The Sun Now Rose Upon the Right…

This week’s theme is a line from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic (and very weird) The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I realise that we have been visiting the romantic poets rather a lot recently and promise that we will explore other literary topics soon, but William Blake and John Clare are very much outliers of the romantic movement, kept somewhat apart from the mainstream by social class and circumstances. And Blake’s poetry and art would never fit into the mainstream of anything at all.

Coleridge was different. He was at the very heart of the Romantic Movement, together with William Wordsworth and Robert Southey.  Southey is less well known these days but he was very popular in his own, and he was Poet Laureate, like Wordsworth but unlike Coleridge.

All three were radical young men, enthused by the French Revolution. Southey and Coleridge were involved in a scheme to set up an utopian community in America, which came to nothing, whilst Wordsworth went to Paris to support the Revolution. “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!”

Wikipedia says that, “ Like the other Lake Poets, William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Southey had begun as a radical, but became steadily more conservative,”  This seems a bit unfair to Coleridge who, though he became less radical, continued to support progressive causes like the anti-slavery movement and the Factory Act protecting children from industrial exploitation.  Southey became a real reactionary and, at one point, a Tory MP, and he blamed the victims of the Peterloo Massacre for what happened there.

The three had lives entwined beyond poetry. Southey married the sister of Coleridge’s wife, Sara. Coleridge then fell hopelessly in love with Sara the sister of Wordsworth’s wife, Mary.

American comic, Rich Hall had a character called Otis Lee Crenshaw who kept marrying women called Brenda. Coleridge’s thing was Saras. His daughter was also called Sara and, presumably to lessen the confusion, he referred to the Sara who was Wordworth’s sister in law as Asra, and to the one who was Southey’s sister in law as Sara. Sara and her daughter, Sara moved in with Southey and his family when Coleridge left. Wikipedia says he abandoned his family, which again seems harsh to me as he struggled to support them financially for many years.

So Coleridge began writing in company with Southey but really blossomed when he met William Wordsworth and his sister (mercifully, not called Sara, but Dorothy), in the West Country. The two critiqued, discussed  and even worked on each other’s poems, often in the course of long walks in the Quantock hills. Wordsworth claimed credit for coming up with the albatross motif, for example. In 1798 they published Lyrical Ballads and the Romantic Movement in Poetry was launched.

Something that interests me is that, while the term Romantic Poets tends to conjure up images of daffodils and nightingales, this small group of people, if not invented, profoundly influenced modern horror. Some time ago we looked at the events  in the Villa Diodati in 1816 where Lord Byron challenged the company to come up with fantastic stories, which resulted in Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein and Dr Polidori producing the first modern vampire story.

But I have not been able to find an earlier example of the living dead in literature than the re-animated sailors in the Ancient Mariner.

Coleridge was a close friend of William Godwin, anarchist, father of Mary Shelley and husband of Mary Wollstonecraft the feminist writer of A Vindication of the Rights of Women.  One night after a dinner, Coleridge gave a recitation of The Ancient Mariner and Mary Shelley, then a little girl, was discovered hiding under a sofa with her step sister, Claire Clairmont (who was later to become Byron’s lover and was also at Diodati). Upon Claire’s mother sending them to bed, Coleridge interceded and the girls were allowed to listen to the grisly story.

Oh yes, and the actual term “zombie” was introduced into the English language by none other than Robert Southey (in his history of Brazil)

The poem is very long so instead of quoting a section, here is the complete work (with fabulous Gustav Dore illustrations) thanks due to Adelaide University and the Marine Cafe Blog:

And if you would prefer to hear it read, as we did in the group, this link is to the Big Read reading of the poem by forty different readers. If you have ever wondered how The Rime of the Ancient Mariner would sound read by Iggy Pop, now is your chance to find out!

6 thoughts on “The Sun Now Rose Upon the Right…

  1. The sun now rose upon the right

    I was introduced to the ancient mariner
    At school over sixty years ago by
    A nun dressed in a long black habit and
    White head dress with black veil

    Now listening to it once again
    The steady rhythm
    The poem story goes on
    The steady voice
    Each word enunciates
    Of a spirit making the ship to progress
    The story of the ancient mariner
    Who kills an albatross
    And appears to die

    This seems to cause fog and mist
    The directions of winds change
    Causing disaster but

    Then brings him back to life
    And the ship comes back home
    The dead men have not passed away
    The familiar words of
    ‘Water, water, every where,
    Nor any drop to drink ‘

    After the death of the albatross
    The mariner with his guilt
    Has to wander retelling his tale
    Teaching all he meets that God loves us all

    It is a long poem but
    The words and ideas are
    Good for listening especially
    When read by a good actor


    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Ancient Mariner

    The wind howls down and through the sea,
    Clashing off the rocks below,
    The Albatross drops from up above,
    Its mission is clear to catch a fish,
    That wont be caught by a seal.

    The sky is blue, as blue can be
    And its reflection on the sea makes it look so tranquil now,
    But waves still crash up off the bow,
    So the sea can change its waves to suit
    The day, the week , the month , the year,
    But to us it is very clear.

    The Winters here with ice on top,
    It almost makes all else stop,
    But the albatross is here to stay,
    And in our thoughts does not go away
    Its like a millstone round our necks
    And we should always give it respect.

    The fog and mist are dropping down,
    To reach the waters top,
    When its clear the blue and white,
    Can be seen again and oh so bright,
    It lifts your spirits once again,
    And will for many years to come.

    By Donna Keenan


  3. The Sun Now Rose Up

    It starts creeping up,
    In the left of the sky,
    Its 5am and it glows bright Orange,
    And lights up the sky,
    It’s not hot yet and seems far away,
    But hopefully today,
    It will be here to stay

    The Cockrel crows in the farm down the road,
    To waken us early so that we feel good.
    The dew is shining and can be seen,
    On the grass that is so green.

    You hang out the washing,
    Get ready for work,
    Uniform on and off you go,
    As the sun is moving across the sky,
    And wonder if you will see it
    When you come home.

    The flowers are blooming,
    Because of the sun,
    It makes you feel happy,
    And filled with a glow.
    You feel so healthy when you get a sun tan,
    But it doesn’t last long,
    So, it’s such a shame you will have to return
    Again, tomorrow for more of the same.

    by Donna Keenan


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