‘The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’ At The RHJC Continues Tonight

As long as people have lived on earth, the imagery of poetry has stirred the human heart.

Tonight at 7:30 p.m. and tomorrow evening at 7, a mighty work of poetry, a storyteller’s voice, and brilliantly-chosen music will take an audience at the Robert H. Jackson Center, in Jamestown, to the heart of the lengthy poem ”The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The poem is recited by well-known local storyteller Paul Leone, supported by Martin Swalboski as the evening’s host, and by music on piano, violin, saxophone, flute, and various other instruments, performed by Cindy Lind Hanson, Sarah Marchitelli, and Kirstie Hanson.

The poem has a basic meaning, and then layer upon layer of deeper meaning beyond that. A man on his way to celebrate a relative’s wedding, is waylaid outside the church by an elderly sailor. Although he repeatedly tries to break away, as the wedding unfolds in the background, the old man’s desperate story and gleaming eyes keep him riveted to the spot.

The sailor recounts that he sailed away on a ship, in the days when a ship at sea was virtually completely at the mercy of the wind and waves, with no satellite radios nor rescue helicopters to be had. The ship carried its crew to the shores of Antarctica, where everyone’s life was in grave danger, yet at the height of the danger, the seaman had dared to sin, by pointlessly destroying the natural force which was their best hope for salvation.

There followed a horrible penance for all aboard, and especially for the seaman, who is now bound to travel the world, telling his cautionary tale to those like the Wedding Guest, whom he recognizes as most in need of its message.

Leone’s voice is riveting, and indeed has qualities which would keep an unwilling listener, struck dumb and motionless. The poem is filled with symbolism. A sea bird has often been used as a symbol of Christ, for one example, because many sea birds, in times of desperate hunger will pierce their own breasts, so that their young may feed upon their blood.

Journeys taken by heroic figures into the green world, utterly in the hands of nature and beyond the aid of humanity, where they are tested, morally and physically, to determine if they are worthy of salvation, is just one more.

The music which is played enriches the symbolism. The ”Going Home” theme from Dvorak’s symphony ”From the New World,” is one example, among a great many.

The evening is not so much entertaining as deeply inspiring. The simple, single setting and minimal lighting keep the focus upon the speaker, as the poem suggests.

It’s an evening to remind you that you have a mind and an intellect, and that you can survive away from car chases and with realities more fearsome than explosions.

Tonight’s performance is at 7:30 p.m., and tomorrow’s is at 7 p.m. The performance was reviewed at dress rehearsal, at the speaker’s request. A reception follows each performance.