This poem is surely more full of a certain quality of extreme poetry—the simplest "flower of the mind," the most single magic—than any other in our language. But the reader must be permitted to call the story silly.
Coleridge used the sun, moon, and stars as a great dream uses them when the sleeping imagination is obscurely threatened with illness. All through The Ancient Mariner we see them like apparitions. It is a pity that he followed the pranks also of a dream when he impossibly placed a star within the tip of the crescent.
The likeness of "the ribbed sea sand" is said to be the one passage actually composed by Wordsworth,—who according to the first plan should have written The Ancient Mariner with Coleridge—"and perhaps the most beautiful passage in the poem," adds one critic after another. It is no more than a good likeness, and has nothing whatever of the indescribable Coleridge quality.
Coleridge reveals, throughout this poem, an exaltation of the senses, which is the most poetical thing that can befall a simple poet. It is necessary only to refer, for sight, to the stanza on "the moving Moon"... for hearing, to the supernatural stanzas... and, for touch, to the line—
"And still my body drank."
FROM: Flower of the Mind, 1893