That Albatross!

With a wingspan of some 12 feet and the ability to fly at speeds of 80mph and travel some 500 miles without touching land, the albatross is a bird to be held in awe. We are told that they have locking elbow joints, which enables them to fly or glide on wind streams with wings extended for long periods at no energy cost from its muscles. I will share more facts about the albatross in coming blogs. For now though I am revisiting the powerful poem of Samuel Taylor Coleridge – The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Written in 7 parts it stands as a classic and has been the subject of many books. In an amazing way, although written by Coleridge when he was 26, the poem itself foreshadows the very life and turn of events which Coleridge’s life was to take over the next 25 years. I would like to share with you over the next few posts parts of this great poem. I encourage you to enjoy both the richness of Coleridge’s language and the images he creates. In the third stanza “eftsoons” means soon after. At times even if you are not familiar with this poem you will read lines which are often quoted if very different contexts such as “water water everywhere and not a drop to drink” I hope you enjoy Part 1 below. The following link will take you to whole poem.

It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
‘By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?

The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin;
The guests are met, the feast is set:
May’st hear the merry din.’

He holds him with his skinny hand,
There was a ship,’ quoth he.
‘Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!’
Eftsoons his hand dropt he.

He holds him with his glittering eye—
The Wedding-Guest stood still,
And listens like a three years’ child:
The Mariner hath his will.

The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:
He cannot choose but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.

‘The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared,
Merrily did we drop
Below the kirk, below the hill,
Below the lighthouse top.

The Sun came up upon the left,
Out of the sea came he!
And he shone bright, and on the right
Went down into the sea.

Higher and higher every day,
Till over the mast at noon—’
The Wedding-Guest here beat his breast,
For he heard the loud bassoon.

The bride hath paced into the hall,
Red as a rose is she;
Nodding their heads before her goes
The merry minstrelsy.

The Wedding-Guest he beat his breast,
Yet he cannot choose but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.

And now the STORM-BLAST came, and he
Was tyrannous and strong:
He struck with his o’ertaking wings,
And chased us south along.

With sloping masts and dipping prow,
As who pursued with yell and blow
Still treads the shadow of his foe,
And forward bends his head,
The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,
And southward aye we fled.

And now there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold:
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.

And through the drifts the snowy clifts
Did send a dismal sheen:
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken—
The ice was all between.

The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!

At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God’s name.

It ate the food it ne’er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
The helmsman steered us through!

And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariner’s hollo!

In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
It perched for vespers nine;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
Glimmered the white Moon-shine.’

‘God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus!—
Why look’st thou so?’—With my cross-bow
I shot the ALBATROSS.

Lord God,
watch over all who journey
upon road, on sea, or in the air.
We pray today for those who
seek safety,
those whose journey has
been long and hard on mind and soul.
Grant them rest and may they encounter
kindness and welcome even in places
where they least expect it.
We pause this day to remember
mothers and children attempting to escape from war.
We pause and pray today for those seeking to escape
from the fear of drug cartels and
who only wish a safe place to rest,
an opportunity to earn a living,
so to feed family and
welcome guests.
Lord God hear this prayer for peace,
and be with those who find so little peace
in their unending and uncertain journey. Amen.

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