shown taking on Christian imagery. Thus as Christ is King so the Holly is the crown of all trees. The crown’s thorns represents the crown worn by Jesus “King of the Jews” crucified with a crown of thorns. Each colour associated with the tree is then linked with an aspect of the Christian story.

What comes through so many of these medieval carols is the sense of wonder received into peasant consciousness as they sing of the Christmas story and the reception of the “sweet Jesus Christ”. “Sweet” is a very ancient straight from Middle English. But there is no soft sentimentality as there might be today. “How sweet!” we say very easily. But sweetness in the harsh, often physically brutal and difficult world of the Middle Ages-in the carol “sweet” is contrasted with, for instance, “bitter as any gall”- sweetness was something to be treasured in oppostion to the harshly and brutally typical normality. A vision of sweetness opened up a new world. I mean by this not, first and foremost, a new ideological world but a radical development in the consciousness of peoples. Add this sweetness to the wonder along with the background energy and vitality of rising sun and running deer and you get a sense of what makes this carol so precious that it has lasted all these centuries.

Perhaps to live according to a vision of sweetness in a harsh world is an achievement we in our times need to maintain.

CHRISTMAS CAROLS

What would Christmas be without Christmas carols? There is an astonishing range of these. The exquisite, purely religious ones you will hear, for example, on formal occasions, which so many churches celebrate, like Nine Lessons and Carols. There are the favourites you sing lustily out carol singing as you go round doors in cheery groups Then, there are the more festive ones, you might hear sung in pub gatherings. Perhaps, less welcome, is the constant accompaniment of Christmas music in supermarkets and at other commercially driven networks. (I am tempted to put my hands over my ears every time I hear Bing Crosby’s “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”!)

The range of settings is fitting. Going back to medieval times carols bring together pagan and folk roots with spreading Christian influences. The original meaning of carol is a circular dance. This would be associated in darkest winter with dancing to celebrate the winter solstice, the shortest day on December 21. The time of the Christmas celebration of the Nativity was deliberately chosen to develop from these pagan roots. St. Francis, in 1223, is said to have introduced songs into Nativity plays to accompany Christian mass. In England mystery plays, like the Coventry -plays that cover the Christian year- would include singing of carols appropriate to the theme.

Wassailing was an early form of carousing carol group singing. A wassail is a drink like mulled wine or mead and wassailing involved going round the area at Christmas and New Year singing songs in exchange for food and drink.

Some of my favourite carols come from this medieval period blending folk assimilation of the Christian story and grafting it on to extant folk songs. Every Christmas for many years, our family has listened to Coope, Boyes and Simpson, a group of traditional folk singers who bring to life many of these ancient carols, in a lively traditional folk style. One of the oldest is “”The Boar’s Head Carol” which initially celebrates Christmas eating at Queen’s Hall in Oxford:

    The Boar's Head Carol

  The boar's head in hand bring I,
Bedecked with bays and rosemary 
I pray you, my masters be merry 
   Quot estis in convivio 
[As you all feast so heartily)

     Caput apri defero
    Reddens laudes Domino.
[Lo behold the hall I bring
Giving praise to God we sing.]

  The boar's head, as I understand
  Is the rarest dish in all this land, 
Which thus bedecked with a gay garland 
    Let us servire cantico.
   [Let us serve with a song]


      Caput apri defero 
    Reddens laudes Domino.

Our steward hath provided this 
In honour of the King of Bliss; 
Which, on this day to be served is 
  In Reginesi atrio.
   (In the Queen's hall.)

      Caput apro defero
    Reddens laudes Domino.





Apart from the Coope, Boyes and Simpson version on CD- “A Garland of Carols” a marvellous rendition of the carol can be found on an album by the great Irish folk band The Chieftains on their album “The Bells of Dublin”. To hear this carol visit You Tube (The Boar’s Head Carol on youtube.com/watch?v=5NiActzCDO subscribed by Sheils Leary)- a version which is superbly illustrated by images of medieval roistering.

