The Return Of The Ancient Mariner

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner ghost shipA Guest Post written by Dylan Moore

It’s not often that Cardiff Bay plays host to an actual ship. Since the barrage sealed off the capital’s inner harbour from the open sea, some of Cardiff’s maritime history has been forgotten. This year’s Coleridge in Wales festival is all about rediscovering aspects of life that have been jettisoned, downplayed or simply lost, and the arrival of the Matthew (a replica medieval ship) was a potent symbol of something old that is also a harbinger of something new.   

‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge relates the epic story of an old seaman forced to wander the earth, telling the strange tale of his journey to a ‘land of mist and ice’ where he suffered a dreadful punishment for his arbitrary act of wanton stupidity (killing the albatross which his fellow sailors believed was an omen of good fortune). Later, the mariner is redeemed, but not before he realises he must be a blessing rather than a curse to the natural world.

Richard Parry, mastermind behind Coleridge in Wales, addressed the hundreds gathered outside the Senedd building with a reminder of our own capacities for creation and destruction, and our own obligations to the environment. Coleridge in Wales is as much an ecological statement as a celebration of poetry.

Richard Parry

Richard Parry with members of the groom’s party in the background

It is also an exploration of how we host each other. My own small role at the event on Sunday was as a member of the groom’s party. In the poem, the Mariner accosts a guest at a wedding, taking him aside and fixing him with his ‘glittering eye’ before beginning to impart the story. Here, the wedding was between Welsh singer Ani Saunders (representing traditional Welsh and particularly Welsh-language culture) and a group from the Sanctuary project in Newport (asylum seekers and refugees who are just beginning to rebuild their lives in Wales). The symbolic ‘wedding’ was a fun way to meet new people, and a great day out for all involved – but the underlying metaphor was a powerful vision for a positively integrated future.

The bride and groom

The bride and groom

Later in the afternoon, we boarded the Princess Katherine for a brief river cruise through Grangetown and Riverside. Back in the days when it was known as Tiger Bay, ships brought seamen from Somalia and Yemen; now, persecution and forced military conscription bring refugees from Eritrea and Ethiopia. But whatever the circumstances, it is wonderful to see that people are always welcome to share in the place we have come to call Wales.

Coleridge in Wales continues for 80 days throughout the summer, with events all over Wales. Visit the Coleridge in Wales website to find out more.

You can also follow the festival on Twitter via @Coleridge2016

Dylan Moore is Comment & Analysis Editor at the Institute for Welsh Affairs and he also works with The Sanctuary, a project supporting asylum seekers and refugees in Newport.

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