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ENG 102: Literary Analysis Assignment Sheet

GENRE: Literary Analysis

OVERVIEW: Hacker and Sommers note, “Responding to literature starts with becoming an engaged and active reader. Read through the work once, closely and carefully. What is it telling you? Asking you? Trying to make you feel? With these questions in mind, go back and read it a second time. As you reread, interact with the work by posing questions and looking for possible answers” (L-3).

DEFINITION: The purpose of literary analysis is simple: “All good writing about literature attempts to answer a question about the [reading]. The goal of a literature analysis should be to answer such questions with a meaningful and persuasive interpretation” (Hacker and Sommers L-3).

THE WRITNG ASSIGNMENT GUIDELINES: This is an MLA format; see the MLA tab in A Writer’s Reference. The literary analysis should consist of 3-4 pages. All quotes and paraphrases from the text must use MLA in-text citations, and the essay’s document must conclude with a properly executed MLA Works Cited page for the work you’re analyzing. NO SOURCES other than the work you’re writing about are allowed in this essay.

WRITING PROMPT: Consider any of the works from this module, but choose only one of the three. (Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown or “The Minister’s Black Veil,” or Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”) Create an interpretively significant analysis of an integral aspect of that work. “Interpretively significant” means that you can justify the claim you make in the thesis: you can offer reasons the reader should read the work as you do. [Note: Your thesis should be contestable. “Coleridge’s ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ is about an old man who uses supernatural powers to tell his story” is not contestable: it’s simply a true statement about the poem. However, “Hamlet’s failure to act is a moral failure that stems from his inability to accept ambiguity” is contestable.]



The introduction must introduce the literary work you’re writing about, its author, and its initial publication year. What are some of the relevant contexts for the work? (During what literary era or historical period was this written? Why does that matter?) Move to the general premise of the work: what is this story about? (You do not need a full summary, just an overview will do). Then, contextualize your thesis: the interpretively significant, contestable claim you’re making about this argument. The final sentence of the introduction should be the thesis, which must be clear, direct, specific, and contestable.

Body Paragraphs:

Use PIE to develop excellent body paragraphs that provide a POINT (an aspect of your thesis that you establish to persuade readers to your argument) in the topic sentence. ILLUSTRATE the point by contextualizing and then showing evidence from the literary work you are analyzing. EXPLAIN your textual evidence by interpreting it for the audience in terms of the POINT you’re making.


The conclusion sums up the claims made in your analysis and shows how they add up to demonstrating the validity of your thesis. Always leave the audience with something more to think about at the end of the essay, too: why do readers need to see the text as you do? What insight or understanding do they gain if they adopt your reading of the text? What happens if readers ignore your thesis?

Works Cited

Greene, Stuart, and April Lidinsky. From Inquiry to Academic Writing: A Text and Reader. 5th ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2021.

Hacker, Diana, and Nancy Sommers. A Writer’s Reference. 10th ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2021.







2 (Acceptable)






Essay shows understanding of the crux of the literary work.


Essay shows a clear method for addressing the writing prompt.



Essay is structured clearly, does not go off on tangents.


Organizes details of the answer (quotes from the text, explanation of quotes) logically and clearly.


Transitional words and phrases are skillfully used to create flow between sentences and between ideas. (See p. 26 of AWR for a list of common transitions).



Presents original argumentative thesis in clear prose.


Presents well-considered interpretation and sophisticated analysis of text


Provides accurate, fair, and plausible supporting examples from text



Body paragraphs develop the argumentative thesis using PIE, in which each point relates to an aspect of the thesis, the point is illustrated by examples from the text, and the examples are explained in-depth in terms of the contestable point.


Ideas are developed fully using clear and logical analysis.


Textual analysis provides substantial support (including examples from the literary work) for student’s claims.


Interpretations are insightful, compelling

STYLE (10%)


Uses an appropriately formal tone for an academic audience


Sentences are structured in a sophisticated and fluid manner


Wording is precise, detailed, accurate


Essay uses the conventions of academic writing



Punctuation is used carefully and properly


Grammar is carefully and properly attended to


Essay is clear, readable, and free of distracting errors



Quotes provide correctly executed MLA in-text citations and ends with a correctly executed MLA Works Cited page


Integration of quotes is seamless and correct


Essay is double-spaced using 12-pt Times New Roman font. Document uses proper MLA formatting.

Nathaniel Hawthorne:

The Minister’s Black Veil (1836)

A Parable

THE SEXTON stood in the porch of Milford meeting-house,

pulling busily at the bell-rope. The old people of the village came

stooping along the street. Children, with bright faces, tripped merrily

beside their parents, or mimicked a graver gait, in the conscious digni-

ty of their Sunday clothes. Spruce bachelors looked sidelong at the

pretty maidens, and fancied that the Sabbath sunshine made them

prettier than on week days. When the throng had mostly streamed

into the porch, the sexton began to toll the bell, keeping his eye on the

Reverend Mr. Hooper’s door. The first glimpse of the clergyman’s

figure was the signal for the bell to cease its summons.

“But what has good Parson Hooper got upon his face?” cried the

sexton in astonishment.

All within hearing immediately turned about, and beheld the sem-

blance of Mr. Hooper, pacing slowly his meditative way towards the

meeting-house. With one accord they started, expressing more won-

der than if some strange minister were coming to dust the cushions of

Mr. Hooper’s pulpit.

“Are you sure it is our parson?” inquired Goodman Gray of the


“Of a certainty it is good Mr. Hooper,” replied the sexton. “He

was to have exchanged pulpits with Parson Shute, of Westbury; but

Parson Shute sent to excuse himself yesterday, being to preach a fu-

neral sermon.”

