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The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Coleridge's poem of a grim voyage in which a sailor shoots an albatross and is forced to tell the story of his crime forever.

In this 900th edition of the programme, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of the best known and most influential of the poems of the Romantic movement. Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in 1798 after discussions with his friend Wordsworth. He refined it for the rest of his life, and it came to define him, a foreshadowing of his opium-addicted, lonely wandering and deepening sense of guilt. The poem tells of a sailor compelled to tell and retell the story of a terrible voyage in his youth, this time as guests are heading to a wedding party, where he stoppeth one of three.

The image above is from Gustave Doré's illustration of the mariner's shooting of the albatross, for an 1877 German language edition of the poem


Sir Jonathan Bate
Professor of Environmental Humanities at Arizona State University

Tom Mole
Professor of English Literature and Book History at the University of Edinburgh


Rosemary Ashton
Emeritus Quain Professor of English Language and Literature at University College London

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Available now

53 minutes

Last on

Thu 4 Mar 2021 21:30



Rosemary Ashton at University College London

Jonathan Bate at Arizona State University

Tom Mole at the University of Edinburgh


Rosemary Ashton, The Life of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: A Critical Biography (John Wiley & Sons, 1996)

Jonathan Bate, Radical Wordsworth: The Poet who Changed the World (William Collins, 2020)

James D. Boulger (ed.), Twentieth Century Interpretations of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner: a Collection of Critical Essays (Prentice-Hall, 1969)

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (ed. John Beer), Poems (Everyman’s Library, 1991)

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, with Illustrations by Gustave Doré (Dover, 1970)

Richard Holmes, Coleridge: Early Visions (first published 1989; Harper Perennial, 2005)

John Livingston Lowes, The Road to Xanadu: A Study in the Ways of the Imagination (first published 1927; Dyer Press, 2007)

J.C.C. Mays, Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)

Seamus Perry, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (The British Library, 2003)

Grant F. Scott, “’The Many Men so Beautiful’: Gustave Doré’s Illustrations to ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’” (Romanticism, vol. 16, 2010)

John Spencer Hill, A Coleridge Companion: An Introduction to the Major Poems and the Biographia Literaria (Macmillan, 1984)


An introduction to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Seamus Perry - British Library

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Wikipedia


  • Thu 4 Mar 2021 09:00
  • Thu 4 Mar 2021 21:30

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