CAHSS Faculty Articles

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: Multiple Veils of Illusion

Publication Title

Notre Dame English Journal



Publication Date

Fall 1973



"He lived in the midst of that visionary world in which nothing is but what is not." Thus Peacock caricatures Coleridge (Mr. Flosky) in Nightmare Abbey. Although Peacock's picture of Coleridge is a spoof, it does reveal one of Coleridge's primary interests: seeking truth amidst illusion. While this quest is perhaps most clearly reflected in the prominence of philosophical thought in such works as the Biographie Literaria, where Coleridge bases even his literary criticism on the principles of transcendentalism, it is an important element in his poetry as well.1 As Irene Chayes has noted, this concern to dis cover truth is especially marked in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: "The patterning that governs the stages of the Mariner's voyage and the divisions of the terrestrial globe over which he travels amounts to a map or diagram, or better, a spatialized model in miniature of Coleridge's later metaphysical cosmos, both within and without the mind."2 Coleridge has created a poem in which "the Ancient Mariner and his ship represent the small but persisting class of mental adventurers who are not content with the appearances sur- rounding them but attempt to get but attempt to get behind."3





Peer Reviewed

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