Can You Find God In Your Bookstore (Part V)

Can You Find God In Your Bookstore (Part V) April 28, 2024

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

In a prior article in this series where I spotlighted Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick, I wrote about a man’s obsession with fate and challenging the ways of God. In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (RAM) we see a different yet Christian-inspired poem which depicts another thematic cycle. In RAM, we see a narrative poem/tale of a man seeking atonement for killing a defenseless bird (an Albatross). 

When we speak of atonement, we speak of the guilty, of negative actions and the aftermath of those who commit such “sin”. However, there is a sequence of these sentiments and actions which lead, in Christianity at least, to redemption and salvation. 


What is the Path Towards Redemption?


For Christians as well as many other believers, the redemption of the blessings and salvation of one’s soul usually follow a similar sequential path indicated below.


  • Guilt
  • Atonement
  • Forgiveness
  • Redemption


Are You Carrying Guilt?


At some point in everyone’s life, something we do wrong makes us feel guilty. It is an inevitable sentiment for any normal, caring person. One day, we get too angry or perhaps we do something that we know is wrong. We all do things at some point that were not the best actions of our finest hours on this Earth. The question is what path we take afterwards. 


The Origin of Atonement


The word “atonement” means to be at one or to be reconciled with another or with one another. This concept is an ancient one. Although etymology suggests that the actual English word originates from the 1300s, the concept whereby one tries to make whole that which has been taken apart or “wronged” goes back much further in human history. To reconcile the guilty, as a concept dates back as far as to the times where humans made sacrifices to God or many gods to bring back into normalcy that which caused a break with the implicit covenant of societal regularity. 


As humans, we are nothing if not beings of expected routine. We live in this world with the subconscious belief that things will remain the same or else, similar from day to day. To interact with others, we hold an implicit yet subconscious belief that there are behaviors and actions that are considered as the normal parts of this implied covenant. So, when some action or actions taken by an individual or individuals breaks this covenant, we endeavor to fix or reconcile this break. Thus, to atonement, as a concept, has been with us from the beginning. 


In the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Coleridge weaves the ancient theme of atonement in the form of a lyrical poem. This tale is a remarkable piece of short fiction in the form of a lyrical ballad. The story is remarkably simple on the surface at least. The Mariner tells a story of lament, atonement and redemption after he kills a harmless bird in flight (an albatross). The story is told in narrative rhyming verse where the Mariner relays his “lesson learned” after the fact on land to a guest of a wedding who has come upon the Mariner and can’t tear himself away from the Mariner’s storytelling.


This poem, however, is anything but “simple” with respect to its thematic content. On the one hand, the killing of the albatross, a creature of nature representing a good omen, is sometimes thought of as a variant allegory for Jesus’ crucifixion. It is a variant as this poetic parable is really a crucifixion told in reverse. Here, the albatross doesn’t die for anyone’s sins but rather, this killing and the resultant guilt, atonement and the eventual forgiveness all happen after the albatross dies. Coleridge’s poem and its message is essentially a Christian-tinged recipe for atonement.


The Atonement and the Quest for Forgiveness


As in Coleridge’s poem, there are just some things that irk us, some things that we do in our darkest hours, some road we’ve taken away from the path towards God. That’s when many of us seek forgiveness perhaps from those we’ve harmed. But is this really possible?


The Bible is filled with directives for all to forgive the actions of others who have harmed us. Here are just a few which include the well-known quote that relates to “loving our enemies.


Matthew 6:14-15

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Luke 6:37 

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Colossians 3:13 

Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

James 5:16 

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Luke 6:27 

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,


However, the question is whether it is really even possible to forgive certain heinous acts including murder committed by others. In Coleridge’s poem, this becomes an even more prominent question that is brought to the forefront since the killing of the albatross fundamentally refers to the senseless taking of an innocent life. 


Yet, the Bible seems clear on this subject. We will not achieve true forgiveness and redemption from God if we do not forgive ourselves and/or those who have wronged us. 


So, this really leaves us all in the Mariner’s predicament. Thus, for any believer, as with the Mariner, we really need to look towards the sky and see if we can find our own albatross still in flight. 

Please See My Other Articles in This Series:

  1. Can You Find God In Your Bookstore (Part I) Moby Dick: Herman Melville
  2. Can You Find God In Your Bookstore (Part II)The Alchemist: Paul Coelho
  3. Can You Find God In Your Bookstore (Part III)The Life of Pi: Yann Martel
  4. Can You Find God In Your Bookstore (Part IV) Fydor Dostoyevsky: The Brother’s Karamazov
About Gil Rosado
Gil Rosado, is a Writer, Musician, Composer & Polymath. His works include Visual Poems as well as traditional poems, philosophy, screenplays, stage plays, essays and fiction. Much of his eclectic works are informed and inspired by esoteric and overt religious themes. His articles are largely driven by his Christian beliefs and his knowledge of theology, philosophy and global religions. His new book "The Names We Wear" is now available exclusively on You can read more about the author here.

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