The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (21 October 1772 – 25 July 1834)


There passed a weary time. Each throat
Was parched, and glazed each eye.
A weary time! a weary time!
How glazed each weary eye,
When looking westward, I beheld
A something in the sky.

At first it seemed a little speck,
And then it seemed a mist:
It moved and moved, and took at last
A certain shape, I wist.

A speck, a mist, a shape, I wist!
And still it neared and neared:
As if it dodged a water-sprite,
It plunged and tacked and veered.

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,
We could not laugh nor wail;
Through utter drought all dumb we stood!
I bit my arm, I sucked the blood,
And cried, A sail! a sail!

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,
Agape they heard me call:
Gramercy! they for joy did grin,
And all at once their breath drew in,
As they were drinking all.

See! see! (I cried) she tacks no more!
Hither to work us weal;
Without a breeze, without a tide,
She steadies with upright keel!

The western wave was all a-flame
The day was well nigh done!
Almost upon the western wave
Rested the broad bright Sun;
When that strange shape drove suddenly
Betwixt us and the Sun.

And straight the Sun was flecked with bars,
(Heaven’s Mother send us grace!)
As if through a dungeon-grate he peered,
With broad and burning face.

Alas! (thought I, and my heart beat loud)
How fast she nears and nears!
Are those her sails that glance in the Sun,
Like restless gossameres!

Are those her ribs through which the Sun
Did peer, as through a grate?
And is that Woman all her crew?
Is that a DEATH? and are there two?
Is DEATH that woman’s mate?

Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was as white as leprosy,
The Night-Mare LIFE-IN-DEATH was she,
Who thicks man’s blood with cold.

The naked hulk alongside came,
And the twain were casting dice;
“The game is done! I’ve won! I’ve won!”
Quoth she, and whistles thrice.

The Sun’s rim dips; the stars rush out:
At one stride comes the dark;
With far-heard whisper, o’er the sea.
Off shot the spectre-bark.

We listened and looked sideways up!
Fear at my heart, as at a cup,
My life-blood seemed to sip!

The stars were dim, and thick the night,
The steersman’s face by his lamp gleamed white;
From the sails the dew did drip—
Till clombe above the eastern bar
The horned Moon, with one bright star
Within the nether tip.

One after one, by the star-dogged Moon
Too quick for groan or sigh,
Each turned his face with a ghastly pang,
And cursed me with his eye.

Four times fifty living men,
(And I heard nor sigh nor groan)
With heavy thump, a lifeless lump,
They dropped down one by one.

The souls did from their bodies fly,—
They fled to bliss or woe!
And every soul, it passed me by,
Like the whizz of my CROSS-BOW!

Herman Melville (August 1, 1819 – September 28, 1891)

from CHAPTER 42. The Whiteness of the Whale.

Bethink thee of the albatross, whence come those clouds of spiritual wonderment and pale dread, in which that white phantom sails in all imaginations? Not Coleridge first threw that spell; but God’s great, unflattering laureate, Nature.

I remember the first albatross I ever saw. It was during a prolonged gale, in waters hard upon the Antarctic seas. From my forenoon watch below, I ascended to the overclouded deck; and there, dashed upon the main hatches, I saw a regal, feathery thing of unspotted whiteness, and with a hooked, Roman bill sublime. At intervals, it arched forth its vast archangel wings, as if to embrace some holy ark. Wondrous flutterings and throbbings shook it. Though bodily unharmed, it uttered cries, as some king’s ghost in supernatural distress. Through its inexpressible, strange eyes, methought I peeped to secrets which took hold of God. As Abraham before the angels, I bowed myself; the white thing was so white, its wings so wide, and in those for ever exiled waters, I had lost the miserable warping memories of traditions and of towns. Long I gazed at that prodigy of plumage. I cannot tell, can only hint, the things that darted through me then. But at last I awoke; and turning, asked a sailor what bird was this. A goney, he replied. Goney! never had heard that name before; is it conceivable that this glorious thing is utterly unknown to men ashore! never! But some time after, I learned that goney was some seaman’s name for albatross. So that by no possibility could Coleridge’s wild Rhyme have had aught to do with those mystical impressions which were mine, when I saw that bird upon our deck. For neither had I then read the Rhyme, nor knew the bird to be an albatross. Yet, in saying this, I do but indirectly burnish a little brighter the noble merit of the poem and the poet.

