Phobias in Poetry: Coleridge's Ancient Mariner

By Khetarpal, Abha; Singh, Satendra | Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, April-June 2012 | Go to article overview

Phobias in Poetry: Coleridge's Ancient Mariner


Khetarpal, Abha, Singh, Satendra, Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine


Byline: Abha. Khetarpal, Satendra. Singh

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was written by Coleridge and is a classic poetry about retribution, punishment, guilt, and curse. Religious beliefs and delusions can arise from neurologic lesions and anomalous experiences, suggesting that at least some religious beliefs can be pathological. Looking at the poem through the psychiatric and psychological domain, the symbolism, the narration and the entire setting of the poem represents Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Mariner's reactions are beautifully portrayed from the psychoanalytic point of view and the literary piece shows claustrophobia, stygiophobia, dikephobia, and poinephobia. The mental stress of a person under a crisis situation has remarkably been evoked in this poem. This incredible piece of art expresses how the realization of divine love within oneself has the power to heal pain and suffer.

Declaration of Funding Source

There was no funding received for this study from any source.

The Corresponding Author has the right to grant on behalf of all authors and does grant on behalf of all authors, an exclusive licence on a worldwide basis to the journal for all printed and/or commercial publication, distribution, or reproduction of the work.

Competing Interests

The authors have no competing interests in the publication of this manuscript to declare

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834). It was first published in Lyrical Ballads, with a few other poems in 1798. "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is all about retribution, punishment, guilt, and curse. [sup][1] The Ancient Mariner in the poem has to pay for an impulsive act of killing the Albatross. The spiritual world takes revenge of the Albatross's death by inflicting physical and psychological havoc on the Ancient Mariner and his shipmates. The sailors have to face harsh and extensive punishment before their death. Their strength and vitality are impaired. They are taken to a frantic and hallucinating stage. Thirst and heat torments them. They suffer due to the Ancient Mariner's killing of Albatross. The sailors meet death but the Ancient Mariner is gift of Life-in-Death. He is given the punishment because of his ghastly act and bears the curse. He lives a hellish life on this earth, speaking beyond his grave. He is like a ghost warning everybody about the harsh punishment and consequences of sinning against the creation of God.

The Ancient Mariner symbolises a universal sinner and all the sailors represent the human beings who too are guilty of being accomplice in crime. Albatross symbolizes a Christian soul. It brings good omen for the ship but faces the cruelty of the Mariner that turns into a burden, guilt, an obstacle for the Ancient Mariner, the dead body of which is hung around his neck by the sailors. We see delusion of faith. In English law, delusion has been the cardinal feature of insanity for the last 200 years. [sup][2]

A spirit had followed them; neither departed souls nor angels. "And some in dreams assured were Of the Spirit that plagued us so; Nine fathom deep he had followed us From the land of mist and snow." (Part II)

Some religious beliefs can be pathological. They exist outside of the purview of scientific explanations; therefore, quite easily can be branded as delusional from the point of view of rationality. In clinical practice, there are no clear guidelines to differentiate "normal" religious beliefs from "pathological" religious delusions. Religious beliefs and delusions can arise from neurologic lesions and anomalous experiences, suggesting that at least some religious beliefs can be pathological.

There is a delusion of control. It is a delusion in which one's feelings, impulses, thoughts, or actions are likely to be controlled by some external forces or agencies rather than being controlled by oneself.

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