As I told in the previous post, the treasure the Ancient Mariner will find at the end of the journey is his self awareness. If the immense Ocean represents the world, we are the commander in chief who have to decide where to take our ship. Otherwise we are at the merci of the waves, and our clouded minds can’t avoid the rubs. We have to make the effort to know who we are and what we want or else we will become insecure and consequently easily controlled. If we don’t become aware of this, we’ll keep on doing what we have been told to every single day our life, feeling actually safe, because it is exactly what everybody does. Till one day we wake up and “You may ask yourself, what is that beautiful house? You may ask yourself, where does that highway lead to?You may ask yourself, am I right, am I wrong?You may say to yourself, my god, what have I done?”
“To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture”
The Talking Heads well expressed this mood in their “Once in a Lifetime”
Here are the lyrics : Once in a lifetime
Another amazing symbol of the Rime is the Albatross. The crew succeeds in escaping the tremendous blasts of the storm but the men can’t keep the route and find themselves in the South Pole. After days of “wondrous cold ” among the frightening icebergs all the mariners are psychologically shattered: they feel desperate and lonely. In that ghastly solitude an Albatross appears through the fog, which symbolically stands for the confusion of the mariners. The men are convinced that the bird is a sign God, it is good omen. Soon after the fog gives way to hope and confidence and the crew succeeds in sailing northward. Everything seems to be all right then, and the Wedding Guest feels the story very close to an end, when unexpectedly the Mariner confesses to have shot the Albaross with no apparent reason. He was a kind of…….bored. In this very moment the Mariner/teacher/poet seems to say to the guy.” When I was young and I used to be shallow and indifferent, just like You . But beware, I have been punished for this. Your fate won’t be different from mine if you are not aware of this”. The Albatross here is the symbol of missed salvation. Just like Jesus Christ, it had been sent by God to save the crew/mankind and just like Jesus, who had been eventually crucified, the Albatross was shot with a crossbow. The crew/mankind acts like a herd. At first the sailors despise the Mariner for having killed the Albatross but the they soon change their mind when they see after many days of “mist and fog” “the Glorious Sun” rise and the ship move fast. The pervading euphoria doesn’t last long. Suddenly they stop “as if we were a panted ship upon a painted ocean”. The heat and thirst are unbearable. There is no way out again and the rage of the crew/herd vents on the Mariner, because it is his fault: HE had killed the Albatross, the herd does not feel responsible for his action. The chosen punishment is in the Puritan style. The dead body of the bird is tied round the Mariner’s neck as mark of his sin and memory for the whole community. It reminds me of the Scarlet Letter A, that Hester Prynne, the heroine of the Scarlet Letter written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, had to wear because of her adulterous affair. This is how the strict Puritan morality worked. Even though Hester had spent her life doing what she could to help the sick and the poor she was rejected by the villagers because she was a sinner. The A is her badge of shame. Hester will react wearing that mark with ostentatiuos pride, while the mariner will get rid of that “badge” only after a long path of expiation that will lead to his self awareness.