Back to Reading No. 1Reading No. 10

Reading No. 12Jump to the latest reading

Robert Macfarlane
Recorded at Emmanuel College Chapel,

Stanley Donwood
Residential Nemesis
Acrylic on canvas

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,
Agape they heard me call:
Gramercy! they for joy did grin,
And all at once their breath drew in.
As they were drinking all.

See! see! (I cried) she tacks no more!
Hither to work us weal;
Without a breeze, without a tide,
She steadies with upright keel!

The western wave was all a-flame.
The day was well nigh done!
Almost upon the western wave
Rested the broad bright Sun;
When that strange shape drove suddenly
Betwixt us and the Sun.

And straight the Sun was flecked with bars,
(Heaven's Mother send us grace!)
As if through a dungeon-grate he peered
With broad and burning face.

A blood print lies at the heart of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner and it is this: 'All in a hot and copper sky/ The bloody sun, at noon/ Right up above the mast did stand,/ No bigger than the moon'. This solar thumbprint, evocative later of Turner's rust imprint evident in turgid seascapes and Max Ernst's formal suns, for me seems the sign and seal of the poem—as if Coleridge had pressed down his own thumb as meteorological marker. This human impression seems to me, the print on the mind of the poem, a thumb pressed hard into its own imagination.