The cause of so much amazement may appear sufficiently slight.

Mr. Hooper, a gentlemanly person, of about thirty, though still a ba-

chelor, was dressed with due clerical neatness, as if a careful wife had

starched his band, and brushed the weekly dust from his Sunday’s

garb. There was but one thing remarkable in his appearance. Swathed


about his forehead, and hanging down over his face, so low as to be

shaken by his breath, Mr. Hooper had on a black veil. On a nearer

view it seemed to consist of two folds of crape, which entirely con-

cealed his features, except the mouth and chin, but probably did not

intercept his sight, further than to give a darkened aspect to all living

and inanimate things. With this gloomy shade before him, good Mr.

Hooper walked onward, at a slow and quiet pace, stooping somewhat,

and looking on the ground, as is customary with abstracted men, yet

nodding kindly to those of his parishioners who still waited on the

meeting-house steps. But so wonder-struck were they that his greeting

hardly met with a return.

“I can’t really feel as if good Mr. Hooper’s face was behind that

piece of crape,” said the sexton.

“I don’t like it,” muttered an old woman, as she hobbled into the

meeting-house. “He has changed himself into something awful, only

by hiding his face.”

“Our parson has gone mad!” cried Goodman Gray, following him

across the threshold.

A rumor of some unaccountable phenomenon had preceded Mr.

Hooper into the meeting-house, and set all the congregation astir.

Few could refrain from twisting their heads towards the door; many

stood upright, and turned directly about; while several little boys

clambered upon the seats, and came down again with a terrible racket.

There was a general bustle, a rustling of the women’s gowns and shuf-

fling of the men’s feet, greatly at variance with that hushed repose

which should attend the entrance of the minister. But Mr. Hooper

appeared not to notice the perturbation of his people. He entered with

an almost noiseless step, bent his head mildly to the pews on each side,

and bowed as he passed his oldest parishioner, a white-haired great-

grandsire, who occupied an arm-chair in the centre of the aisle. It was

strange to observe how slowly this venerable man became conscious of

something singular in the appearance of his pastor. He seemed not

fully to partake of the prevailing wonder, till Mr. Hooper had as-

cended the stairs, and showed himself in the pulpit, face to face with

his congregation, except for the black veil. That mysterious emblem

was never once withdrawn. It shook with his measured breath, as he

gave out the psalm; it threw its obscurity between him and the holy


page, as he read the Scriptures; and while he prayed, the veil lay heavi-

ly on his uplifted countenance. Did he seek to hide it from the dread

Being whom he was addressing?

Such was the effect of this simple piece of crape, that more than

one woman of delicate nerves was forced to leave the meeting-house.

Yet perhaps the pale-faced congregation was almost as fearful a sight

to the minister, as his black veil to them.

Mr. Hooper had the reputation of a good preacher, but not an

energetic one: he strove to win his people heavenward by mild, persua-

sive influences, rather than to drive them thither by the thunders of

the Word. The sermon which he now delivered was marked by the

same characteristics of style and manner as the general series of his

pulpit oratory. But there was something, either in the sentiment of the

discourse itself, or in the imagination of the auditors, which made it

greatly the most powerful effort that they had ever heard from their

pastor’s lips. It was tinged, rather more darkly than usual, with the

gentle gloom of Mr. Hooper’s temperament. The subject had refer-

ence to secret sin, and those sad mysteries which we hide from our

nearest and dearest, and would fain conceal from our own conscious-

ness, even forgetting that the Omniscient can detect them. A subtle

power was breathed into his words. Each member of the congregation,

the most innocent girl, and the man of hardened breast, felt as if the

preacher had crept upon them, behind his awful veil, and discovered

their hoarded iniquity of deed or thought. Many spread their clasped

hands on their bosoms. There was nothing terrible in what Mr. Hoo-

per said, at least, no violence; and yet, with every tremor of his melan-

choly voice, the hearers quaked. An unsought pathos came hand in

hand with awe. So sensible were the audience of some unwonted

attribute in their minister, that they longed for a breath of wind to

blow aside the veil, almost believing that a stranger’s visage would be

discovered, though the form, gesture, and voice were those of Mr.


At the close of the services, the people hurried out with indecorous

confusion, eager to communicate their pent-up amazement, and con-

scious of lighter spirits the moment they lost sight of the black veil.

Some gathered in little circles, huddled closely together, with their

mouths all whispering in the centre; some went homeward alone,


wrapt in silent meditation; some talked loudly, and profaned the Sab-

bath day with ostentatious laughter. A few shook their sagacious heads,

intimating that they could penetrate the mystery; while one or two

affirmed that there was no mystery at all, but only that Mr. Hooper’s

eyes were so weakened by the midnight lamp, as to require a shade.

After a brief interval, forth came good Mr. Hooper also, in the rear of

his flock. Turning his veiled face from one group to another, he paid

due reverence to the hoary heads, saluted the middle aged with kind

dignity as their friend and spiritual guide, greeted the young with min-

gled authority and love, and laid his hands on the little children’s heads

to bless them. Such was always his custom on the Sabbath day. Strange

and bewildered looks repaid him for his courtesy. None, as on former

occasions, aspired to the honor of walking by their pastor’s side. Old

Squire Saunders, doubtless by an accidental lapse of memory, neg-

lected to invite Mr. Hooper to his table, where the good clergyman

had been wont to bless the food, almost every Sunday since his settle-

ment. He returned, therefore, to the parsonage, and, at the moment of

closing the door, was observed to look back upon the people, all of

whom had their eyes fixed upon the minister. A sad smile gleamed

faintly from beneath the black veil, and flickered about his mouth,

glimmering as he disappeared.

