The unbalance between human-beings
and the world of nature is most incisively portrayed in this poem, particularly
as the Ancient Mariner shoots the Albatross without any hesitation. Cast
into the world, the Mariner must contend with nature in the form of violent
storms and the dangerous sea, and he must survive the perils of the natural
world. As their journey is stalled by the inclement weather, the
Mariner’s killing of the albatross can be seen as an attempt
to challenge and master nature, to assert the power of man over the power of
nature. However, through depicting the helplessness of human-beings when
confronting the sudden lack of wind and the large scale of casualties, Coleridge
demonstrates that contending with, merely surviving, or attempting to master
nature are the wrong ways for humankind to approach the natural world.

            The
natural world plays as a beneficial role before the Mariner shoots the
Albatross. It first appears to be favorable as the “sun comes up” and
“shines bright” (25) (31). All of a sudden, the cloudless blue sky turns into
“storm and wind,” “mist and snow”, turning down all joy and happiness (45)
(50). All crew believe the arrival of the Albatross is to bring them fortune
and safety as they “hail’d it in God’s name” (64). However, the Mariner
believes it is the Albatross’ landing brings them mishap and calamity. The
Albatross is a symbol of luck and fortune given by nature, while not accepting
the blessed offer from nature and destroying it upon one’s will only receive
punishments from the nature. Though his intention is not specified, his action
of shooting the Albatross brings him and his shipmates penalties and sins as a
consequence of harming nature. The Mariner is then punished: he suffers
deprivations and horrors until he learns to appreciate and love the natural and
supernatural world that the albatross symbolized, and then he is absolved of
his crime.

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            As
a consequence of challenging the nature, the Mariner is punished in both
natural and spiritual ways. Their journey has encountered some unprecedented trials:
the deterioration of physical health including “every tongue thro’ utter
drouth” and “black lips bak’d” (131) (149); a supernatural ship controlled by a
witch-like lady who shouts out “The Game is done! I’ve won, I’ve won” (193).
The capitalization of the first letter of the word “Game” reveals the fact that
the nature is punishing this group of people by playing a life-threatening game
with them, and making them have zero odd to win. When the Mariner attempts
to master nature by killing the albatross), it is an insult not just to nature
itself, but to the spiritual world created by God as well. The sins lie on
his aggressive way of taking over the nature, and such sins lead to penance,
and it comes as a combination of the natural and the spiritual: supernatural.
This supernatural punishment is expressed when elemental spirits such as that
witch-like “Woman” and “all her crew” arise and halt the Mariner’s ship, and
by the haunting Death and Life-In-Death who harvest human
souls.

            Not
until the end of the poem does the mariner finally learn to survive and value
the natural world. When the Albatross is “About his neck is hung”, he
undergoes a series of pains. However, “Beyond the shadow of the ship, / he
watches the water-snakes” (272) (273). When he starts appreciating some
creatures he previously does not appreciate, some beauty he previously does not
value, the punishment against him ease as “The Albatross falls off”. The
poem, then, casts the appreciation of nature, the act of embracing Romanticism,
not just as important in and of itself, but as above all a spiritual, religious
necessity.

 

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