The unbalance between human-beingsand the world of nature is most incisively portrayed in this poem, particularlyas the Ancient Mariner shoots the Albatross without any hesitation. Castinto the world, the Mariner must contend with nature in the form of violentstorms and the dangerous sea, and he must survive the perils of the naturalworld. As their journey is stalled by the inclement weather, theMariner’s killing of the albatross can be seen as an attemptto challenge and master nature, to assert the power of man over the power ofnature. However, through depicting the helplessness of human-beings whenconfronting the sudden lack of wind and the large scale of casualties, Coleridgedemonstrates that contending with, merely surviving, or attempting to masternature are the wrong ways for humankind to approach the natural world. Thenatural world plays as a beneficial role before the Mariner shoots theAlbatross. It first appears to be favorable as the “sun comes up” and”shines bright” (25) (31). All of a sudden, the cloudless blue sky turns into”storm and wind,” “mist and snow”, turning down all joy and happiness (45)(50).
All crew believe the arrival of the Albatross is to bring them fortuneand safety as they “hail’d it in God’s name” (64). However, the Marinerbelieves it is the Albatross’ landing brings them mishap and calamity. TheAlbatross is a symbol of luck and fortune given by nature, while not acceptingthe blessed offer from nature and destroying it upon one’s will only receivepunishments from the nature. Though his intention is not specified, his actionof shooting the Albatross brings him and his shipmates penalties and sins as aconsequence of harming nature. The Mariner is then punished: he suffersdeprivations and horrors until he learns to appreciate and love the natural andsupernatural world that the albatross symbolized, and then he is absolved ofhis crime.
Asa consequence of challenging the nature, the Mariner is punished in bothnatural and spiritual ways. Their journey has encountered some unprecedented trials:the deterioration of physical health including “every tongue thro’ utterdrouth” and “black lips bak’d” (131) (149); a supernatural ship controlled by awitch-like lady who shouts out “The Game is done! I’ve won, I’ve won” (193).The capitalization of the first letter of the word “Game” reveals the fact thatthe nature is punishing this group of people by playing a life-threatening gamewith them, and making them have zero odd to win. When the Mariner attemptsto master nature by killing the albatross), it is an insult not just to natureitself, but to the spiritual world created by God as well. The sins lie onhis aggressive way of taking over the nature, and such sins lead to penance,and it comes as a combination of the natural and the spiritual: supernatural.
This supernatural punishment is expressed when elemental spirits such as thatwitch-like “Woman” and “all her crew” arise and halt the Mariner’s ship, andby the haunting Death and Life-In-Death who harvest humansouls. Notuntil the end of the poem does the mariner finally learn to survive and valuethe natural world. When the Albatross is “About his neck is hung”, heundergoes a series of pains. However, “Beyond the shadow of the ship, / hewatches the water-snakes” (272) (273). When he starts appreciating somecreatures he previously does not appreciate, some beauty he previously does notvalue, the punishment against him ease as “The Albatross falls off”. Thepoem, then, casts the appreciation of nature, the act of embracing Romanticism,not just as important in and of itself, but as above all a spiritual, religiousnecessity.