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Beres, D. (1951). A Dream, a Vision, and a Poem:—A Psycho-Analytic Study of the Origins of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 32:97-116.

(1951). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 32:97-116

A Dream, a Vision, and a Poem:—A Psycho-Analytic Study of the Origins of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner

David Beres, M.D.

The sanction for the writing of this essay comes to me from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, whose poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, is at the same time the subject of my study. In his considerations of the nature of poetry, Coleridge said:

What is poetry?—is so nearly the same question with, what is a poet?—that the answer to the one is involved in the solution of the other (1).

There is perhaps no poem in English literature to which this comment may more aptly be applied than to his own Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I shall attempt to demonstrate that in this poem there is the record and the augury of the life of a man—his conflicts, his fears, and his hopes. And it can only be because his conflicts and fears and hopes are not basically different from those of other men that the poem has for more than a century and a half continued to fascinate generations of readers.

The reader of a poem enters into a communal experience with the poet. It is not alone a common intellectual experience—it is a common emotional experience. The poet who with his genius has created with words the symbols and the visions of inner passions, joys and sorrows, permits the reader to recreate these feelings, to share in the genius. So do ordinary men reach great heights otherwise unattainable to them. It is this communal emotional experience that brings a poem into the province of the psycho-analyst.

John Livingston Lowes, in his remarkable book, The Road to Xanadu, has traced the sources of the imagery of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

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