Dad used to read to us Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s seven-part poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner from an old blue pocket-size book wrapped tightly with transparent plastic. The way he read it used to give me the chills, especially when his voice dropped to a ghostly whisper at the part where the ghost ship appears.
The Mariner tells the Wedding-Guest of how his ship was caught in a storm and is driven off-course to Antarctica. An albatross appears and leads them out of the mist and fog, and the crew praises it. But, the Mariner shoots it.
With my crossbow
I shot the Albatross.
I’m like the Mariner. Shot my Albatross.
Ah! well-a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.
The Mariner and the crew encounter a ghostly vessel. On board is Death and Nightmare Life-in-Death who are playing a game of dice for the lives of the crew. Death wins the crew. Life-in-Death wins the Mariner, who she considers more valuable. One by one, the crew die. By the Mariner lived on; the crew’s final expressions etched on their faces and in his memory – life in death.
I looked to heaven, and tried to pray;
But or ever a prayer had gusht,
A wicked whisper came and made
My heart as dry as dust.
The selfsame moment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea.
Catch that train. Catch that plane. Shot my Albatross. Missed my plane. Fear and tears are signs of weakness. Weakness spells death.
‘Do not go gentle into that good night! We’re living things. Fight. Rage.’ Something for me to keep in mind.