大家吼哇！因为疫情宅在家，所以把以前的文件整理了一下，正好把以前写的一篇英国诗歌《古舟子咏》（The Rime of the Ancient Mariner）的分析找到了。于是就把它发到这里来。
大家有兴趣的话，也可以看一看这首诗歌的中文译本。Poetry is what gets lost in translation, but this poem’s Chinese edition is also worth reading.
塞缪尔·泰勒·柯勒律治（Samuel Taylor Coleridge，1772年10月21日－1834年7月25日），英国诗人、文评家，英国浪漫主义文学的奠基人之一。以〈古舟子咏〉（亦可称作〈古舟子之歌〉）（The Rime of the Ancient Mariner）一诗名家，其文评集《文学传记》（Biographia Literaria）以博大精深见称，书中对想像（imagination）与幻想（fancy）的区别尤其著名。一生作诗不缀，但中年时自称弃诗从哲，精研以康德、谢林为首的德国唯心论。他的“鸦片瘾”、他的个人魅力、他与华兹华斯的微妙关系，使他成为西方文学史上最令人注目的作家之一。
Coleridge’s The Rime of The Ancient Mariner centred on a single plot: the slaying of the albatross at the hands of the Mariner. Then in a sudden dice game played by Death and Life-In-Death, all the crew lost their lives except the Mariner.
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.
The Mariner survived and was cursed, but with his blessing on colourful water-snakes, his plight started to disappear and finally, he got saved. But what was the curse and why did Coleridge create the curse? The poem doesn’t give us clear answers and the questions need to be analyzed.
Undoubtedly the Mariner was cursed by other sailors and therefore he couldn’t die: “Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse*/** And yet I could not die*.” But for most people, immortality can’t be viewed as a curse. So here we ought not to see this as fortunate immortality, but a state of stasis.
First, the Mariner was caught in a suspension of life (physical stasis). He was supposed to die like others, but his life was won by Life-In-Death, so he became a survivor while his life is in Death (should die, half yet not dead). In a way, it was scarier than simple death. Other sailors could be free from the predicament, but the Mariner couldn’t. The sight of the dead men presented the Mariner with a fatal horror. He was forced to witness the tragedy and bore the rest of the plight alone:
Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.
What’s worse, because of his stasis of life, he was unable to drink, eat and sleep until he blessed those water-snakes.[] And though angels came to his rescue, he was still in a stasis of repentance (mental stasis). After his disembarkation, he remained caught in the stasis. With “strange power of speech”, he was forced to pass from land to land and to tell his tale, because only through this can his agony be relived. He could do nothing but tell the strategy again and again.
[] This can be seen from line 288 to 304.
Stasis has been regarded as a horrible thing for a long time. Myth and folk-lore offer instructive Gorgon or Medusa’s head induces such a state, and the Sleeping Beauty remains as if dead until the awakening. In Buddhist theory, a person with unforgivable sin will be seriously punished forever and his/her soul can never reincarnate. Stasis, or a suspension of life, like the fly paralyzed by the bite of the spider, has no vitality but despair.
There are signs of the curse before the dice game. When the ship sailed near the Antarctic, they encountered endless ice: “Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken–/The ice was all between.” After the slaying of the albatross, the stasis was even more obvious:
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.
When things around us have no changes, we will feel we don’t move, even though we are going straight. This illusion is extremely desperate and many people die in the desert or on the ocean because despair, and so did the crew.
Life-In-Death is the most appropriate symbol of stasis, and the nightmare held the life of the Mariner tightly in her hands. Other men’s souls left away and they all had a destination, but the Mariner couldn’t. There was no ways or directions for him to escape.
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!
The Mariner was isolated within the strange universe to which Life-in-Death condemned him. At the end of the poem when the Mariner was found, the Pilot was too terrified to talk and his son was so scared that he got crazy. After that, he was forced to tell his tale forever, and his listener, take the Guest for example, was afraid of him and hard to understand (not fail to understand) him and his tale.
In a word, the curse of stasis separated the Mariner and the vibrant world. He had to see the death of 200 people with his own eyes, endure the physical pain for a week and the mental loneliness forever. That’s why the curse is so horrible.
Whether intentional or not, there must be some reasons for Coleridge to put the Mariner under the curse of stasis. There are at least two causes.
The first is guilt. At the age of 8, Coleridge’s father died. He was shocked by the sudden death of his father, and he believed that it was his hostility to his parent that caused it and he would receive equivalent punishment for his inadequate love for his father. And the feeling of guilt and grief was one of the main reasons for his mental sickness later. []
The second one is opium addiction. He hated opium very much, but couldn’t get rid of it. In 1807, he wrote a note, which reads:
“O who shall deliver me from the Body of this Death? Meanwhile the habit of inward Brooding daily makes it harder to confess the Thing, I am, to any one… But the one ineradicable Idea, and unquenchable Yearning! – and the Fear, that Death itself will but increase it! for it seems to have an affinity with Despair!”[]
The addiction made him overwhelmed with sorrow and despair. He couldn’t help smoking opium and being intoxicated, but when his mind was clear, he was caught in a stasis of regret. “Reprobate Despair,” he wrote in 1807, “snatches at the known Poison, that suspends – alas! to aggravate the Evil” (opium), which is “*the pause that defers the blow to make it the more forceful.*”
The guilty and opium addiction had a great influence on The Rime of The Ancient Mariner, especially the curse of stasis in it. Coleridge’s guilty for his father tortured him mentally, and his abuse of opium made him caught in the state of stasis both mentally and physically. This also corresponds to the poem. The Mariner felt guilt for the death of the albatross, and he was caught in the ship stuck by ice. It’s like Coleridge’s guilty for the death of his father, and he was caught by opium.
[] Wikipedia Samuel Taylor Coleridge https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Taylor_Coleridge
[] David S. Miall. Guilt and Death: The Predicament of The Ancient Mariner, Rice University, Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol. 24, No. 4, Nineteenth Century
In the poem, the curse plays an important role, because it is the manifestation of the punishment to the Mariner’s sin. It is a curse of stasis and the Mariner suffered a lot from then state of stasis mentally and physically, which the poet was suffering, too.
To some extent, we can regard the Mariner as a self-portrait of Coleridge. He wanted to break away from the plight and he made the Mariner be faced with a symbolic one, then they both flighted with the curse of stasis.