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danger there comes an albatross, that huge bird of the Southern seas: it is hailed as a bird of good omen, and a way is found to steer the ship through the ice. The bird follows, alighting on mast or shroud and fed by the grateful crew, but in a wicked and luckless moment is killed by the ancient mariner. His shipmates become parties to his guilt, for, with a fickle superstition, they ascribe their ill-luck to the bird, and justify the wanton death of one of God's mute creatures. The mysterious vengeance begins with the misery of a dead calm beneath a torrid sky:
“ The fair breeze blew; the white foam flew
The furrow followed free :
Into that silent sea.
“Down dropped the breeze; the sails dropped down;
'Twas sad as sad could be: And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea !
“ All in a hot and copper sky
The bloody sun at noon
No bigger than the moon.
“Day after day, day after day,
We stuck: nor breath, nor motion :
Upon a painted ocean.
“Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Nor any drop to drink.”
The ship lies becalmed a weary time, and the crew have
dark assurances in their dreams that invisible fiends are pursuing and plaguing them. At length, afar off, between them and the sun, there is beheld a something in the sky, seen at first as a little speck, then a mist, and then the strange skeleton-shape of a spectral bark. As it nears them, hideous figures are discerned upon
the deck and frightful voices and noises are sounding across the waters of the sluggish sea. It vanishes; but death has struck the crew of the becalmed ship, and the ancient mariner alone is left in the central solitude of a motion. less ocean, with dismal hauntings of remorse and the memory of supernatural terrors, and with the open-eyed dead lying in groups around his feet :
“ The stars were dim, and thick the night;
The steersman's face by his lamp gleamed white;
“I looked to heaven, and tried to pray,
But, or ever a prayer had gusht,
My heart as dry as dust! .
“I closed my lids and kept them close,
And the balls like pulses beat;
And the dead were at my feet.
“The cold sweat melted from their limbs,
Nor rot nor reek did they;
Had never passed away.
“An orphan's curse would drag to hell
A spirit from on high;
Is the curse in a dead man's eye.
And yet I could not die!"
In his loneliness and wretchedness and perpetual wakefulness, the ancient mariner's heart, touched by a skyey influence, yearneth towards the tranquil motions of the heavenly bodies :
“The moving moon went up the sky,
And nowhere did abide
And a star or two beside."
He looks beyond the enchanted shadow of the ship, and beholds the bright creatures of the deep; and, as the wanton murder of the bird had brought the mysterious affliction upon himself and his companions, the spell begins to break when there springs in his heart a sudden sympathy with the happiness mle fiends are floating in his sight; and when from h afar off, beblessing upon them,
mist, and “O happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty might declare.
And I blessed them unaware.
And I blessed them unaware :
“ The selfsame moment I could pray!”
The utterance of prayer brings to the mariner's wasted spirit the blessing of sleep, rain upon the parched planks of the ship, and the help of a troop of angelic spirits, which, incarnated in the dead bodies of the crew, man the ship. Wild commotions and strange sights fill the sky and the elements, and soft spiritual music and voices soothe the lone human being into a trance. When that is abated, the penance is renewed for a brief space; but the curse is at last expiated :
“I woke, and we were sailing on
As in a gentle weather:
The dead men stood together!
“All stood together on the deck
For a charnel-dungeon fitter;
That in the moon did glitter.
“ The pang, the curse, with which they died,
Had never passed away:
Nor turn them up to pray.
The wild voyage, haunted by fiends and blessed by good angels, is drawing to a close. There dawns upon the mariner's eye the light-house top, the hill, and the church,— happy visions of his native land ! At the same time he looks to the lifeless bodies which had risen up to do the service of the ship, and, lo! the angelic spirits are leaving them, and the last guardian act is the waving of their seraph-hands across the waters of the calm harbour-bay, as signals to the pilot and to the hermit