“How strange,” said a lady, “that a simple black veil, such as any

woman might wear on her bonnet, should become such a terrible

thing on Mr. Hooper’s face!”

“Something must surely be amiss with Mr. Hooper’s intellects,”

observed her husband, the physician of the village. “But the strangest

part of the affair is the effect of this vagary, even on a sober-minded

man like myself. The black veil, though it covers only our pastor’s face,

throws its influence over his whole person, and makes him ghostlike

from head to foot. Do you not feel it so?”

“Truly do I,” replied the lady; “and I would not be alone with him

for the world. I wonder he is not afraid to be alone with himself!”

“Men sometimes are so,” said her husband.

The afternoon service was attended with similar circumstances. At

its conclusion, the bell tolled for the funeral of a young lady. The rela-

tives and friends were assembled in the house, and the more distant


acquaintances stood about the door, speaking of the good qualities of

the deceased, when their talk was interrupted by the appearance of Mr.

Hooper, still covered with his black veil. It was now an appropriate

emblem. The clergyman stepped into the room where the corpse was

laid, and bent over the coffin, to take a last farewell of his deceased

parishioner. As he stooped, the veil hung straight down from his fore-

head, so that, if her eyelids had not been closed forever, the dead mai-

den might have seen his face. Could Mr. Hooper be fearful of her

glance, that he so hastily caught back the black veil? A person who

watched the interview between the dead and living, scrupled not to

affirm, that, at the instant when the clergyman’s features were dis-

closed, the corpse had slightly shuddered, rustling the shroud and

muslin cap, though the countenance retained the composure of death.

A superstitious old woman was the only witness of this prodigy. From

the coffin Mr. Hooper passed into the chamber of the mourners, and

thence to the head of the staircase, to make the funeral prayer. It was a

tender and heart-dissolving prayer, full of sorrow, yet so imbued with

celestial hopes, that the music of a heavenly harp, swept by the fingers

of the dead, seemed faintly to be heard among the saddest accents of

the minister. The people trembled, though they but darkly understood

him when he prayed that they, and himself, and all of mortal race,

might be ready, as he trusted this young maiden had been, for the

dreadful hour that should snatch the veil from their faces. The bearers

went heavily forth, and the mourners followed, saddening all the

street, with the dead before them, and Mr. Hooper in his black veil


“Why do you look back?” said one in the procession to his partner.

“I had a fancy,” replied she, “that the minister and the maiden’s

spirit were walking hand in hand.”

“And so had I, at the same moment,” said the other.

That night, the handsomest couple in Milford village were to be

joined in wedlock. Though reckoned a melancholy man, Mr. Hooper

had a placid cheerfulness for such occasions, which often excited a

sympathetic smile where livelier merriment would have been thrown

away. There was no quality of his disposition which made him more

beloved than this. The company at the wedding awaited his arrival

with impatience, trusting that the strange awe, which had gathered


over him throughout the day, would now be dispelled. But such was

not the result. When Mr. Hooper came, the first thing that their eyes

rested on was the same horrible black veil, which had added deeper

gloom to the funeral, and could portend nothing but evil to the wed-

ding. Such was its immediate effect on the guests that a cloud seemed

to have rolled duskily from beneath the black crape, and dimmed the

light of the candles. The bridal pair stood up before the minister. But

the bride’s cold fingers quivered in the tremulous hand of the bride-

groom, and her deathlike paleness caused a whisper that the maiden

who had been buried a few hours before was come from her grave to

be married. If ever another wedding were so dismal, it was that famous

one where they tolled the wedding knell. After performing the cere-

mony, Mr. Hooper raised a glass of wine to his lips, wishing happiness

to the new-married couple in a strain of mild pleasantry that ought to

have brightened the features of the guests, like a cheerful gleam from

the hearth. At that instant, catching a glimpse of his figure in the look-

ing-glass, the black veil involved his own spirit in the horror with

which it overwhelmed all others. His frame shuddered, his lips grew

white, he spilt the untasted wine upon the carpet, and rushed forth

into the darkness. For the Earth, too, had on her Black Veil.

The next day, the whole village of Milford talked of little else than

Parson Hooper’s black veil. That, and the mystery concealed behind

it, supplied a topic for discussion between acquaintances meeting in

the street, and good women gossiping at their open windows. It was

the first item of news that the tavern-keeper told to his guests. The

children babbled of it on their way to school. One imitative little imp

covered his face with an old black handkerchief, thereby so affrighting

his playmates that the panic seized himself, and he well-nigh lost his

wits by his own waggery.

It was remarkable that of all the busybodies and impertinent

people in the parish, not one ventured to put the plain question to Mr.

Hooper, wherefore he did this thing. Hitherto, whenever there ap-

peared the slightest call for such interference, he had never lacked

advisers, nor shown himself adverse to be guided by their judgment. If

he erred at all, it was by so painful a degree of self-distrust, that even

the mildest censure would lead him to consider an indifferent action as

a crime. Yet, though so well acquainted with this amiable weakness, no


individual among his parishioners chose to make the black veil a sub-

ject of friendly remonstrance. There was a feeling of dread, neither

plainly confessed nor carefully concealed, which caused each to shift

the responsibility upon another, till at length it was found expedient to

send a deputation of the church, in order to deal with Mr. Hooper

about the mystery, before it should grow into a scandal. Never did an

embassy so ill discharge its duties. The minister received them with

friendly courtesy, but became silent, after they were seated, leaving to

his visitors the whole burden of introducing their important business.

