By Hanna Segal
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Additional info for Melanie Klein (Penguin modern masters)
Within the shadow of the ship I watched their rich attire: Blue, glossy green, and velvet black, They coiled and swam; and every track Was a flash of golden fire. o happy living things! no tongue Their beauty might declare: A spring of love gushed from my heart, And I blessed them unaware. The self-same moment I could pray; And from my neck so free The Albatross fell off, and sank Like lead into the sea. (ll. 272-91) The Mariner is betrayed into love and spontaneity by a life-form sustained by the sea and deriving its identity therefrom.
Powerful precisely because it has relatively "fixed" representations in human thOUght and can make possible a unified aesthetic experience, the sea has functioned as an abiding symbol in literature, appropriated by many poetic minds, not just poets per se, over the centuries. Water as the origin of natural and human worlds is very nearly an ontological commonplace. In Genesis, the spirit of God moves upon the face of the waters; in Homer, a deep and mighty flood encircling land and sea like a serpent with its tail in its mouth is the source of all; in Greek mythology, the Beginning is the egg of Night floating upon Chaos.
To which element does this "something" belong: to the sky, whence came the Albatross; or to the sea, like the ship that has borne the mariners to this place; or to both? On the western horizon its aspect is aerial, but as it comes closer it behaves like a ship under sail running before a stiff breeze, or as the Mariner says, applying some of his recently acquired knowledge, "As if it dodged a water-sprite" (I. 155). The Mariner is eager for DEATH OR LIFE OF THE SPIRIT 31 certainty ("I wist. "), but moves prudently among possibilities - a shape, a speck, a mist - in the general and ambiguous silence: Through utter drought all dumb we stood!
Melanie Klein (Penguin modern masters) by Hanna Segal