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THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER (6)

2006-09-08 20:45

    PART THE SIXTH.

    FIRST VOICE.

    But tell me, tell me! speak again, Thy soft response renewing—— What makes that ship drive on so fast? What is the OCEAN doing?

    SECOND VOICE.

    Still as a slave before his lord, The OCEAN hath no blast; His great bright eye most silently Up to the Moon is cast-

    If he may know which way to go; For she guides him smooth or grim See, brother, see! how graciously She looketh down on him.

    FIRST VOICE.

    But why drives on that ship so fast, Without or wave or wind?

    SECOND VOICE.

    The air is cut away before, And closes from behind.

    Fly, brother, fly! more high, more high Or we shall be belated: For slow and slow that ship will go, When the Mariner's trance is abated.

    I woke, and we were sailing on As in a gentle weather: 'Twas night, calm night, the Moon was high; The dead men stood together.

    All stood together on the deck, For a charnel-dungeon fitter: All fixed on me their stony eyes, That in the Moon did glitter.

    The pang, the curse, with which they died, Had never passed away: I could not draw my eyes from theirs, Nor turn them up to pray.

    And now this spell was snapt: once more I viewed the ocean green. And looked far forth, yet little saw Of what had else been seen-

    Like one that on a lonesome road Doth walk in fear and dread, And having once turned round walks on, And turns no more his head; Because he knows, a frightful fiend Doth close behind him tread.

    But soon there breathed a wind on me, Nor sound nor motion made: Its path was not upon the sea, In ripple or in shade.

    It raised my hair, it fanned my cheek Like a meadow-gale of spring—— It mingled strangely with my fears, Yet it felt like a welcoming.

    Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship, Yet she sailed softly too: Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze—— On me alone it blew.

    Oh! dream of joy! is this indeed The light-house top I see? Is this the hill? is this the kirk? Is this mine own countree!

    We drifted o'er the harbour-bar, And I with sobs did pray—— O let me be awake, my God! Or let me sleep alway.

    The harbour-bay was clear as glass, So smoothly it was strewn! And on the bay the moonlight lay, And the shadow of the moon.

    The rock shone bright, the kirk no less, That stands above the rock: The moonlight steeped in silentness The steady weathercock.

    And the bay was white with silent light, Till rising from the same, Full many shapes, that shadows were, In crimson colours came.

    A little distance from the prow Those crimson shadows were: I turned my eyes upon the deck—— Oh, Christ! what saw I there!

    Each corse lay flat, lifeless and flat, And, by the holy rood! A man all light, a seraph-man, On every corse there stood.

    This seraph band, each waved his hand: It was a heavenly sight! They stood as signals to the land, Each one a lovely light:

    This seraph-band, each waved his hand, No voice did they impart—— No voice; but oh! the silence sank Like music on my heart.

    But soon I heard the dash of oars; I heard the Pilot's cheer; My head was turned perforce away, And I saw a boat appear.

    The Pilot, and the Pilot's boy, I heard them coming fast: Dear Lord in Heaven! it was a joy The dead men could not blast.

    I saw a third——I heard his voice: It is the Hermit good! He singeth loud his godly hymns That he makes in the wood. He'll shrieve my soul, he'll wash away The Albatross's blood. PART THE SEVENTH.

    This Hermit good lives in that wood Which slopes down to the sea. How loudly his sweet voice he rears! He loves to talk with marineres That come from a far countree.

    He kneels at morn and noon and eve—— He hath a cushion plump: It is the moss that wholly hides The rotted old oak-stump.

    The skiff-boat neared: I heard them talk, "Why this is strange, I trow! Where are those lights so many and fair, That signal made but now?"

    "Strange, by my faith!" the Hermit said—— "And they answered not our cheer! The planks looked warped! and see those sails, How thin they are and sere! I never saw aught like to them, Unless perchance it were

    "Brown skeletons of leaves that lag My forest-brook along; When the ivy-tod is heavy with snow, And the owlet whoops to the wolf below, That eats the she-wolf's young."

    "Dear Lord! it hath a fiendish look—— (The Pilot made reply) I am a-feared"——"Push on, push on!" Said the Hermit cheerily.

    The boat came closer to the ship, But I nor spake nor stirred; The boat came close beneath the ship, And straight a sound was heard.

    Under the water it rumbled on, Still louder and more dread: It reached the ship, it split the bay; The ship went down like lead.

    Stunned by that loud and dreadful sound, Which sky and ocean smote, Like one that hath been seven days drowned My body lay afloat; But swift as dreams, myself I found Within the Pilot's boat.

    Upon the whirl, where sank the ship, The boat spun round and round; And all was still, save that the hill Was telling of the sound.

    I moved my lips——the Pilot shrieked And fell down in a fit; The holy Hermit raised his eyes, And prayed where he did sit.

    I took the oars: the Pilot's boy, Who now doth crazy go, Laughed loud and long, and all the while His eyes went to and fro. "Ha! ha!" quoth he, "full plain I see, The Devil knows how to row."

    And now, all in my own countree, I stood on the firm land! The Hermit stepped forth from the boat, And scarcely he could stand.

    "O shrieve me, shrieve me, holy man!" The Hermit crossed his brow. "Say quick," quoth he, "I bid thee say—— What manner of man art thou?"

    Forthwith this frame of mine was wrenched With a woeful agony, Which forced me to begin my tale; And then it left me free.

    Since then, at an uncertain hour, That agony returns; And till my ghastly tale is told, This heart within me burns.

    I pass, like night, from land to land; I have strange power of speech; That moment that his face I see, I know the man that must hear me: To him my tale I teach.

    What loud uproar bursts from that door! The wedding-guests are there: But in the garden-bower the bride And bride-maids singing are: And hark the little vesper bell, Which biddeth me to prayer!

    O Wedding-Guest! this soul hath been Alone on a wide wide sea: So lonely 'twas, that God himself Scarce seemed there to be.

    O sweeter than the marriage-feast, 'Tis sweeter far to me, To walk together to the kirk With a goodly company!-

    To walk together to the kirk, And all together pray, While each to his great Father bends, Old men, and babes, and loving friends, And youths and maidens gay!

    Farewell, farewell! but this I tell To thee, thou Wedding-Guest! He prayeth well, who loveth well Both man and bird and beast.

    He prayeth best, who loveth best All things both great and small; For the dear God who loveth us He made and loveth all.

    The Mariner, whose eye is bright, Whose beard with age is hoar, Is gone: and now the Wedding-Guest Turned from the bridegroom's door.

    He went like one that hath been stunned, And is of sense forlorn: A sadder and a wiser man, He rose the morrow morn.

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