Skip to main content
Hide Articles List

4 articles on this Page

----':"=:=-2--==-:-.-=----…

Detailed Lists, Results and Guides
Cite
Share

-=:=-2--==- -=- The Source of "The Ancient Mariner." "~T" *— [BY IVOR JAMES, CARDIFF.] Coincidences. Th No' v- ^UrirLr name> J^e ^'me of the Ancient J«mwV t0 been suggested by Cionft The ^es quoted in ^ords « Ami!1 a-re Produced with the ftnd tenni i -Se P.eri's (1) made most hideous ^°P« it n°+Sf in night season, and I relate w;fu IL. acc0Dnted ridiculous if I How and «, Meditations I was affected tions. amongst my ordinary avoca- c°aceivA^1Cfu afford the reader as I then ^ared r' these few ragged and "Pelt in ih1168 "me *n both instances being In the same way, r-i-m-e. Teared rimes II A an, any words more aptly describe the ncient Mariner," as penned by Coleridge ? No. VI. H 6 8^'P *n the poem suddenly sinks cau,e closer to the ship,. The i* spake nor stirred, And C*me c^ose beneath the ship, Undo. fJ:RA4SR,LFC a sound was heard. Still, water it rumbled on, and more dread The si^ sh'P and split the bay, k Wont down like lead. Whici, c tliat loud and dreadful sound, Like lIe 1 sky and ocean smote, Mv hn^ i **atb been seven days drowned, *UW?7 laJ afloat; Witl- ^S dream9 myself I found the pilots' boat," This aftft0'^a^es place on his arrival at afii°n £ « +1 strange and weary wandering l^ghthousA ?Usan^ dangers. He beholds the big o» t'le ^miliar hill, the ancient °ars> the nif f^untry- He hears the dash of hermit and +uS °heer, the voice of the holy Il> James's enfilot:s *• and any 0f X. ia.rrative we cannot expect to ^atur&l wi,- ri.c^ colouring from the super- ve find distinguished the poem but have amy„„Circ,Unastances which may very well The An ^e whole train of thought. hi* ^ar"ier of the strange voyage fr°m th- _.P (2) in order to preserve her C'rcfii»8iji er 8fcorm3 °*- a sea- 'le be no" only are interesting, but of +u- ^e'a'lin&j as illustrative of the the 9thing which probably served to fix tbeterlnd of Coleridge on James's narrative. I, lore, give them hat3, November 1631, after six months' ice th w^n^, and wave, and mountains flear J J? ^enrie^a Maria came to an anchor in08^ 'OT,r bar, which shut her out of is]4t)(j .fine and excellent harbour," in an ^sUnd ° sten';d by Captain James Charlton ^0*evp ln, honour the King. Posterity, Priate r> called it by the more appro- ^intername •^&ine3'3 Island. The northern ahead Was now uP°n advancing. It was to «nn» coId- Th« mist was turned int had'mdeed> b*een descending inten f°r S°me weeks- 'j he frost was • The storms were frequent and ifa rhe men in a pitiable state. any were sick. Jiverything right up to the "■e-place was frozen. The sails, which the Captain calls the wings of the ship, had stiffened into a useless (3) lump. The feeling «ad come, and had deepened on all, that ere they niUut spend the long, dark, reary monthg of winfcer jt live 7 doubtful whether the ship could Sea th? w'nter storms of the North ^r°baViy0 sns^'ain ^uman life aboard would IZ"?7, — be impossible. • was quite near, and to the ^QII^+I r on'7 boPe» the sailors looked *'Bk c aud lovin»1y- At length from the (4) miai?e the request that some little house e th i built a^01"^whereby they might ,,Je^er sheltered and recover their The^topsails were taken down (5), jy a fire, and stowed away between ^Wto n also came topmasts and rigging. I slarid and all the islands round were ^er 0r deer and signs of savages. Six Cafr'ed alWk*0 tbe new hocne. Others » K^^orta *u ^oofl and clothin<* and other f/ could from ship to shore, d^ ,We sensibly perceive withal k*l*nd' sink into more miseries. Was a'l deep covered with snow, the • • What would re5erver T i°Ur most merciful God and Leased °U 7 "n°w. As the storms of wind m'n f°rce t'5e danger to the hull & p *as i'6 an(i more manifest. The little and tossing against the 11 el J? j'he 10 danger of being blown on \V^rocks'> now bein^ driven W°ttghby /r re' say.s James, "{Sir Hugh ti,' °*»t (j0„.1y) came into my mind, who, was driven out of harbour in o.'Ahom n: an, 8o starved at sea Vb winl ° c'oc^f at night on November sto»m r,?ame UP at N.W. and blew a ali 'c^ wind (7) was off the shore, og^ u.s ]0 awaJ all the ice frem bn- '1 a bu^ore we were afloat. There accnn -r°llin& sea withal about the of^- Anfi^an^ed a great surf on the to s*a nr. +i°W Were we to tbe mercy a# in h j^rounc'- By ten she began hinst th bor dOclr, and soon after to beat lwr-v fifth u.nd. We thought that 'Wt0 biTV would have 8taved c»w ^llt. Vu The danger was great and *«vheld ^a" was best to do P The rP<J t0 + So'eIan consultation, and it was e(I to.take advantage of the first high W th dsePer water, and send the Dr 6 ?ttom, as the only possible 29t.es.e''ving her through the winter. s)je "e resolution was carried out. 