The topic, it might be supposed, was obvious enough. There was the

black veil swathed round Mr. Hooper’s forehead, and concealing every

feature above his placid mouth, on which, at times, they could perceive

the glimmering of a melancholy smile. But that piece of crape, to their

imagination, seemed to hang down before his heart, the symbol of a

fearful secret between him and them. Were the veil but cast aside, they

might speak freely of it, but not till then. Thus they sat a considerable

time, speechless, confused, and shrinking uneasily from Mr. Hooper’s

eye, which they felt to be fixed upon them with an invisible glance.

Finally, the deputies returned abashed to their constituents, pronounc-

ing the matter too weighty to be handled, except by a council of the

churches, if, indeed, it might not require a general synod.

But there was one person in the village unappalled by the awe with

which the black veil had impressed all beside herself. When the depu-

ties returned without an explanation, or even venturing to demand

one, she, with the calm energy of her character, determined to chase

away the strange cloud that appeared to be settling round Mr. Hooper,

every moment more darkly than before. As his plighted wife, it should

be her privilege to know what the black veil concealed. At the minis-

ter’s first visit, therefore, she entered upon the subject with a direct

simplicity, which made the task easier both for him and her. After he

had seated himself, she fixed her eyes steadfastly upon the veil, but

could discern nothing of the dreadful gloom that had so overawed the

multitude: it was but a double fold of crape, hanging down from his

forehead to his mouth, and slightly stirring with his breath.

“No,” said she aloud, and smiling, “there is nothing terrible in this

piece of crape, except that it hides a face which I am always glad to


look upon. Come, good sir, let the sun shine from behind the cloud.

First lay aside your black veil: then tell me why you put it on.”

Mr. Hooper’s smile glimmered faintly.

“There is an hour to come,” said he, “when all of us shall cast aside

our veils. Take it not amiss, beloved friend, if I wear this piece of crape

till then.”

“Your words are a mystery, too,” returned the young lady. “Take

away the veil from them, at least.”

“Elizabeth, I will,” said he, “so far as my vow may suffer me.

Know, then, this veil is a type and a symbol, and I am bound to wear it

ever, both in light and darkness, in solitude and before the gaze of

multitudes, and as with strangers, so with my familiar friends. No

mortal eye will see it withdrawn. This dismal shade must separate me

from the world: even you, Elizabeth, can never come behind it!”

“What grievous affliction hath befallen you,” she earnestly in-

quired, “that you should thus darken your eyes forever?”

“If it be a sign of mourning,” replied Mr. Hooper, “I, perhaps, like

most other mortals, have sorrows dark enough to be typified by a black


“But what if the world will not believe that it is the type of an in-

nocent sorrow?” urged Elizabeth. “Beloved and respected as you are,

there may be whispers that you hide your face under the consciousness

of secret sin. For the sake of your holy office, do away this scandal!”

The color rose into her cheeks as she intimated the nature of the

rumors that were already abroad in the village. But Mr. Hooper’s

mildness did not forsake him. He even smiled again–that same sad

smile, which always appeared like a faint glimmering of light, proceed-

ing from the obscurity beneath the veil.

“If I hide my face for sorrow, there is cause enough,” he merely

replied; “and if I cover it for secret sin, what mortal might not do the


And with this gentle, but unconquerable obstinacy did he resist all

her entreaties. At length Elizabeth sat silent. For a few moments she

appeared lost in thought, considering, probably, what new methods

might be tried to withdraw her lover from so dark a fantasy, which, if


it had no other meaning, was perhaps a symptom of mental disease.

Though of a firmer character than his own, the tears rolled down her

cheeks. But, in an instant, as it were, a new feeling took the place of

sorrow: her eyes were fixed insensibly on the black veil, when, like a

sudden twilight in the air, its terrors fell around her. She arose, and

stood trembling before him.

“And do you feel it then, at last?” said he mournfully.

She made no reply, but covered her eyes with her hand, and turned

to leave the room. He rushed forward and caught her arm.

“Have patience with me, Elizabeth!” cried he, passionately. “Do

not desert me, though this veil must be between us here on earth. Be

mine, and hereafter there shall be no veil over my face, no darkness

between our souls! It is but a mortal veil–it is not for eternity! O! you

know not how lonely I am, and how frightened, to be alone behind my

black veil. Do not leave me in this miserable obscurity forever!”

“Lift the veil but once, and look me in the face,” said she.

“Never! It cannot be!” replied Mr. Hooper.

“Then farewell!” said Elizabeth.

She withdrew her arm from his grasp, and slowly departed, paus-

ing at the door, to give one long shuddering gaze, that seemed almost

to penetrate the mystery of the black veil. But, even amid his grief, Mr.

Hooper smiled to think that only a material emblem had separated

him from happiness, though the horrors, which it shadowed forth,

must be drawn darkly between the fondest of lovers.

