Monday, March 7, 2011

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Anna is studying British Literature this year, and we're reading Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." I have this lovely, large copy of the poem, complete with 42 prints drawn for it by Gustave Dore. What an enrichment the pictures are, for the text!
This picture is not from Coleridge's poem; it was drawn by Dore for Dante's epic poem, The Inferno. This scene shows Satan, in the final and most horrible level of Dante's hell. He is forever frozen in ice. His three faces each have a mouth, and each mouth contains one of the three greatest traitors of all time. (Dante put traitors at hell's worst location. Satan is, of course, himself the worst traitor.) Judas occupies his center mouth. Brutus and Cassius are in the other two. Being an Italian, of course Dante would consider the betrayers of Caesar to be right up there with Judas Iscariot! Judas has the added torture of having his head thrust into Satan's mouth for his eternal chewing. The other two have their heads out. On the right side of the picture, on an icy ledge, you can see Dante being led through his tour of hell, by his trusty guide, Virgil (Rome's great poet). All that to say, if you haven't read Dante's Inferno, you are really missing something. It's a very easy read.
Well, on to Coleridge! Here is a print showing the Mariner's ship, deep in cold and ice at Cape Horn. I love the dotting of snowflakes.
Here, the Mariner suffers alone after doing a horrible thing -- he shot and killed the albatross that had accompanied the ship, brought them good luck, and which the sailors had befriended like a pet. Awful man!
An underwater spirit propels the ship forward toward the equator, in the middle of the Pacific. Dore is excellent at depicting eery, spooky things, which makes his art perfect for Coleridge.
Dore's style is so rich. I love the churning water and the full shape of the ship's hull. In this picture, the Mariner leans over the ship's edge, watching the slimy animals in the sea.
I have all these prints in my lovely book, but I wanted to share them with you here.  If you're interested in viewing more of Dore's work, here is a lovely site where you can see much more.

1 comment:

  1. Patrick O'Brian includes an albatross incident in 'The Master and Commander' (made into a movie). Someone goes to shoot it, but the dr. on the ship is something of an naturalist and heads to see it , getting into the line of fire. Book is good, Movie is good too.

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