The Persistence of the Rime

The Rime of course is that of the Ancient Mariner (a nickname bestowed on a 1980s full-time team’s part-time goalkeeper of my acquaintance – he taught in the same school as me – on the grounds that, “he stoppeth one of three”) by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

In another piece in Saturday’s Guardian Review, Philip Hoare, remarks on the poem’s continuing relevance, from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick through to Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross and beyond.

(Aside; when I hear the word, “Albatross!” I nearly always think “Gannet on a stick.”)

The instant recognition of the lines, “Water, water, everywhere” and “all creatures great and small,” he says, have become part of the lexicon.

At which point my senses pricked up. All Creatures Great and Small is nowadays best known as a television adaptation of a James Herriot set of novels.

But surely, rather than from the Rime, that quote comes from the hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful of which it is the second line? To my mind that is a much more likely source for a collective awareness of the phrase than the poem.

The hymn’s writers may well themselves have been inspired by the poem and its almost identical line “All things great and small” (which is followed by “For the dear God who loveth us; He made and loveth all,”) itself very close to “The Lord God made them all.” However that is not quite what Philip Hoare claimed.

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