Sea Fevers- Agnes Wathall
No ancient mariner I,
Hawker of public crosses,
Snaring the passersby
With my necklace of albatrosses.
I blink no glittering eye
Between tufts of gray sea mosses
Nor in the high road ply
My trade of guilts and glosses.
But a dark and inward sky
Tracks the flotsam of my losses.
No more becalmed to lie,
The skeleton ship tosses.
In the above poem, Wathall brilliantly channels Samuel Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” to provide a response to the idea of guilt presented in Coleridge’s poem. The mention of the albatross is symbolic of guilt as the mariner in Coleridge’s poem hung the albatross around his neck to display his immense guilt in killing the bird. Unlike in Coleridge’s poem, the speaker in Wathall’s poems seems to ironically wear her guilt around her neck without the burden held by the ancient mariner.
The speaker of the poem both seems to display her guilt while also concealing emotions. This can be inferred in the lines “but a dark and inward sky/ tracks the flotsam of my losses.” The dark and inward sky can be symbolic of the dreary tone presented in the poem. Only inside the darkness can the wreckage caused been understood. Finally, the speaker tosses away the “skeleton ship” when it becomes evident she can no move forward.
The eerily feeling prevalent through the poem signifies the idea of someone who has given up and no longer believes in redemption. The speaker wears her guilt both externally and internally. Through the connection to Coleridge’s poem, it can be inferred that unlike the guilty and sympathetic mariner, this speaker does not seem to feel remorse for their actions.
The supernatural undertone of the poem evokes an emotional response in readers as they try to piece together an understanding of the poem through Wathall’s poem itself and through the connections prevalent to Samuel Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” It is always interesting to stumble across a writer that has been inspired by another poet or writer of the past. While John Keats once stated that “a poet is the most unpoetical of anything in existence because he has no identity- he is continually infirming and filling some other body, ” Agnes Wathall’s “Sea Fever” poetically creates an original twist on a Coleridge’s poem and by doing so provides the reader with a outlook on guilt. It also conveys to readers that we are all able to provide inspiration to others just as Coleridge’s poem provided inspiration to Agnes Wathall.