From that time no attempts were made to remove Mr. Hooper’s

black veil, or, by a direct appeal, to discover the secret which it was

supposed to hide. By persons who claimed a superiority to popular

prejudice, it was reckoned merely an eccentric whim, such as often

mingles with the sober actions of men otherwise rational, and tinges

them all with its own semblance of insanity. But with the multitude,

good Mr. Hooper was irreparably a bugbear. He could not walk the

street with any peace of mind, so conscious was he that the gentle and

timid would turn aside to avoid him, and that others would make it a

point of hardihood to throw themselves in his way. The impertinence

of the latter class compelled him to give up his customary walk at sun-

set to the burial ground; for when he leaned pensively over the gate,


there would always be faces behind the gravestones, peeping at his

black veil. A fable went the rounds that the stare of the dead people

drove him thence. It grieved him, to the very depth of his kind heart,

to observe how the children fled from his approach, breaking up their

merriest sports, while his melancholy figure was yet afar off. Their

instinctive dread caused him to feel more strongly than aught else, that

a preternatural horror was interwoven with the threads of the black

crape. In truth, his own antipathy to the veil was known to be so great,

that he never willingly passed before a mirror, nor stooped to drink at

a still fountain, lest, in its peaceful bosom, he should be affrighted by

himself. This was what gave plausibility to the whispers, that Mr.

Hooper’s conscience tortured him for some great crime too horrible

to be entirely concealed, or otherwise than so obscurely intimated.

Thus, from beneath the black veil, there rolled a cloud into the sun-

shine, an ambiguity of sin or sorrow, which enveloped the poor minis-

ter, so that love or sympathy could never reach him. It was said that

ghost and fiend consorted with him there. With self-shudderings and

outward terrors, he walked continually in its shadow, groping darkly

within his own soul, or gazing through a medium that saddened the

whole world. Even the lawless wind, it was believed, respected his

dreadful secret, and never blew aside the veil. But still good Mr. Hoo-

per sadly smiled at the pale visages of the worldly throng as he passed


Among all its bad influences, the black veil had the one desirable

effect, of making its wearer a very efficient clergyman. By the aid of his

mysterious emblem–for there was no other apparent cause–he be-

came a man of awful power over souls that were in agony for sin. His

converts always regarded him with a dread peculiar to themselves,

affirming, though but figuratively, that, before he brought them to

celestial light, they had been with him behind the black veil. Its gloom,

indeed, enabled him to sympathize with all dark affections. Dying

sinners cried aloud for Mr. Hooper, and would not yield their breath

till he appeared; though ever, as he stooped to whisper consolation,

they shuddered at the veiled face so near their own. Such were the

terrors of the black veil, even when Death had bared his visage! Stran-

gers came long distances to attend service at his church, with the mere

idle purpose of gazing at his figure, because it was forbidden them to


behold his face. But many were made to quake ere they departed!

Once, during Governor Belcher’s administration, Mr. Hooper was

appointed to preach the election sermon. Covered with his black veil,

he stood before the chief magistrate, the council, and the representa-

tives, and wrought so deep an impression that the legislative measures

of that year were characterized by all the gloom and piety of our earli-

est ancestral sway.

In this manner Mr. Hooper spent a long life, irreproachable in

outward act, yet shrouded in dismal suspicions; kind and loving,

though unloved, and dimly feared; a man apart from men, shunned in

their health and joy, but ever summoned to their aid in mortal an-

guish. As years wore on, shedding their snows above his sable veil, he

acquired a name throughout the New England churches, and they

called him Father Hooper. Nearly all his parishioners, who were of

mature age when he was settled, had been borne away by many a fu-

neral: he had one congregation in the church, and a more crowded one

in the churchyard; and having wrought so late into the evening, and

done his work so well, it was now good Father Hooper’s turn to rest.

Several persons were visible by the shaded candle-light, in the

death chamber of the old clergyman. Natural connections he had

none. But there was the decorously grave, though unmoved physician,

seeking only to mitigate the last pangs of the patient whom he could

not save. There were the deacons, and other eminently pious members

of his church. There, also, was the Reverend Mr. Clark, of Westbury,

a young and zealous divine, who had ridden in haste to pray by the

bedside of the expiring minister. There was the nurse, no hired hand-

maiden of death, but one whose calm affection had endured thus long

in secrecy, in solitude, amid the chill of age, and would not perish,

even at the dying hour. Who, but Elizabeth! And there lay the hoary

head of good Father Hooper upon the death pillow, with the black veil

still swathed about his brow, and reaching down over his face, so that

each more difficult gasp of his faint breath caused it to stir. All through

life that piece of crape had hung between him and the world: it had

separated him from cheerful brotherhood and woman’s love, and kept

him in that saddest of all prisons, his own heart; and still it lay upon his

face, as if to deepen the gloom of his darksome chamber, and shade

him from the sunshine of eternity.


For some time previous, his mind had been confused, wavering

doubtfully between the past and the present, and hovering forward, as

it were, at intervals, into the indistinctness of the world to come.

There had been feverish turns, which tossed him from side to side, and

wore away what little strength he had. But in his most convulsive

struggles, and in the wildest vagaries of his intellect, when no other

thought retained its sober influence, he still showed an awful solicitude

lest the black veil should slip aside. Even if his bewildered soul could

have forgotten, there was a faithful woman at his pillow, who, with

averted eyes, would have covered that aged face, which she had last

beheld in the comeliness of manhood. At length the death-stricken old

man lay quietly in the torpor of mental and bodily exhaustion, with an

imperceptible pulse, and breath that grew fainter and fainter, except

when a long, deep, and irregular inspiration seemed to prelude the

flight of his spirit.

The minister of Westbury approached the bedside.

“Venerable Father Hooper,” said he, “the moment of your release

is at hand. Are you ready for the lifting of the veil that shuts in time

from eternity?”

Father Hooper at first replied merely by a feeble motion of his

head; then, apprehensive, perhaps, that his meaning might be doubt-

ful, he exerted himself to speak.

