The sources of The Ancient Mariner are many and varied. It all started with John Cruikshank’s dream of a skeleton ship and continued with Wordsworth’s suggestion of the killing of an albatross as the cause of spectral persecution. Coleridge had an early interest in the Wandering Jew and the origin of evil (his first thoughts can be found is own earlier literary works such as Osorio and The Wanderings of Cain). Also the author was a real fan to the traditions of folk and Gothic ballads. There are hundreds of other influences, most of them from books which Coleridge either knew or is supposed to have known.. Yet it must be said that whatever Coleridge touches he transmutes; whatever he borrows, or imitates, from earlier writers is transformed, as if it was touched by a wizard’s wand, into something rich and strange. Coleridge was always looking for real facts that could be transformed: scraps of nautical information, superstitious shipboard lore and observation of exotic natural phenomena that lie scattered through the yellowing leaves of old navigators’ memoirs. Coleridge loved these old books and the simple, daring men who wrote them. Their adventures among savages in the Southern Ocean, their amazing encounters with the terrors and beauties of the unknown, their hard experiences for weeks on end among the unforgiving splendour of fields of Arctic ice; all these were mentioned in his tenacious memory, and ultimately mixed into new imaginative life. More perhaps than by any others Coleridge was fascinated by the vivid accounts of those brave captains (Frederick Martens, William Barents, Thomas James of Bristol, David Crantz, and a host of others), who charted the Arctic seas and inhospitable northern lands of mist and snow, where icebergs rose like mountains and the growling pack-ice could roar and split with a noise like thunder (a desolate, lifeless world of irregular, broken shapes like those described by Caspar…
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