God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus!
Why look’st thou so?’
With my cross-bow
I shot the ALBATROSS.
In this excerpt from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a sailor curses his ship by shooting down an albatross. My lithograph—Albatross Blue—is an artistic response to this poem that probes the nuanced and fractured relationship between people and this lofty seabird.
The albatross is a complicated subject because it is endearing, yet haunting. On magnificent wings, the albatross sails above the waves for months on end before returning home to dance and love its partner. It’s a simple lifestyle, one to admire. But the Laysan Albatross and its livelihood are threatened by commercial fishing bycatch, plastics pollution, and climate change. We would do well to take better care of the albatross. For as Coleridge writes later in the poem:
Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.
All About Birds is a free resource
Available for everyone,
funded by donors like you