“Yea,” said he, in faint accents, “my soul hath a patient weariness

until that veil be lifted.”

“And is it fitting,” resumed the Reverend Mr. Clark, “that a man

so given to prayer, of such a blameless example, holy in deed and

thought, so far as mortal judgment may pronounce; is it fitting that a

father in the church should leave a shadow on his memory, that may

seem to blacken a life so pure? I pray you, my venerable brother, let

not this thing be! Suffer us to be gladdened by your triumphant aspect

as you go to your reward. Before the veil of eternity be lifted, let me

cast aside this black veil from your face!”

And thus speaking, the Reverend Mr. Clark bent forward to reveal

the mystery of so many years. But, exerting a sudden energy, that

made all the beholders stand aghast, Father Hooper snatched both his

hands from beneath the bedclothes, and pressed them strongly on the


black veil, resolute to struggle, if the minister of Westbury would con-

tend with a dying man.

“Never!” cried the veiled clergyman. “On earth, never!”

“Dark old man!” exclaimed the affrighted minister, “with what

horrible crime upon your soul are you now passing to the judgment?”

Father Hooper’s breath heaved; it rattled in his throat; but, with a

mighty effort, grasping forward with his hands, he caught hold of life,

and held it back till he should speak. He even raised himself in bed;

and there he sat, shivering with the arms of death around him, while

the black veil hung down, awful at that last moment, in the gathered

terrors of a lifetime. And yet the faint, sad smile, so often there, now

seemed to glimmer from its obscurity, and linger on Father Hooper’s


“Why do you tremble at me alone?” cried he, turning his veiled

face round the circle of pale spectators. “Tremble also at each other!

Have men avoided me, and women shown no pity, and children

screamed and fled, only for my black veil? What, but the mystery

which it obscurely typifies, has made this piece of crape so awful?

When the friend shows his inmost heart to his friend; the lover to his

best beloved; when man does not vainly shrink from the eye of his

Creator, loathsomely treasuring up the secret of his sin; then deem me

a monster, for the symbol beneath which I have lived, and die! I look

around me, and, lo! on every visage a Black Veil!”

While his auditors shrank from one another, in mutual affright,

Father Hooper fell back upon his pillow, a veiled corpse, with a faint

smile lingering on the lips. Still veiled, they laid him in his coffin, and

a veiled corpse they bore him to the grave. The grass of many years

has sprung up and withered on that grave, the burial stone is moss-

grown, and good Mr. Hooper’s face is dust; but awful is still the

thought that it mouldered beneath the Black Veil!

NOTE. Another clergyman in New England, Mr. Joseph Moody,

of York, Maine, who died about eighty years since, made himself re-

markable by the same eccentricity that is here related of the Reverend

Mr. Hooper. In his case, however, the symbol had a different import.

In early life he had accidentally killed a beloved friend; and from that

day till the hour of his own death, he hid his face from men.

Young Goodman Brown

YOUNG GOODMAN BROWN came forth at sunset, into the street of Salem village, but

put his head back, after crossing the threshold, to exchange a parting kiss with his young

wife. And Faith, as the wife was aptly named, thrust her own pretty head into the street,

letting the wind play with the pink ribbons of her cap, while she called to Goodman


“Dearest heart,” whispered she, softly and rather sadly, when her lips were close to his

ear, “pr’y thee, put off your journey until sunrise, and sleep in your own bed to-night. A

lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts, that she’s afeard of herself,

sometimes. Pray, tarry with me this night, dear husband, of all nights in the year!”

“My love and my Faith,” replied young Goodman Brown, “of all nights in the year, this

one night must I tarry away from thee. My journey, as thou callest it, forth and back

again, must needs be done ‘twixt now and sunrise. What, my sweet, pretty wife, dost thou

doubt me already, and we but three months married!”

“Then God bless you!” said Faith, with the pink ribbons, “and may you find all well,

when you come back.”

“Amen!” cried Goodman Brown. “Say thy prayers, dear Faith, and go to bed at dusk, and

no harm will come to thee.”

So they parted; and the young man pursued his way, until, being about to turn the corner

by the meeting-house, he looked back and saw the head of Faith still peeping after him,

with a melancholy air, in spite of her pink ribbons.

“Poor little Faith!” thought he, for his heart smote him. “What a wretch am I, to leave her

on such an errand! She talks of dreams, too. Methought, as she spoke, there was trouble

in her face, as if a dream had warned her what work is to be done to- night. But, no, no!

‘twould kill her to think it. Well; she’s a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night,

I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven.”

With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt himself justified in

making more haste on his present evil purpose. He had taken a dreary road, darkened by

all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep

through, and closed immediately behind. It was all as lonely as could be; and there is this

peculiarity in such a solitude, that the traveller knows not who may be concealed by the

innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead; so that, with lonely footsteps, he may

yet be passing through an unseen multitude.

“There may be a devilish Indian behind every tree,” said Goodman Brown to himself; and

he glanced fearfully behind him, as he added, “What if the devil himself should be at my

very elbow!”

His head being turned back, he passed a crook of the road, and looking forward again,

beheld the figure of a man, in grave and decent attire, seated at the foot of an old tree. He

arose, at Goodman Brown’s approach, and walked onward, side by side with him.

“You are late, Goodman Brown,” said he. “The clock of the Old South was striking, as I

came through Boston; and that is full fifteen minutes agone.”

“Faith kept me back awhile,” replied the young man, with a tremor in his voice, caused

by the sudden appearance of his companion, though not wholly unexpected.

