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What is a ballad? Describe how S.T. Coleridge develops the Christian theme of sin, revenge and repentance in‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’.

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A ballad is a poem that tells a story. Most of the ballads, including ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ have certain common characteristics. They have romance, mediaeval atmosphere and archaic language. The ancient Mariner, the albatross is presented as a bird of “good omen”. The death-fires and sea-water being referred to as witch’s oil all make ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ a ballad in the classical mode. The archaic language and words like ‘stoppeth’, ‘quoth’, ‘eftsoons’ add to that desired effect.

The poet develops the theme of sin, revenge and repentance on the basis of traditional Christian values. The killing of the innocent and auspicious albatross who brought a favourable wind for the sailors was no doubt a sin. And naturally, the consequences of the sin demand that the ancient Mariner and the sailors must suffer. And they did suffer. The ship was stuck in the middle of the ocean. Everything presented a picture of complete decay, degeneration and stagnation. The ship was followed by the spirit from “the land of mist and snow”. The ancient Mariner was guilt-ridden. The albatross and not the cross hang around the Ancient Mariner’s neck. It would not leave him but stay for ever to remind that he had committed a sin. He must suffer for killing an auspicious bird that had come here to seek their hospitality.

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