(With thanks to Orangemarmalade Books for use of their cover to Aliki’s “Medieval Feast”. The head picture is Sandy’s “Ushering in the Boar’s Head”1852)

NB The next instalment -Part 3 -of the “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is deferred until January.)

“THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER” PART 2

The Sun now rose upon the right:
Out of the sea came he, 
still hid in mist, and on the left 
Went down into the sea,

And the good south wind still blew behind,
But no sweet bird did follow,
Nor any day for food or play 
Came to the mariners' hollo.

And I had done a hellish thing,
And it would work 'em woe: 
For all averred I had killed the bird 
That made the wind to blow. 
Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay  
That made the breeze to blow!

Nor dim , nor red, like God's own head, 
The glorious Sun uprist:
Then all averred, I had killed the bird 
That brought the fog and mist. 
Twas right said they, such birds to slay, 
That bring the fog and mist.

The fair breeze flew, the white foam flew, 
The furrow followed free; 
We were the first that ever burst 
Into that silent sea!

Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down, 
Twas sad as sad could be; 
And we did speak only to break 
The silence of the sea!

All in a hot and copper sky, 
The bloody sun at noon, 
Right up above the mast did stand, 
No bigger than the Moon.

Day after day, day after day, 
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship 
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where, 
And all, the boards did shrink;
Water, water every where, 
Nor any drop to drink.

The very deep did rot: O Christ! 
That ever this should be! 
Yea, slimy things with legs did crawl 
Upon the slimy sea.

About, about, in reel and rout 
The death fires danced at night;
The water like a witch's oils,
Burnt blue and green and white.

And some in dreams assured were 
Of the spirit that plagued us so; 
Nine fathom deep he had followed us 
From the land of mist and snow.

And every tongue, through utter drought,
Was withered at the root; 
We could not speak, no more than if 
We had been choked with soot.

Ah! well a day! what evil looks 
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross 
About my neck was hung. 









The poem marvellously combines a strong driving narrative appropriate to a ballad with a developing spiritual narrative focused on evil, guilt, isolation and the possibility of redemption. The narrative is brilliantly carried by ballad-style rhythm, rhyme, diction. There is repetition and echoing. For instance the first stanza “The Sun now rose upon the right Out of the sea came he” matches one in Part 1 “The Sun came up upon the left, Out of the sea came he” showing the contrast between the ship moving south in the northern hemisphere and the ship sailing north in the southern. The paralleling and contrasting works throughout the poem. Thus, in Part 2, as we shall see, the two six line stanzas hold together in contrast.

The drive of the narrative is shown by a series of stanzas of descriptive brilliance. First the ship flows freely: “The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew” where the long e-vowel and the alliterative “f” sounds and the internal rhyme enable a verse of rapid movement with the second internal rhyme of “First” and “burst”” celebrating the excitement of discovery. Then follows a sudden collapse into a becalmed state of absence of movement. So from rapid movement we come upon the heavy slowness of “down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down”. There is the predominance of stillness: “And we did speak only to break The silence of the sea” reflected by the vivid clarity of the simile “As idle as a painted ship Upon a painted ocean”. Also heat “All in a hot and copper sky, The bloody sun at noon” increases thirst and leads to the desperation of “Water, water, everywhere , Nor any drop to drink” Then there is the mariner’s disgust and recoil from the living world of Nature: “The very deep did rot : O Christ, That ever this should be! That slimy things did crawl on legs Upon the slimy sea” We see here, presumably, the transference of his own disgust with himself placed on the living world. There is a horror of fascination expressed in that repetition of “slimy”. But the negative feelings are not only his but those of the trapped crew. They find their release however in making him the scapegoat : “Instead of the cross, the Albatross about my neck was hung.”

The crew, however, are not allowed to escape guilt. In the first of the two six- line stanzas they condemn the mariner for his action but it is for the wrong reasons. They saw it not as wrong in principle but in its effect. Because the bird was linked with the favourable external conditions-the encouraging breeze that drove the boat forward- the mariner’s action is seen as evil: “Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay, That made the breeze to blow!” But when next day conditions change and the mist clears and they make further progress their gratification is expressed in approval of what has been done: “Twas right, said they, such birds to slay, That bring the fog and mist.” That bring the fog and mist.” Coleridge’s marginal gloss- about the gloss more in a later post- indicates that in doing so they have become “accomplices in the crime”.