It was now deep dusk in the forest, and deepest in that part of it where these two were

journeying. As nearly as could be discerned, the second traveller was about fifty years

old, apparently in the same rank of life as Goodman Brown, and bearing a considerable

resemblance to him, though perhaps more in expression than features. Still, they might

have been taken for father and son. And yet, though the elder person was as simply clad

as the younger, and as simple in manner too, he had an indescribable air of one who knew

the world, and would not have felt abashed at the governor’s dinner-table, or in King

William’s court, were it possible that his affairs should call him thither. But the only thing

about him, that could be fixed upon as remarkable, was his staff, which bore the likeness

of a great black snake, so curiously wrought, that it might almost be seen to twist and

wriggle itself like a living serpent. This, of course, must have been an ocular deception,

assisted by the uncertain light.

“Come, Goodman Brown!” cried his fellow-traveller, “this is a dull pace for the

beginning of a journey. Take my staff, if you are so soon weary.”

“Friend,” said the other, exchanging his slow pace for a full stop, “having kept covenant

by meeting thee here, it is my purpose now to return whence I came. I have scruples,

touching the matter thou wot’st of.”

“Sayest thou so?” replied he of the serpent, smiling apart. “Let us walk on, nevertheless,

reasoning as we go, and if I convince thee not, thou shalt turn back. We are but a little

way in the forest, yet.”

“Too far, too far!” exclaimed the goodman, unconsciously resuming his walk. “My father

never went into the woods on such an errand, nor his father before him. We have been a

race of honest men and good Christians, since the days of the martyrs. And shall I be the

first of the name of Brown, that ever took this path and kept–”

“Such company, thou wouldst say,” observed the elder person, interrupting his pause.

“Well said, Goodman Brown! I have been as well acquainted with your family as with

ever a one among the Puritans; and that’s no trifle to say. I helped your grandfather, the

constable, when he lashed the Quaker woman so smartly through the streets of Salem.

And it was I that brought your father a pitch-pine knot, kindled at my own hearth, to set

fire to an Indian village, in King Philip’s War. They were my good friends, both; and

many a pleasant walk have we had along this path, and returned merrily after midnight. I

would fain be friends with you, for their sake.”

“If it be as thou sayest,” replied Goodman Brown, “I marvel they never spoke of these

matters. Or, verily, I marvel not, seeing that the least rumor of the sort would have driven

them from New England. We are a people of prayer, and good works to boot, and abide

no such wickedness.”

“Wickedness or not,” said the traveller with the twisted staff, “I have a very general

acquaintance here in New England. The deacons of many a church have drunk the

communion wine with me; the selectmen, of divers towns, make me their chairman; and a

majority of the Great and General Court are firm supporters of my interest. The governor

and I, too–but these are state-secrets.”

“Can this be so!” cried Goodman Brown, with a stare of amazement at his undisturbed

companion. “Howbeit, I have nothing to do with the governor and council; they have

their own ways, and are no rule for a simple husbandman like me. But, were I to go on

with thee, how should I meet the eye of that good old man, our minister, at Salem

village? Oh, his voice would make me tremble, both Sabbath-day and lecture-day!”

Thus far, the elder traveller had listened with due gravity, but now burst into a fit of

irrepressible mirth, shaking himself so violently that his snake- like staff actually seemed

to wriggle in sympathy.

“Ha! ha! ha!” shouted he, again and again; then composing himself, “Well, go on,

Goodman Brown, go on; but, pr’y thee, don’t kill me with laughing!”

“Well, then, to end the matter at once,” said Goodman Brown, considerably nettled,

“there is my wife, Faith. It would break her dear little heart; and I’d rather break my


“Nay, if that be the case,” answered the other, “e’en go thy ways, Goodman Brown. I

would not, for twenty old women like the one hobbling before us, that Faith should come

to any harm.”

As he spoke, he pointed his staff at a female figure on the path, in whom Goodman

Brown recognized a very pious and exemplary dame, who had taught him his catechism

in youth, and was still his moral and spiritual adviser, jointly with the minister and

Deacon Gookin.

“A marvel, truly, that Goody Cloyse should be so far in the wilderness, at night-fall!” said

he. “But, with your leave, friend, I shall take a cut through the woods, until we have left

this Christian woman behind. Being a stranger to you, she might ask whom I was

consorting with, and whither I was going.”

“Be it so,” said his fellow-traveller. “Betake you to the woods, and let me keep the path.”

Accordingly, the young man turned aside, but took care to watch his companion, who

advanced softly along the road, until he had come within a staff’s length of the old dame.

She, meanwhile, was making the best of her way, with singular speed for so aged a

woman, and mumbling some indistinct words, a prayer, doubtless, as she went. The

traveller put forth his staff, and touched her withered neck with what seemed the serpent’s


“The devil!” screamed the pious old lady.

“Then Goody Cloyse knows her old friend?” observed the traveller, confronting her, and

leaning on his writhing stick.

“Ah, forsooth, and is it your worship, indeed?” cried the good dame. “Yea, truly is it, and

in the very image of my old gossip, Goodman Brown, the grandfather of the silly fellow

that now is. But–would your worship believe it?–my broomstick hath strangely

disappeared, stolen, as I suspect, by that unhanged witch, Goody Cory, and that, too,

when I was all anointed with the juice of smallage and cinque- foil and wolf’s-bane–”

“Mingled with fine wheat and the fat of a new-born babe,” said the shape of old

Goodman Brown.

