Write about Coleridge’s use of Symbolism - Sample Essay

Samuel Taylor Coleridge includes many uses of symbolism in ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ and in Part 1 a number of these are introduced in Part 1. The first real symbol we see is the Sun. The stanza which involves it tells how the Sun came out the sea, meaning it rose from the horizon and it shone brightly all day until it “went down into the sea” once more. This is primarily a symbol to reflect how much time has passed- one rise and fall of the Sun is obviously one day passing but the Sun also has a number of other connotations. The fact that it “shone bright” symbolises peace and happiness as well as safety.

For a sea voyage, as is the suggestion by the inclusion of the marital vocabulary (“Mariner”, “ship”, “harbour”…), bright Sun would suggest clear blue skies which would indicate a safe and peaceful journey for the Mariner. In association with the Sun, it’s ‘opposite’ – the moon – is referred to in a later stanza and with it more pleasant imagery. Coleridge writes that “through fog-smoke white, Glimmered the white Moon-shine”. This suggests that although conditions were maybe not ideal out at sea, the moon was there to light the way.

The moon is also a conventional symbol for romance, which also ties in with this theme of astrology and pleasance. Continuing with the theme of weather, the storm and ice in the first part of the poem also plays a big part. It is a sudden antithesis to the pleasant conditions that have came before it and it is also a symbol for danger. The storm that drives the ship south is compared to some winged predator on the hunt. The ship is like the prey on the ground that runs in the “shadow” of the predator to escape it.

This creates an image of hunting which is dangerous and life threatening, which is how Coleridge wanted to portray the storm. Ice is also cold and harsh which is what the fate of the ship is going to turn out to be. However, perhaps the most significant symbol in Part 1 of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is the albatross. In a difficult situation, it comes almost to the rescue of the stranded crew. The bird seems to be a metaphorical reference to the Dove in the bible that brings an olive branch to Noah in his Ark as a symbol for land. The albatross arrives and brings with it salvation, much like the Dove.

Hence, it could be argued that the albatross is a symbol for the Dove in the Bible. For the men on the ship however, the bird brings with it a chance for them to survive and therefore becomes their symbol of luck. Through coincidence or ‘divine intervention’, the bird’s arrival coincided with the ice splitting and allowing safe passage and the good wind to allow plain sailing. It then follows the men on their voyage on the ship and for them it becomes their lucky charm or symbol, it being associated with safe journey and therefore deemed as their deity for fortune.