Within the development of the narrative we see the development of themes of guilt, with its effects of revulsion, isolation, scapegoating. Within this Part we move from a glorious heightened and daring identification of the Sun with God the Creator :

Nor dim nor red , like God's own head,
The glorious Sun uprist. 

to a shrunken Sun a few stanzas later:

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand, 
No bigger than the moon.

If we take the sun as representing God, what is reflected here is the shrinking of the Sun to a damning God of Judgement. The shrinking ,however is within the consciousness of the self-condemned Mariner as one bearing guilt. The blood red of the sun emphasises his crime of slaughter . The description of the outer world reflects the spiritual condition of the mariner in self-blame “For I had done a hellish thing” and his accusatory fellows. sharing a fallen world.

The ship is no longer a community of men in unity. When the albatross first appeared, coming through the fog in a threatening world created by the surrounding ice with its range of strange and threatening sounds the bird is welcomed as a harbinger of grace: “At length did cross an Albatross/ Thorough the fog it came; As if it had been a Christian soul, We hailed it in God’s name”. With that final phrase a sense of religious togetherness is created which brings together gratitude for the appearance of the sign of grace and hope. This brings along with it a spirit of hospitality as it is treated as guest provided with food. The release is not just inward but external: “The ice did split with a thunder-fit;The helmsman steered us through.”

However, this unity has been wrecked by the mariner’s deed. Malcolm Guite in his wonderfully helpful guide to the poem in his work Mariner argues that the crew members’ attitude to the bird moves from being sacramental to being instrumental. The albatross is no longer seen gratefully as a revelation to rejoice in but as an instrument whose role is to benefit the crew. So it is that the fellow crewmen are seen not as innocent but, in accepting the killing, as sharing in the denial of the harbinger from heaven.

Part 2 then shows the disintegration of community. The becalming brings out the sense of spiritual isolation. The wonder of God is changed to judgement and condemnation; gratitude towards creation is replaced by disgust, sharing of food with overwhewlming thirst, speech is followed by choked inarticulacy, unity of purpose with scapegoating.

The final action is the hanging of the albatross round the killer’s neck: “instead of the cross, the Albatross About my neck was hung”. The connection here is not that as Christ is condemned to the Cross so the Mariner is condemned ; it is that the cross is the sign of grace that Christ brings as the Albatross has brought grace to the crew. The sign has been rejected. As Christ has been condemned so has the Albatross. Christ as enactor of grace Is condemned and placed on the Cross. The albatross as a sign of grace is used by the crew to condemn the one on whom they want to place all blame for their condition.

This whole development signifies not simply a poem of the extraordinary and supernatural but a profound exploration of the Christian mystery.

Note. As mentioned above I have found the following work invaluable in developing my argument:

Malcolm Guite Mariner A Voyage with Samuel Taylor Coleridge Hodder and Stroughton 2017

,

THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER PART 1

ARGUMENT

How a Ship having passed the Line was driven by storms to the Cold country towards the South Pole; and how from thence she made her course to the tropical Latitude of the Great Pacific Ocean; and of the strange things that befell; and in what manner the Ancyent Marinere came back to his own Country.

PART 1

It is an ancient Mariner, 
And he stoppeth one of three. 
"By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stoppst thou me?

The Bridegroom's doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin; 
The guests are met , the feast is set: 
May'st hear the merry din".

He holds him with his skinny hand, 
"There was a ship" quoth he. 
"Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!" 
Eftsoons his hand dropt he

He holds him with his glittering eye-
The Wedding-Guest stood still, 
And listens like a three years child: 
The Mariner hath his will.

The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone: 
He cannot choose but hear 
And thus spake on that ancient man, 
The bright-eyed Mariner.

"The Ship was cheered, the harbour cleared,
Merrily did we drop 
Below the kirk, below the hill, 
Below the lighthouse top.