'sinking she began, says n(,»el more and more that we could »s 5° any thing in her. Nor would k. a8 we would have her, but 8tl befoa. double blows, first abaft ftndu f9' '1 was wonderful how she i-fw it." a quarter of an hour an £ •j^ noon her lower tyre WJ? that -I 80 counterbeat on the b«at the bulkhead of the thJ^es, aj^°wder-room, and fore-piece all s!s fl' i w^en it came between decks and h wildly about, and the water -v ^onderfully, so ihat now we f.ii7 minute when the Bhip would Ittw her v0!]6068, 0Ke 0dock not er udder, and that was gone we till tj,lc way- Thus she continued W UPonth/ew 0'°lock, and. then th# sea 44 4p, I deck and soon after the Cf) r, stOod, uur nM-n. that were low," "d larro ng upon- us.aliuost dead vrk-h looL- J misery and their e^h uPon them again, and both ^*rin with woeful hearts." The f aUd i>) ff away. but probably the sun %lr«Ut 8ttn8«t, and V4 criny 8hapes that shadows wcra „ colours came." I k 0on Ti da*h of on" P °ts cheer, 4_tt I turned perforc&-I\wa.y a beat appear." «T«)°n' 8&-yft Janies- "Th« 1)0 ti4«ship." I n§ companion* eli to ge into her." There succeeded a moment of ter- rible suspense. There was some unaccount- able hesitation in the captain's manner. The orew appear to have thought that he (10) had determined to remain where he was, and go down with his ship. They frantically called to him. 11 They, expressed," he says, their faithful affections to mee, as loth te part from mee." (l I told them (11)," he adds, tfiat my meaning- was to go ashore with them. And thus lastly I forsook the ship." They rowed away with difficulty through -the ice, and at length reached the firm land. "Say quick, I bidjthee say, What manner of man art. thou ?" We greeted our fellows as best we could, at which time they could not know us, nor we them, by our habits or voyces, so frozen all over we were-faces, hair, and apparel." The sinking of the Henrietta Maria would necessarily strike Coleridge, would not unnaturally strike any and every reader as a very bold and daring expedient—very bold and very daring even in our own day, with all our appliances for raising sunken vessels, but infinitely bolder and more daring 250 years ago. How lift her again ? James was an intrepid and fearless soul. He who had the heart to sink the ship had within himself all the resources necessary to make her float again when the winter was past. He had in his own mind designed a system of pontoons to be formed of the beer and wine casks stored in the hold-a pontoon to be fixed on either side of the vessel, with cables passed under the keel, and so to buoy her ap." The incident, to say the least, is a very uncommon one. To a man of Coleridge's quick and great imaginative powers the weirdness of the whole scene would be immensely suggestive—suggestive, it might easily be, of the still more weird scene of the sinking by supernatural means of the ship of the Ancient Mariner. The leading ideas in both poem and voyage are identical. In either case the ship has arrived in harbour. Both ships are sunk —one by natural, the other by supernatural means. In the ship of the poem the only living soul is the Ancient Mariner at the last moment, as the Henrietta Maria goes down, Captain James stands alone on the deck. The pilot carries the Ancient Mariner ashore the ship's boat bears Captain James to the island. No. VII. The Ancient Mariner of the poem beholds between him and the sun a skeleton ship, and on board Death and the nightmare Life-in- Death gambling for the crew. Charon's* boat is older than Virgil older than Aristophanesf older than Euripides J; older, probably, than the Egyptian Ame-nthes $; and so is Charon himself, the boatman who ferried the souls of the dead across the rivers which surround the infernal regions. The British Arthur sailed to those regions in a ship of glass. In Teutonic mythology we have a ship built of the parings of the nailfi of dead men. In the great northern sepulchral mounds the skeletons of the warrior Vikings are mounted on the skele- tons of their horses or on the skeletons of their pirate ships. The Vanderdecken still haunts the sea round, the Cape of Good Hope. There is no maritime border without a skeleton ship. Coleridge himself had, no doubt, seen the plankless ribs of many a wrecked vessel standing forth out of the waters like spectral monuments. There were too many of them on every coast, even in his time, and under happier auspices they were rapidly increasing in number in all the shipbuilding yards of the kingdom. A skeleton ship was nothing new in 1707. The question which is of interest to us is -What induced Coleridge to introduce a skeleton ship into the rime of the Ancient Mariner ? What reminded him, as he was planning the poem, of a spectral vessel P What was the suggestion, the germ which was developed into the skeleton ship ? It is necessary to bear in mind that Wordsworth, as he says on Coleridge's authority, affirms pretty definitely that the poem was founded on Mr. Cruikshank's dream. It is necessary to remember, also, that for thirty years De Quincey, fully believed that the germ was the albatross incident in "Shelvooke'a Voyages." There was no possible reason for wilful misrepresentation. The whole question probably resolves itself to one of dates and reliability of memory, De Quincey's conclusion, formed in 1810,was pub- lished in Blackwood's Magazine in 1840, how many years after the conversation or corre- spoadence on the subject with Wordsworth we have no means of ascertain- ing. The