Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge's famous poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is often regarded as having heralded the beginning of the Romantic era in British literature. The poem narrates the story of a sailor who has returned home from a long voyage having suffered great loss, yet survived.
In this Studies in Theology and the Arts volume, poet and theologian Malcolm Guite leads readers on a journey with Coleridge, whose own life paralleled the experience of the mariner. On this theological voyage, Guite draws out the continuing relevance of this work and the ability of poetry to communicate the truths of humanity's fallenness, our need for grace, and the possibility of redemption.
The Studies in Theology and the Arts series encourages Christians to thoughtfully engage with the relationship between their faith and artistic expression, with contributions from both theologians and artists on a range of artistic media including visual art, music, poetry, literature, film, and more.
"With great skill, Malcolm Guite has combined able scholarship, poetic eloquence, a grasp of history, and a penetrating spiritual intelligence to unpack and reweave the threads of Coleridge's wondrous poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Engrossing and eminently readable."
"Malcolm Guite has established himself as one of the leading Christian poets of our time. This positions him to offer a distinctive reading of a poetic giant of the past, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. As expected, Mariner is exceptionally rich, penetrating, and absorbing."
"Mariner is an examination of Coleridge's stormy life, his most famous work, and his theological insights about the imagination. Malcolm Guite navigates these swirling waters with a steady hand, combining a poet's knack for specificity and a theologian's concern for the transcendent. Guite's tethering of minute autobiographical detail and big ideas shores up the ancient mariner's own advice: 'He prayeth best, who loveth best / All things both great and small.'"
"Malcolm Guite greatly enriches the field of Coleridge studies by producing an account of the poet's life and work that takes seriously his Christian faith. By ingeniously and tenderly aligning the poet with his Ancient Mariner, Guite casts Coleridge as a prophet who, not yet fully comprehending his own vision, recounts a story he only later comes to understand as his own. Guite also challenges us who are facing ecological, cultural, and spiritual crises to similarly recognize ourselves in the figure of the suffering Mariner and to become fellow mariners in the journey toward redemption."
"Malcolm Guite's Mariner gives us insight into the growth of Coleridge's mind and a close reading of his greatest poem. In Guite's biographical and textual criticism, modern readers are reminded of the Christian foundations of Coleridge's work. Guite is both an accomplished Christian minister and poet and perhaps one of the few modern souls able to accompany Coleridge on the harrowing spiritual and psychological journey of the Ancient Mariner. Readers of this excellent book have the rare opportunity to take a similar voyage."
"As Coleridge's life shows us, imaginative abilities, while impressive and necessary, aren't enough to save for real people in history. Perhaps this is why as Coleridge aged he turned more and more back to the faith of his father, an Anglican priest. And why I hope we, all, can turn to Guite's book. There is a true and gentle wind that blows all ships to port. Guite has written a map for that journey. Read this book."
Prelude: The Growth of a Poet's Mind
1. The Kirk, the Hill, the Lighthouse Top
2. Jesus and the Dragoons
3. To Nether Stowey via Utopia
4. A Network of Friendships
5. A Visionary Landscape
Part II: The Mariner's Tale
6. The Ship Was Cheered
7. Instead of the Cross, the Albatross
8. The Night-mare Life-in-Death
9. The Moving Moon
10. Nine Fathom Deep
11. The Two Voices
12. He Prayeth Best Who Loveth Best
Epilogue: The Morrow Morn