The Sun came up upon the left, 
Out of the sea came he! 
And he shone bright, and on the right 
Went down into the sea. 

Higher and higher every day, 
Till over the mast at noon-" 
The Wedding -Guest here beat his breast, 
For he heard the loud bassoon.

The bride hath paced into the hall, 
Red as a rose is she;
Nodding their heads before her goes 
The merry minstrelsy.

The Wedding-Guest he beat his breast,
Yet he cannot choose but hear; 
And thus spake on that ancient man 
The bright-eyed mariner.

And now the STORM-BLAST came, and he 
Was tyrannous and strong:
He struck with his o'er taking wings 
And chased us south along. 

With sloping masts and dipping-prow,
As who pursued with yell and blow 
Still treads the shadow of his foe,
And forward bends his head, 
The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast, 
And southward aye we fled. 

And now there came both mist and snow, 
And it grew wondrous cold: 
And ice, mast-high came floating by,
As green as emerald. 

And through the drifts the snowy clifts 
Did send a dismal sheen: 
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken-
The ice was all between. 

The ice was here, the ice was there, 
The ice was all around: 
It cracked and growled,and roared and howled, 
Like noises in a swound! 

At length did cross an Albatross, 
Thorough the fog it came: 
As if it had been a Christian soul, 
We hailed it in God's name. 

It ate the food it ne'er had eat, 
And round and round it flew. 
The ice did split with thunder- fit; 
The helmsman steered us through! 

And a good south wind sprung up behind; 
The Albatross did follow, 
And every day, for food or play, 
Came to the mariner's hollo! 

In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud, 
It perched for vespers nine;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white, 
Glimmered the white Moon-shine.

"God save thee ancient Mariner! 
From the fiends that plague thee thus!-
"Why look'st thou so"- With my cross-bow 
I shot the Albatross.

We follow the ship on its passage south down to the Antarctic with its ice-fields. I doubt if there is any poem with more graphic, or vivid description. No wonder it has had so many distinguished illustrators like Gustav Dore (see illustration above), David Jones and Melvyn Peake.

In emphasising the “STORM-BLAST” (capitalised for emphasis) the Mariner gives the impression of a driven ship as if the force of the force of the wind has a malign will to it. Certainly this is suggested by the longer six line stanza comparing the ship’s movement as that of one pursued by a foe. This is added to when the sailors find themselves trapped in the claustrophobic and threatening sounding ice-field “The ice was here, the ice was there,The ice was all around It cracked and growled and roared and howled, Like noises in a swound.” (“swound” is a deiberately chosen mystery word of uncertain meaning to give the effect-perhaps of the mixture of sound evoking nightmare trance-like experience: if you want to explore further see essay on the phrase “Noises in a swound” by Philip Cardinale in the Coleridge Bulletin 17 2001)).

The effect of this build-up of threatening imagery is to make the appearance of the albatross one of special blessing. Notice the curious phrasing : “At length did cross an albatross” . The internal-rhyme of “cross” and “albatross” is to be repeated throughout the poem and is obviously central to the theme and this is reinforced by the phrasing giving the arrival of the bird a sense of portent. It is thus seen as a sign of Christian grace with the bird identified as a visitor from God to be welcomed and received as a blessing. That is reinforced by the ice breaking and the ship finding a way through. The religious assocations are added to by the connecting the bird with the “vespers nine” -ie evensong-in these times a captain of the Established Church would have ensured the rituals being properly followed.

There comes the climax of the final stanza which reflects in the anguished expression of the ancient, as seen by the Wedding-Guest, the agonised re-living of the deed. “Why did he do this?” No rational explanation is given which indicates that for the poet such would be beside the point. It is-among other things a poem about human evil, its consequences and the possibility of release from a burdened conscience.

Interestingly one of the inspirations for the poem was -among others -laid by the subject of a book Wordsworth spoke to Coleridge of reading A Voyage Round the World by Way of the Great South Sea (1726) by Captain George Shelvocke in which a melancholy sailor is described as shooting a black albatross because considered a bird of ill-omen. (see Wikipedia on the poem’s inspiration) although in the poem the colour of the bird is undisclosed.