inference is quite clear, that, for some reason or another, De Quincey had misinter- preted the evidence tendered to him by Wordworth. Wordsworth's explanation was written after 1840, at least 42 years subse- quent to the event. He spoke on the strength of some statement made by Coleridge some- where, probably, near the time of the publica- tion of the "Lyrical Ballads,"—1798. It will be seen that as De Qnincey, in all human proba- bility, bad mistaken what Wordsworth had said, so Wordsworth, in his turn, had mis- understood and misinterpreted what Coleridge had volunteered to him about the origin of the poem. Something certainly passed on the subject between Coleridge and Wordsworth. Cruikshank may have dreamt his dream may have been connected with James's narrative. The facts may have partially faded away from Wordsworth's memory. The skeleton ship and the struggle between Life and Death were very old and very familiar throughout the world. Almost the only uncommon thing in the picture drawn by Coleridge is the gambling scene, which is nothing more than a modification of the Dutch story of the aristocratic murderer, Falkenberg, who was condemned to wander for ever over the seas in a speotral bark, attended only by his good and evil spirit, which for more than six hundred years have been playing dice for his soul. 9 But in Captain James's journal there is certainly a something which may have been the basis of the skeleton ship of both dream and poem, the little speck which developed into a sail," and at last into- "Tliiit stradga shape [which] drove suddenly Betwixt us and the sun." In October and November, 1631, the Northern Seas were covered with an unbroken surface of ice. The mists were crystallised into snow, which both in the sunlight and the moonlight lay like a shroud over the frozen sea and over hill and dale to the most distant point on the horizon. It lay like a winding- sheet, too, over the deck of the old Bristol ship. It clung with strange, unearthly beauty to prow and mast and rigging. The crew moved about in shrouds of snow, like walking pieces- of ice, says Captain James, unable to recognise escb other by either habit or voyce, 110 frozen all over WE were— faces, hair, and apparel icicles hanging" from their hair and beard and eye-lashes; the forehead, cheek, chin, and nosa frozen white as paper, or white as leprosy, as Coleridge has it. A change comes over the scene, The falling blinding snow once more thaws into a blinding mist, and the crystals on prow, and spar, and rigging adhere more 'Mneid V.. 298; tRui. 202; JAJcestis, £ 63, ttl; I fDlod. 90. i Btebsteim Dentelies Bagenbllch. Wolf. Nitder !A4i dische, sagen 30. Tliorp*: Northern Mytholoy. 111., J9« firmly together. To the thaw succeeds frost- "The harbour bar was clear as -.Iasi, So smoothly was it strewn; And on the bay the moonlight lav, And the shadow of the moon." The Ice King and the Snow Queen are once more supreme throughout all Nature. It freezes until the bows of the Henrietta Maria, with her beak-head, is all ice half a foot (12) thick"; around the cable the ice is as thick as a man's middle the sails and rigging are covered with a coat of crystals the ship, hull and bow, and stern and masts, and sail and rigging, stands forth like a ship of ice (13) in a sea of ice, the very embodi- ment of Arthur's ship of glass. The sun (14) shines in the clear, blue sky, and it lights the spectral vessel with all the colours of the rainbow, the crystals of ice sparkling like stars and burning green and blue and red. It is a phantom ship upon a phantom ocean. In truth, a double vision might be con- structed from the narrative :— "The western wave was all aflime, The day was well-nigh done Almost upon the western wave Rested the broad bright sun And straight the sun was flecked with bars, (Heaven's mother, send us grace) As if through a dungeon grate lie peered With broad and burning face." In the gloss w, read—" At its (the ship's) approach it seems to him to be a ship, and again it seemeth him but the skeleton of a ship." Let us now turn to James's narrative. But first let me say, parenthetically, that it is not material whether or not Coleridge perfectly understood the meaning of the tech- nical terms used by the captain. I am dealing only with the impression which Captain James's words would probably leave on the mind of a poet uninstructed in the language of the sea. We could see," says Captain James, If quite through her (the ship's) seams betwixt wind and water." In another place (15) we are told, (I All her cut water and stern were torn and beaten away, together with fourteen foot of her keel"; much of her sheathing" was carried off; her bowa were broken and bruized"; many timbers crakt"; many other defects there were besides, so that it was miraculous how this vessel could bring us home again." The picture is certainly very much like the picture of a skeleton ship. (To be continued.) —— NOTX. -1. P. 38; 2, p. 51; 3, p. 42 4. p. 42; 5, p. 43 6, p. 49; 7. p. 49 8, p. 51 9. p. 52; 10. n. 52; 11. p. 52; 12, p. 42; 13, p. 46; 14. p, 42; 15. p. no.

MEN WHOM I HAVE1 KNOWN. |

[No title]

Advertising