Description

Lyrical Ballads was a two-volume collection of poetry by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth. In the first edition it opened with The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, but in the second edition the poem was moved to the penultimate position in the first volume. It is introduced as The Ancient Mariner, a poet’s reverie.

Faced with the widespread criticism of the poem’s archaic language and general inaccessibility, Coleridge revised the work. He modernised around 40 spellings and terms, deleted 46 lines and added seven new ones. Parts v and vi were the most substantially altered, with careful revisions made to the section from ‘And soon I heard a roaring wind’ to ‘The dead men gave a groan’ (lines 309-30, 1817 text). 

When the second edition was published, in two volumes, only Wordsworth’s name appeared on the title page. Coleridge’s contribution was acknowledged in the Preface, where poems by ‘a Friend’ are presented as having been included ‘for the sake of variety’. The change of order and crediting Wordsworth as the writer were certainly done with Coleridge’s knowledge, and probably some degree of support from him. Wordsworth in turn states that he has been successful in persuading Coleridge to retain the poem in the book in spite of its ‘defects’. However it is unlikely that Coleridge was aware before publication of the paragraph in which Wordsworth criticises those defects in depth. Wordsworth did not retain these comments in later editions of the book.