INTRODUCING “THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER”.

ARGUMENT
How a Ship having passed the Line was driven by storms to the cold Country towards the South Pole; and how from thence she made her course to the tropical Latitude of the Great Pacific Ocean; and of the strange things that befell; and in what manner the Ancyent Marinere came back to his own Country.

PART 1

It is an ancient Mariner 
And he stoppeth one of three.
"By thy long grey beard and glittering eye, 
Now wherefore stopps't thou me?"

The Bridegroom's doors are opened wide, 
And I am next of kin; 
The guests are met, the feast is set: 
May'st hear the merry din."
 
He holds him with his skinny hand,
"There was a ship" quoth he. 
"Hold off! Unhand me, greybeard loon!"
Eftsoons his hand dropped he.

He holds him with his glittering eye-
The Wedding-Guest stood still,
And listens like a three years' child: 
The Mariner hath his will.

The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:
He cannot choose but hear 
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.  

It is an opening that startles with its dramatic immediacy.- It has the suddenness of dramatic confrontation of two opposed set wills : the one with a mind to go to a wedding , the other with a will to apprehend him. There is a moral tussle to gain the upper hand, then the one by a series of stages gives way to the more dominant one. Yet the form is simple ballad narrative -a genre that stretches back to the Middle Ages, with metric structure and rhyme scheme to match and the use of terminology fitting for a more archaic style. (Had you heard the word “eftsoons” ever before ?). Despite that the situation immediately rouses our attention. For a wedding invitation-especially as kin-is to us still something special. The attraction of the event- the alternative setting that is never to be fully realised is brilliantly put before us in the second stanza and elsewhere. So to be stopped on our way to such a wedding! That is the kind of shock none of us might relish! We are with Wedding-Guest in his frustration. Yet the the over-riding power of story, the enchantment it offers, the strangeness of the teller and the enthralling power his “glittering eye” wakens deep interest in us all-perhaps rooted in memories going back to earliest childhood when story quietened us before bedtime. Certainly this story so enchants the the listener that he moves from angry, unwilling and protesting hearer to becominging quiescent “like a three year child” sitting passive on a stone. What has the man to tell that is so extrordinary, justifying such an interruption? The poet has us caught.

It is, as I say, the ballad form. The traditional narrative ballad is in stanzas of four lines(quatrains) with four and three stress lines, the second and fourth rhyming. The rhythm is basically iambic. Thus:

The Bride/groom’s doors/ are op/ en’d wide/

And I/ am next/of kin/

The guests/ are met/the feast/is set/

Mays’t hear/the mer/ry din.

The phrases are short, simple , direct. The Wedding-Guest is here making his appeal to the ancient mariner’s understanding of the urgency of his position as guest. The structure enables the process. The broad accessibility requires the longer line :”The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide” : the following concise urgency of explanation “And I am next of kin” the shorter.

The diction follows traditional patterns: the old use of personal pronouns, and verb forms, the archaic vocabulary (That word “eftsoons” by the way means soon afterwards.). But right from the start deeper resonance are suggested. “One of three”, (we never hear again of the other two); the capitalised “Wedding-Guest”; even the capitalised “Bridegroom”; “glittering eye”. The first three touch on associations with the Gospels-not necessarily relevant specifically but suggestive of the level of significance the tale will draw on. The “glittering eye” especially along with “ancient” points to the seer, the sage.

In his work Mariner: A Voyage with Samuel Taylor Coleridge Malcolm Guite points to Coleridge’s interest in the Wandering Jew myth as one in which he was interested during the period in which the Ancient Mariner poem was being prepared. In a Notebook Coleridge jots the following note: “He was in my mind the everlasting wandering Jew-had told his story ten thousand times since the voyage, which was in his early youth and fifty years before”. He also had been “reading, absorbing, remembering and re-imagining almost every story of travel, sea-voyage, sea-discovery and shipwreck that was available to him.”

There are seven parts to the poem and I plan to go through the poem part by part, following its development. I invite you to join me in a fascinating journey.