The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Summary

Bookmark added to your notes.
View Notes

About the Poet

Samuel Taylor Coleridge started the Romantic movement in English poetry along with William Wordsworth. He laid great importance on memory and the power of imagination in understanding the world around us. His best-known poems are ‘Frost Midnight’ and ‘Kubla Khan’.


This poem is one of the most well-known poems. It is in the form of a ballad. The poem is a story of sin, punishment and redemption of an old sailor. The poem conveys a message to the readers that one can never escape punishment from God after committing a crime. The poem starts with an old mariner approaching one of the wedding guests and stopping him from attending the wedding by telling him tales about his life. 


In the beginning of the poem, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, is about an ancient mariner who stops a wedding guest. The wedding guest was the groom’s best man. The mariner started telling him a strange tale. At this point in the poem, the wedding was about to begin. A group of guests from the wedding was on their way to the feast. One of them, who was the groom’s best man, stopped. He was running late. He was hurrying to the wedding hall. He could hear the music from the hall; he knew that the bride had entered. He was not interested in listening to the sailor but the mariner held his hand and forced him to sit and listen to him. 

The mariner started saying that when the ship left the harbour, everything was very joyful and cheerful. They sailed leaving behind the church, the hill and the lighthouse. The sun shone very brightly and they were sailing very happily. But their happiness did not last for long because they were hit by a tyrannous storm and the wind changed the course of the ship towards the south direction. Nevertheless, the ship kept on advancing. In the meanwhile, the guest could hear the ritual of the wedding had started but he could not leave the sailor. 

The old sailor continued saying that, as they kept moving ahead in the storm, they met with huge icebergs all around.  The ship got stuck in those icebergs and they were making loud noises when cracking. Then they saw an albatross come from nowhere and perched on the ship. The bird was considered to be a messenger of God. They thought that there could be land nearby. The albatross hovered on the icebergs that blocked their journey. The huge mass of ice broke into two, making way for the ship. The sailors on board thought that the bird was a good omen because they were able to commence their voyage once again. After escaping the storm, the ship had to face severe cold and mist. Visibility became very poor and it was getting difficult to navigate. The bird accompanied along with the ship and they could surpass the mist. The crew members were happy because they thought that the bird brought the favourable conditions and fed the bird. The sailors played with the bird. The bird stuck around for nine days with the ship. One day, the old mariner in the spur of the moment shot the bird with a bow and an arrow. The other sailors became very angry with the mariner and cursed him for his deeds. After the death of the bird, the sunshine returned and the weather became better. All the sailors felt that it was the right decision to kill the bird because it brought the storm and the mist. They thought that the bird was obstructing their voyage. For some days the ship sailed very smoothly towards the north direction. After a few days of the comfortable voyage, the wind stopped blowing and the ship came to a halt. The sun was getting hotter and hotter. They could not find a single drop of drinking water. Only they could see seawater all around. The sea became very quiet and seemed like burning in flames. Soon, the sailors realized that killing the bird caused misery to them. They got very angry with the old mariner and cursed him for what he did. They replaced the cross from his neck with the dead bird. The old sailor then started feeling guilty for killing it, so he shared his tale with the strangers. 

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. How Did the Ancient Mariner Stop the Wedding Guest from Entering the Ballroom? What Did He Want to Tell the Wedding Guest?

Ans. The ancient mariner stopped the wedding guest by his bright shining eyes. He caught the wedding guest by his hand and looked at him with his glittering eyes. Those eyes had some kind of magical spell on the wedding guest and so he stopped to listen to him. The ancient mariner wanted to confess about the horrible deed that he committed to someone. He chose the wedding guest randomly. The mariner was repenting so much that he wanted to tell his story to someone to feel better.

Q2. Describe the Appearance of the Ancient Mariner.

Ans. The ancient mariner looked very strange with his unkempt long grey beard and glittering eyes. He had skinny hands and his exotic attire made him look strange. His personality and appearance had some kind of magical spell on the wedding guest.

Q3. What Did the Sailors of the Ship Think about the Albatross When They First Saw It?

Ans. The sailors of the ship thought that the bird was a messenger of God who got them out from the tyrannous storm and also from the severe cold and mist. 

Q4. What Happened After the Sea Bird Died?

Ans. After the sea bird died, the ship sailed smoothly for a few days and then suddenly the wind stopped blowing. The ship halted in the middle of the sea. They could not find any direction ahead. The sun was getting hotter and hotter. The stock of drinking water also finished. The crew got very upset with the mariner. They hung the dead bird around his neck to punish for his crime. Slowly, one by one the sailor perished. Finally, the ship became a ghostly ship.