Riassunto in inglese:
This long poem is divided into seven parts; each introduced by a short summary of the story so far. It was composed between 1797 and 1798 and was first published as the opening poem of the Lyrical Ballads in 1798. It tells the story of a mariner who commits the crime of killing an albatross and of his subsequent punishment.
The story is told by the mariner himself who, at the beginning of the poem, finds himself at a wedding feast and begins telling his sad story to one of the guests who “cannot chose but hear”. He tells how his ship was drawn towards the South Pole by a storm. At some point the ship is surrounded by ice and trapped. An albatross flies through the fog and the crew greet it with joy as the ice breaks and the albatross guides them to safety. But then, inexplicably, the mariner shoots the albatross dead with his crossbow. The crew are angry with the mariner for killing the bird, a bringer of good luck, and make him wear the albatross around his neck as a penance for his crime. A curse falls on the ship which is driven north to the equator and gets stuck for luck of wind under a burning sun. Horrible serpent-like creatures appear on the motionless sea. A phantom ship arrives, on which Life and Life-in-Death are playing dice for the mariner and his crew. The other members of the ship’s crew are also being punished, but while he survives, they all die for thirst. The mariner watches the beauty of water snakes in the moonlight and blesses them. As he does so the albatross falls from his neck and he is saved. However, the mariner’s survival does not mark the end of his punishment. He must bear the burden of guilt for the rest of his days. And so he travels around, telling his story to the people he meets, hoping in this way to teach them to respect and love all nature’s creatures.
One of the most interesting aspect of the poem is that the mariner’s motives for killing the albatross remain a mystery. The act is what in philosophical terms could be called “pure” act, an act without apparent motivation and through which there is nothing to gain.