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Olivia Laing
Recorded at Emmanuel College Chapel,

Desmond Morris
The Voyager
Oil on canvas

An orphan's curse would drag to hell
A spirit from on high;
But oh! more horrible than that
Is the curse in a dead man's eye!
Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse,
And yet I could not die.

The moving Moon went up the sky,
And no where did abide:
Softly she was going up,
And a star or two beside—

Her beams bemocked the sultry main,
Like April hoar-frost spread;
But where the ship's huge shadow lay,
The charmèd water burnt alway
A still and awful red.

'The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere' tops the running order in Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads of 1798. Two years later a revised 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' was relegated to obscurity, its flaws mercilessly exposed by Wordsworth in his Preface. What explains the troubled relationship between the most famous poem of English Romanticism and the period’s most famous collection of poems?

The gothic supernatural held little interest for Wordsworth, who believed that the essence of humanity’s relationship with the environment was best understood closer to home, in the changing landscape of England and humble ways of life under threat. Pondering these different approaches tell us something about the Rime’s particular power, informing our own attempts to find ways of giving meaningful expression to an environmental emergency, now felt on a local and a global scale.

Dafydd Moore