I assert, then, that in the wondrous bodily whiteness of the bird chiefly lurks the secret of the spell; a truth the more evinced in this, that by a solecism of terms there are birds called grey albatrosses; and these I have frequently seen, but never with such emotions as when I beheld the Antarctic fowl.

But how had the mystic thing been caught? Whisper it not, and I will tell; with a treacherous hook and line, as the fowl floated on the sea. At last the Captain made a postman of it; tying a lettered, leathern tally round its neck, with the ship’s time and place; and then letting it escape. But I doubt not, that leathern tally, meant for man, was taken off in Heaven, when the white fowl flew to join the wing-folding, the invoking, and adoring cherubim!

9 thoughts on “January-18

  1. sea intervals

    weary of life and lost time I stood at the hard grey rim of the sea as the flutter and speck of a pale sun dropped below the water and I heard my heart beat loud through the pang in my ribs caught now by the treacherous dice of life and the cold truth of no escape utterly lost and exiled in this westward sea town with its hard chapter and tradition its upright bodies its parched straight lips and its holy holy holy

    drinking through the night in the tidewater bars I learned the strange breezebreath whisper of water and the dark whaleshape of the waves and heard the heavy lifeless thump of dead bird on ghostsail and I saw the seamen turning their glazed eye suddenly to the overclouded moon as they listened to the warping groan and beat of it all and cursed the cold night and the restless bloodwork of the sea

    I asked those men to tell me of things I could never know the hulk of keel in the hook of a sea mist and the wide white sail dashed in a cross-gale but they shook with a sudden grace and drew their breath and replied with the hint and sigh of memories inexpressible and I thought I heard then a strange wild call and a mystic rush of wings and into the dim flame of the lamp the albatross seemed to come as a spectre folding a lost white feather round each man’s neck in a pale spell of dread and death

    Liked by 5 people

  2. ‘Cursed’

    I cried. I cried.
    secrets when sun how unslaked
    forever in exiled waters
    drinking my blood betwixt us
    he with his upright keel
    without a wave or a breeze

    I cried! I cried!
    If our heaven’s burning ghastly red
    if naked gleamed
    and steadies the bar
    I sucked it up, and
    he looked sideways

    (He cried)(He cried)
    up suddenly the cold that glazed us
    as we dropped o’er the mist
    through one
    if time is all black
    what was once star-dogged whisper

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Memories of water

    How cold I was, drinking the night black sea! I remember impressions, phantom things. A grey mist moved, and all at once the stars were dim.

    I heard the groans and cries of men, the sighs and whispers of angels. Then I saw the moon, blood red, become a vast pale shape, a white sail, a whale with wings, white feathers floating on the waves.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Prodigy

    The flutterings of souls, restless gossameres
    A mist, a breeze, a breath, a whisper
    Invoking a wonderment of bliss
    A secret spell, a mystical, glorious thing
    I embrace angels, sigh to the secrets of God
    Learned a truth
    Sublime the poem, noble the poet
    The laureate of Nature.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. The Woman on the Sea

    I saw a regal, noble feathery thing
    stood naked overclouded with phantom gossameres
    The Woman on the sea in mist—
    Her eyes were wondrous strange
    Her lips were black, her looks were free flecked with grace
    Her locks were yellow as gold:
    Her skin was as white as leprosy,
    The Night-Mare was she with vast archangel wings
    all a-flame with clouds of secret wonderment
    and pale memories of Life in all imaginations;
    and, as Moon on the exiled waters of Time,
    she first threw that spell by her lamp gleamed white
    of bliss or woe was cursed:
    for in Nature lurks the secret of the spell unknown;
    and, if through the dungeon-grate of night
    as she is casting dice,
    far-heard whisper, ascended o’er the sea:
    “Bethink thee, weary ghost, my name
    — a spectre water-sprite —
    and fly.”

    [Note: Chang’e or Chang-o, originally known as Heng’e, is the Chinese goddess of the Moon; or, colloquially, The Woman on the Moon.]

    Liked by 3 people

  6. The First Souls

    Clouds of phantom sails
    Tacked and fluttering,
    Angel’s wings,
    Vast folding wings
    of wondrous whiteness,
    Whisper in the breeze of time,
    And with glazed eye
    The first souls glance the sun
    In the certainty of Heaven.

    Liked by 2 people

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