Coleridge: Part III
The ancient Mariner beholdeth a sign in the element afar off.
Was parched, and glazed each eye.
A weary time! a weary time!
How glazed each weary eye,
When looking westward, I beheld
A something in the sky.
At first it seemed a little speck,
And then it seemed a mist;
It moved and moved, and took at last
A certain shape, I wist.
A speck, a mist, a shape, I wist!
And still it neared and neared:
As if it dodged a water-sprite,
It plunged and tacked and veered.
At its nearer approach, it seemeth him to be a ship; and at a dear ransom he freeth his speech from the bonds of thirst.
We could nor laugh nor wail;
Through utter drought all dumb we stood!
I bit my arm, I sucked the blood,
And cried, A sail! a sail!
Agape they heard me call:
A flash of joy;
And horror follows. For can it be a ship that comes onward without wind or tide?
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;
It seemeth him but the skeleton of a ship.
(Heaven's Mother send us grace!)
As if through a dungeon-grate he peered
With broad and burning face.
Alas (thought I, and my heart beat loud)
How fast she nears and nears!
Are those her sails that glance in the Sun,
Like restless gossameres?
And its ribs are seen as bars on the face of the setting Sun. The Spectre-Woman and her Deathmate, and no other on board the skeleton-ship.
Did peer, as through a grate?
And is that Woman all her crew?
Is that a Death? and are there two?
Is Death that woman's mate?
Like vessel, like crew!
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was as white as leprosy,
The Night-mare Life-in-Death was she,
Who thicks man's blood with cold.
Death and Life-in-Death have diced for the ship's crew, and she (the latter) winneth the ancient Mariner.
And the twain were casting dice;
'The game is done! I've won! I've won!'
Quoth she, and whistles thrice.
No twilight within the courts of the Sun.
At one stride comes the dark;
With far-heard whisper, o'er the sea,
Off shot the spectre-bark.
At the rising of the moon.
Fear at my heart, as at a cup,
My life-blood seemed to sip!
The stars were dim, and thick the night,
The steersman's face by his lamp gleamed white;
From the sails the dew did drip—
Till clomb above the eastern bar
The horned Moon, with one bright star
Within the nether tip.
One after another,
Too quick for groan or sigh,
Each turned his face with a ghastly pang,
And cursed me with his eye.
His shipmates drop down dead.
(And I heard nor sigh nor groan)
With heavy thump, a lifeless lump,
They dropped down one by one.
But Life-in-Death begins her work on the ancient Mariner.
They fled to bliss or woe!
And every soul, it passed me by,
Like the whizz of my cross-bow!"