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The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

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1 The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Form, structure & language

2 Ballad form What is it? Ballads:
The ballad is a narrative meant to be sung, usually composed in the ballad stanza. Although some ballads are carefully crafted poems written by literate authors and meant to be read silently (such as the Lyrical Ballads!), the folk ballad (also known as popular or traditional ballad) is derived from the oral tradition. The ballad stanza, named for its frequent use in traditional ballads, is quatrains of alternating tetrameter and trimeter, rhyming either abab or abcb. For example: Oh, I forbid ye maidens all That wear gold in your hair To come or go by Carterhaugh For young Tam Lin is there. In folk ballads, the meter is often irregular and the rhymes are often approximate.

3 Why does Coleridge employ a ballad form in the poem?
Creating the impression that we undergo a narrative journey – which leaves us, like the wedding guest at the end of Part VII, transformed by the experience of the tale. Self-consciously reworking an ancient literary form, adding authenticity to the tale, or making it seem timeless like a legend or folk-tale (also narratives which have traditionally been passed on through history in oral ways). Ballads often mix the natural or everyday with the supernatural, uncanny or mythical in their narratives

4 Form Coleridge also uses examples of the following:
Internal rhyme (eg. “With throats unslaked, with black lips baked” or “The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew”) which adds pace or emphasis to the action or emotion the mariner describes. Repetition – spot whole verses, lines and words which are repeated for dramatic effect. For example: find a verse in part 1 which is echoed almost word for word in part VI – why? See if you can spot lines which have been repeated, or lines in which the first and second half of the line are almost identical (eg. “For the sky and the sea and the sea and the sky”). Why?

5 Other aspects of form worth thinking about:
Descriptive techniques (the use of colour, simple repetition, striking images) for example: “Her lips were red, her looks were free, Her locks were yellow as gold; Her skin was as white as leprosy” Find examples of descriptive verses which you think are striking or unusual and explain which descriptive techniques Coleridge uses and why.

6 Structure of the poem A tale within a tale – the overarching narrative frame concerns the Mariner himself as the narrator of the story and the wedding guest to whom the tale is told. This frame contains the central narrative story: the journey undertaken by the mariner which he is compelled to narrate. The seven parts of the poem allow Coleridge to create suspense (the cliff-hanger moment at the end of Part 1), or dramatic shifts from one scene to the next.

7 The gloss Upon its release, the poem was criticised for being obscure and difficult to read. It was also criticised for using archaic words (such as?), not in keeping with Romanticism. In 1815–16, Coleridge added to the poem marginal notes (still deliberately written in an archaic style) that gloss the text, ostensibly explaining the meaning of verses. The gloss describes the poem as an account of sin and restoration. While some critics see the gloss as spelling out clearly the moral of the tale, others point to the inaccuracies and illogicalities of the gloss and interpret it as the voice of a dramatized character that only serves to highlight the poem's cruel meaninglessness.[7] In particular, Charles Lamb, who had deeply admired the original for its attention to "Human Feeling", claimed that the gloss distanced the audience from the narrative, weakening the poem's effects. What do you think is the purpose of the gloss?

8 A few points about meter and rhyme
See the handout. Main points:

9 A point about the verse structure
Notice the shifts in the length of the verses – at moments of great tension (for example, look at Part 3 when the death ship approaches), the structure of the verse is irregular. Coleridge relates the inexplicable nature of the mariner’s experience and his emotional intensity through subtle shifts in the verse.

10 5 part narrative structure
In pairs: pick out the turning points between the five main narrative stages Equilibrium (starting points) – Complication Development Crisis Resolution

11 Key questions to ask yourself about the narrative structure

12 Next week... The role of the narrator (and the ghost narrator / authorial commentary provided by the gloss); the role of alternative narrative voices and characters (the two daemon voices, the Hermit, the wedding guest) The different settings used in the poem – the open sea and the extremities of the polar landscape versus the familiar harbour and the shared celebration of the wedding.

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