I couldn’t help it. Me and a million other English speakers saw this prompt, and instantly thought:

“Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.”

The verse is extracted from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 7-part epic poem, “THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER.”

When I say epic, I’m not fooling around. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (originally The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere) is the longest major (define major, please) poem by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It took two years to write (1797–98) and was published in 1798. It’s long. No kidding. LONG.


Everyone who went to school where English is spoken probably knows of — or at least has heard — the “water, water, everywhere” verse … but do you know how many verses this poem has? Do you, huh?

One hundred and forty-three.


I think Coleridge wrote the poem to punish the old guy for killing an albatross. Albatross killing was a totally uncool thing to do, at least if you were aboard a ship. Really bad luck, not only for you — the albatross slayer — but for the entire ship’s crew. When The Gods punish a misdeed, they don’t go with “surgical strike.” More like general smiting to produce mass death and associated damnation. Gods want to be sure everyone got the point. And always, there’s one poor slob left alive to tell the awful (long) tale.

What? You mean … he didn’t write the poem to punish someone? Ah, I see. He wrote it to tell us the terrible tragic story that befell the mariner for his shameful destruction of an innocent bird. Maybe it was the innocent wedding guest to whom the mariner confessed his crime … all 143 verses of it …who was being punished.

dawn on Misty beach Ogunquit

I’m a better person than that. I won’t regale you with the long, sad story except to say that, in my opinion that one famous verse is the best one in the poem and if you know that one, you can fudge the rest. Also, it’s surprisingly hard to find a full text of the poem. You can find a lot of stuff about the poem. Analysis, history, context, criticism … but the whole poem? Most places just do sections. Me too.

However, for those who really need a full Coleridge experience, please feel free to click this link and go the full distance. Albatross, mariner, wedding guest, and becalmed ship upon the cruel ocean. Note: The version to which I have given you a link contains side notes so you don’t forget what’s going on while you travel through time upon the briny deep.


Categories: Daily Prompt, Humor, Photography, poem, Water

Tags: , , , , , ,

23 replies

  1. As a lit major, we totally dissected this poem to death. Then I promptly forgot it. ^_^ Until it popped up on my list of poems for my comprehensive exam. >_< Blah


  2. The Iron Maiden version was much more exciting. They even credited Coleridge in the writing credits 🙂


  3. I remember having to read part of it in high school…. like a lot of other poetry, it went in one ear and out the other. Maybe I should have tied my English reader around my neck…


    • Well, think of all the stuff we got from Coleridge. I mean … the expression “like an albatross around his neck.” Without Coleridge, we’d have to say something else … like maybe an anvil around his neck? Didya see my squirrel tail picture? Proving that we really DO have squirrels. They just hide.


  4. I had to learn that poem at school – all of it and then promptly forgot most of it afterwards.


  5. HA! Yes, it was the very first thing I thought of, also.


  6. This brings back memories of teaching the long version. I’m sure that wedding guest that sat on a stone had a sore backside. I think some of my students did, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I thought is was bad luck to kill an albatross.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am not so much into poetry, but the funny thing was when I saw the one word inspiration today, it was the first I thought of (as well as the song Cool Clear Water). I think if I had an ocean or sea in Switzerland I would have been inspired to write a monumental super work, but all I managed was a school essay on the meaning of water.


  9. My son had this poem in college and I liked the poem. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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