Excellent poetry, it could be argued, does not need to be complemented by art. This seems true in the case of ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge about a mariner who unleashes a chain of misfortunes after killing an albatross. In a 2009 review of the poem published in the British newspaper The Guardian, Carol Rumens spoke of its hypnotic power: “The scenery remains thrillingly hellish, while laced with photographically realistic meteorological effects, and the narrative drive is irresistible.”
Why publish such a powerful poem with illustrations? It’s a reasonable question to ask, to which one could reply: WHY NOT, if the artist happens to be Gustave Doré (1832—1883)?
Read more about the life and works of Gustave Doré here.
The 38 wood engravings this French book illustrator made for the 1876 edition of ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ are mind-blowing. They are noteworthy not only for their fine detail. They convey an atmosphere that greatly enhances the verses. Doré’s ultimate achievement in these illustrations has been to put flesh on the intense emotions which Coleridge depicted in the poem — fear, anxiety, panic, hope, anguish and remorse. The following sample artworks from each of the poem’s seven parts show a perfect marriage of poetry and art: