Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Power of Religion and Suffering.

In both Southey's "The Sailor who Served in the Slave Traide" and Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancyent Marinere," there was a striking presence of faith for the ones suffering. However, rather than simply praying to overcome their troubles, both had accepted a life-sentence of their pain, and were actually playing that their life would therefore be ended shortly*. The most striking aspect of this, however, is how aware each seemed; both the Sailor and the Marinere were very sure only hell awaited their souls once their bodies died, yet both preferred eternal torment to that of the flesh. As much as I'm sure that I would want to end my own suffering in such a situation, I don't know if I would be praying for an eternity in hell as a way out.

*I do recognize that at the end of the "Rime of the Ancyent Marinere" he was actually praising his safe passage home; I am referring to when he witnessed the death of all his crew.

Also, one of my favorite movies references this poem. I'm sure many, many other movies have as well, but it's fun nonetheless. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21QEIYovTlo


  1. Even though they are knowledgeable about the fact that they have to pray to be saved, what's interesting is their absolute inability to pray. In a way, it makes sense. Real prayer is only a possibility once the person praying actually believes what they are First, in the Rime of the Ancyent Marinere, he's been starved, dehydrated, and lost for months. All of his crew have literally turned to walking skeletons, and, according to them, he is to blame - all that death and only because he killed an albatross.

    Living in that type of world, it's understandable why he wouldn't want to pray. What would be the point? From his perspective, injustice, not God, rules the world. All of his crew slowly wasted away - because of him, and no crime of their own.

    Only when he is home, and thankful for the fact that MAYBE everything is behind him, does he bless the ground once more (after he has already blessed the glowing eels in an earlier stanza) and only this time is he forgiven. Even so, however, he is doomed to repeat his story, over and over again, to repeat his horrendous pain again and again.

  2. Ok, I first would like to respond to Liz's comment. I think, based on our discussion of slavery today, that the crew did commit a crime equal to that of the marinere. They exalted his killing of the albatross, or allegorically, supported the slave trade.

    I understand what you are saying about their inability to pray, but I think there is an even deeper connection between their physical/psychological condition and the prayer for death rather than liberation. Both characters believe that they deserve their punishment; they question their ability to be forgiven. Not only that, but the men are confronted by the supernatural. They are already in Hell, if you will, and the marinere's punishment of repeating his story reflects the eternity of heavenly justice. It seems to me that praying for death is a symbol of their helplessness; there is nothing else the men can do because, either way, they will live eternally in hell.

  3. Yes, I totall agree. Unfortunately I was one of the modern readers that did not associate the poem with slavery...sad day...