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Coleridge's Ancient Mariner and Select Poems by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
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Coleridge's Ancient Mariner and Select Poems

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

If you've ever wondered at the expression "an albatross around one's neck," it comes from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The albatross is understood to mean the spirit of Christ, or the Christian's soul itself, though many interpretations abound.

This is the story of a mariner who has returned home from a sea voyage to Antarctica. It is told from his perspective to a man on the street, who at times is frightened, and others amused at the often horrific events of his journey. The ship is led out of rough seas by a passing albatross, and to the crew's dismay, the Mariner shoots the albatross with a crossbow. So the crew forces him to wear the bird around his neck. The action of the Mariner dooms the crew to be set upon by a skeleton ship, and he is forced to watch as their souls are possessed. Coleridge's poem wasn't well received at its publication, but it went on to influence writers such as Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, William Burroughs, and the Watchmen books.

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