Water water everywhere nor any drop to drink… It’s been a bit like the Rime of the Ancient Mariner in our house this week – outside is puddled and muddy and inside the water’s switched off.
The Ancient Mariner is a hoary old sailor whose ship is cursed after he shoots dead an albatross. His crew mates all die of thirst. All but he, doomed forever to repeat his story to anyone who will listen:
Day after day, day after day/We stuck, no breath nor motion/As idle as a painted ship/Upon a painted ocean /Water, water, everywhere/And all the boards did shrink/ Water, water, everywhere/Nor any drop to drink.
These are lines I remember from childhood. My mother, educated by Irish nuns in Sri Lanka, knew reams of lyric poetry by heart. Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s grim Rime of the Ancient Mariner was one of her favourites. It has spawned a well-used idiom – an albatross around his or her neck – which signifies someone whose life has been blighted by guilt, or an emotional or psychological burden they cannot shake off. As the wingspan of the largest albatrosses can exceed 11 feet, that’s some weight…
Our current problem is more prosaic than the Ancient Mariner’s: a leaking shower and the water switched off at the mains. Solving the problem has introduced a new vocabulary: flow control valves, back plates, escutcheons, diverters. I roll the words on my tongue until they trip off confidently.
There’ll be new words in the texts we analyse at Tricycle Readers, and we’ll pick up new words and phrases from each other. Like the wedding guest who has listened to the Mariner’s tale, I hope we stagger away stunned by the breadth of our conversations, though we’ll wake wiser and happier!
He went like one that hath been stunn’d/And is of sense forlorn/A sadder and a wiser man/He rose the morrow morn.