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      Readers have asked about the reference on the "Energy Flows in Nature" page. The reference is a twist on the classic tale by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner".

Here is what I wrote:
"Energy, energy, everywhere, nor any drop to eat."
Meant as a comment on our inability (we animals) to get nourishment directly from sunlight, though it shines on us everywhere. The plants and other photosynthesizers come to our rescue, as readers of this website understand.

Coleridge, who probably knew little, if anything, about photosynthesis and energy, wrote the following famous lines:
"Water, water, everywhere,
     And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
     Nor any drop to drink."

That's just a small excerpt from what is a pretty long story told in poetic verse. It is a beautiful and fascinating poem, which is why I had to appologize to Coleridge for daring to mess with his great work.

Click on the links below, or just keep scrolling to learn a little more about the poem and Coleridge, and to read a few more excerpts from the poem.

The Story of the Ancient Mariner
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Excerpts from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The Story
  The story seemed pretty scary to me when I first read it in eigth grade. It was published in 1798 when Coleridge was 25 years old.

The Basic Plot:
With strange mysterious power, an ancient mariner (old sailer) compels some poor guy (the Wedding Guest) on his way to a fun wedding party to sit and listen to an incredible story about a horrifying sailing voyage. The wedding guest is unhappy about missing the fun party, but the mariner's "glittering eye" overpowers him and he sits mesmerized, listening to the whole creepy tale.

The mariner tells of a nightmarish voyage. While rounding the "horn" in the Antarctic Ocean, the mariner's ship is surrounded by dangerous ice bergs. Things look bleak until a beautiful albatross flies in for a visit. The sailors feed it and the ice splits open. The albatross stays a while and seems to be leading the ship out of trouble, when for no good reason, the mariner kills it with a bolt from his trusty crossbow. I've known a few guys like that.

At first the mariner's shipmates shun him for this crime against nature. They hang the albatross about the mariner's neck. (This is where the expression, "an albatross around his neck" comes from). But then, as the good breeze and good weather continue, the crew decide killing the bird must have been a good thing. Now the trouble really begins. No wind, no water, much suffering, until all the crew but the mariner drop dead. For seven days the bodies lay there staring at the poor mariner who, though in agony from thirst himself, can't die.

Lots more strange and wondrous things happen, including the dead crew rising like zombies to sail the ship. But, as we used to say in grade school oral book reports, if you want to know the rest of the story, you'll have to read it.

Or at least keep scrolling and read the excerpts below:

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    Samuel Taylor Coleridge    
  born 1772 - died 1834 (62 years)  
Samuel Coleridge was born in the small town of Ottery St. Mary, in rural Devonshire, England. When his father died he was sent to school in Christ's Hospital in London, where he showed himself to be an unusually bright student.

He suffered much in life from painful physical afflictions for which laudanum was prescribed. Laudanum was opium dissolved in alcohol. Back in those days they did not understand much about the dangers of opium and drug addiction. Poor Coleridge came to learn that "the drug was a greater evil than the diseases it did not cure"**. He became a hopeless drug addict, depressed, and had fallings out with his wife and friends, including his longtime friend William Wordsworth.

It is not fair to only portray Coleridge as a drug addict. He accomplished much in life despite his problems. He is now considered to be one of the most influentual thinkers of his day in a variety of fields. John Stuart Mill said that Coleridge was one of "the two great seminal minds of England"**. You'll have to go read Mill's writings to find out who the other great mind was..

Later in life things became better for Samuel. He reconciled with his friend Wordsworth and his wife. People came from all over the world to meet and hear him talk in his later years.

When Coleridge died, Wordsworth said he was "the most wonderful man that I have ever known".
Charles Lamb wrote of Coleridge, "His great and clear spirit haunts me....Never saw I his likeness, nor probably the world can see again."

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    **from The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Seventh Edition, Volume 2; page 416.    
  Excerpts from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner  
  An old sailor with strange powers, forces a wedding guest to listen to a chilling story....
  He holds him with his glittering eye ---
      The Wedding Guest stood still,
And listens like a three years' child:
      The Mariner hath his will.

The Wedding Guest sat on a stone:
      He cannot choose but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
      The bright-eyed Mariner.

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  In the antarctic ocean they get stuck in dangerous ice until an albatross seems to come to their rescue. Then the idiot mariner (a little editorializing) shoots it with a crossbow....
  The ice was here, the ice was there,
      The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
      Like noises in a swound!

At length did cross an Albatross,
      Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
      We hailed it in God's name.

It ate the food it ne'er had eat,
      And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
      The helmsman steered us through!

And a good south wind sprung up behind;
      The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
      Came to the mariners' hollo!

A few verses later the mariner kills the albatross...

"God save thee, ancient Mariner!
      From the fiends, that plague thee thus!
Why look'st thou so?" ---With my
      I shot the Albatross.

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  Things got really bad....  
  Day after day, day after day,
      We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
      Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, everywhere,
      And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
      Nor any drop to drink.

The very deep did rot: O Christ!
      That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
      Upon the slimy sea.
  Then after more creepy events, things got worse...  
  Four times fifty living men,
      (And I heard nor sigh nor groan)
With heavy thump, a lifeless lump,
      They dropped down one by one.

The souls did from their bodies fly,
      They fled to bliss or woe!
And every soul, it passed me by,
      Like the whizz of my crossbow!

The entire crew, except for the guy telling the story, dropped dead.

  For seven days the dead bodies stare at the mariner and don't rot. Though the mariner is in agony from thirst, he can't die. Eventually, the bodies rise without a sound, like zombies, and help him sail the ship....  
  The loud wind never reach the ship,
      Yet now the ship moved on!
Beneath the lightning and the Moon
      The dead men gave a groan.

They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose,
      Nor spake, nor moved their eyes;
It had been strange, even in a dream,
      To have seen those dead men rise.

The helmsman steered, the ship moved on;
      Yet never never a breeze up-blew;
The mariners all 'gan work the ropes,
      Where they were wont to do;
They raised their limbs like lifeless tools---
      We were a ghastly crew.

The body of my brother's son
      Stood by me, knee to knee:
The body and I pulled at one rope,
      But he said nought to me.

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  Finally, after many more strange and wondrous events, the mariner makes it home. But now he is cursed to roam around from place to place telling his woeful tale and the lessons learned. He knows the person to whom he must tell the tale as soon as he sees their face. As the Wedding Guest learned, they "cannot choose but hear"....  
  Forthwith this frame of mine was
      With a woeful agony,
Which forced me to begin my tale;
      And then it left me free.

Since then, at an uncertain hour,
      That agony returns:
And till my ghastly tale is told,
      This heart within me burns.

I pass, like night, from land to land;
      I have strange power of speech;
That moment that his face I see,
      I know the man that must hear me:
To him my tale I teach.

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  Finally, the mariner sums it all up in some of the most beautiful, famous, and oft quoted lines in the poem....
  O Wedding Guest! this soul hath been
      Alone on a wide wide sea:
So lonely 'twas, that God himself
      Scarce seem-ed there to be.

(skipping a few lines)

Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
      To thee, thou Wedding Guest!
He prayeth well, who loveth well
      Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best
      All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
      He made and loveth all.

The Mariner, whose eye is bright,
      Whose beard with age is hoar,
Is gone: and now the Wedding Guest
      Turned from the bridegroom's door.

He went like one that hath been stunned,
      And is of sense forlorn:
A sadder and a wiser man,
      He rose the morrow morn.
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