Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Today the presenters highlighted the last stanza of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

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

and I couldn't quite remember what these lines reminded me of, but I just realized that some of Martin Luther King Jr.'s most powerful rhetoric is known for making a similar argument. In his "I Have a Dream" speech, King mentions several times that all people of all races are all "God's children", and should therefore be treated equally on God's earth. I find it interesting that the use of Christian principles was crucial to both the abolitionist movement and the civil rights movement almost 100 years later. Though the abolitionists may have been able to use religion in rhetoric alone, Christian principles of nonviolence, peace and the "golden rule" were intrinsic parts of civil rights organizations like the NAACP, SNCC and openly Christian organizations. Religion adds a moral dimension to any conversation, and Coleridge definitely makes both obvious and subtle use of it in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. On the obvious level, this ballad documents a crisis of faith, but closer reading shows that the author applies Christian values to denounce slavery. King would much more openly use Christianity to point out the evils of segregation years later. Clearly, religion has packed a powerful punch when it comes to bring about racial equality.

1 comment:

  1. This final stanza was also reminiscent for me of the hymn "All Things Bright and Beautiful." The refrain goes
    All things bright and beautiful,
    All creatures great and small,
    All things wise and wonderful,
    The Lord God made them all.
    (Subsequent searching on Wikipedia informs me that it's believed that the hymn was inspired by Coleridge. Imagine that). With words written in 1848, the hymn invokes some of the mysterious glory of nature that we discussed in class in relation to the sublime. The fact that a well-known hymn was inspired by a poem so explicitly focused on the supernatural speaks to the extent to which Coleridge uses religion in its denunciation of slavery and destabilizing of the supernatural. The use of Coleridge's words in this hymn, furthermore, emphasizes again the lyrical form of the poem, suggesting how easily it is to transition the form from poetry to song, despite the form's disjunction with the poem's content.