“Ah, your worship knows the recipe,” cried the old lady, cackling aloud. “So, as I was

saying, being all ready for the meeting, and no horse to ride on, I made up my mind to

foot it; for they tell me, there is a nice young man to be taken into communion to- night.

But now your good worship will lend me your arm, and we shall be there in a twinkling.”

“That can hardly be,” answered her friend. “I may not spare you my arm, Goody Cloyse,

but here is my staff, if you will.”

So saying, he threw it down at her feet, where, perhaps, it assumed life, being one of the

rods which its owner had formerly lent to Egyptian Magi. Of this fact, however,

Goodman Brown could not take cognizance. He had cast up his eyes in astonishment, and

looking down again, beheld neither Goody Cloyse nor the serpentine staff, but his fellow-

traveller alone, who waited for him as calmly as if nothing had happened.

“That old woman taught me my catechism!” said the young man; and there was a world

of meaning in this simple comment.

They continued to walk onward, while the elder traveller exhorted his companion to

make good speed and persevere in the path, discoursing so aptly, that his arguments

seemed rather to spring up in the bosom of his auditor, than to be suggested by himself.

As they went, he plucked a branch of maple, to serve for a walking- stick, and began to

strip it of the twigs and little boughs, which were wet with evening dew. The moment his

fingers touched them, they became strangely withered and dried up, as with a week’s

sunshine. Thus the pair proceeded, at a good free pace, until suddenly, in a gloomy

hollow of the road, Goodman Brown sat himself down on the stump of a tree, and refused

to go any farther.

“Friend,” said he, stubbornly, “my mind is made up. Not another step will I budge on this

errand. What if a wretched old woman do choose to go to the devil, when I thought she

was going to Heaven! Is that any reason why I should quit my dear Faith, and go after


“You will think better of this by-and-by,” said his acquaintance, composedly. “Sit here

and rest yourself awhile; and when you feel like moving again, there is my staff to help

you along.”

Without more words, he threw his companion the maple stick, and was as speedily out of

sight, as if he had vanished into the deepening gloom. The young man sat a few moments

by the road-side, applauding himself greatly, and thinking with how clear a conscience he

should meet the minister, in his morning-walk, nor shrink from the eye of good old

Deacon Gookin. And what calm sleep would be his, that very night, which was to have

been spent so wickedly, but purely and sweetly now, in the arms of Faith! Amidst these

pleasant and praiseworthy meditations, Goodman Brown heard the tramp of horses along

the road, and deemed it advisable to conceal himself within the verge of the forest,

conscious of the guilty purpose that had brought him thither, though now so happily

turned from it.

On came the hoof-tramps and the voices of the riders, two grave old voices, conversing

soberly as they drew near. These mingled sounds appeared to pass along the road, within

a few yards of the young man’s hiding-place; but owing, doubtless, to the depth of the

gloom, at that particular spot, neither the travellers nor their steeds were visible. Though

their figures brushed the small boughs by the way-side, it could not be seen that they

intercepted, even for a moment, the faint gleam from the strip of bright sky, athwart

which they must have passed. Goodman Brown alternately crouched and stood on tip-toe,

pulling aside the branches, and thrusting forth his head as far as he durst, without

discerning so much as a shadow. It vexed him the more, because he could have sworn,

were such a thing possible, that he recognized the voices of the minister and Deacon

Gookin, jogging along quietly, as they were wont to do, when bound to some ordination

or ecclesiastical council. While yet within hearing, one of the riders stopped to pluck a


“Of the two, reverend Sir,” said the voice like the deacon’s, I had rather miss an

ordination-dinner than tonight’s meeting. They tell me that some of our community are to

be here from Falmouth and beyond, and others from Connecticut and Rhode-Island;

besides several of the Indian powows, who, after their fashion, know almost as much

deviltry as the best of us. Moreover, there is a goodly young woman to be taken into


“Mighty well, Deacon Gookin!” replied the solemn old tones of the minister. “Spur up, or

we shall be late. Nothing can be done, you know, until I get on the ground.”

The hoofs clattered again, and the voices, talking so strangely in the empty air, passed on

through the forest, where no church had ever been gathered, nor solitary Christian prayed.

Whither, then, could these holy men be journeying, so deep into the heathen wilderness?

Young Goodman Brown caught hold of a tree, for support, being ready to sink down on

the ground, faint and overburthened with the heavy sickness of his heart. He looked up to

the sky, doubting whether there really was a Heaven above him. Yet, there was the blue

arch, and the stars brightening in it.

“With Heaven above, and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!” cried

Goodman Brown.

While he still gazed upward, into the deep arch of the firmament, and had lifted his hands

to pray, a cloud, though no wind was stirring, hurried across the zenith, and hid the

brightening stars. The blue sky was still visible, except directly overhead, where this

black mass of cloud was sweeping swiftly northward. Aloft in the air, as if from the

depths of the cloud, came a confused and doubtful sound of voices. Once, the listener

fancied that he could distinguish the accent of town’s-people of his own, men and

women, both pious and ungodly, many of whom he had met at the communion-table, and

had seen others rioting at the tavern. The next moment, so indistinct were the sounds, he

doubted whether he had heard aught but the murmur of the old forest, whispering without

a wind. Then came a stronger swell of those familiar tones, heard daily in the sunshine, at

Salem village, but never, until now, from a cloud of night. There was one voice, of a

young woman, uttering lamentations, yet with an uncertain sorrow, and entreating for

some favor, which, perhaps, it would grieve her to obtain. And all the unseen multitude,

both saints and sinners, seemed to encourage her onward.

“Faith!” shouted Goodman Brown, in a voice of agony and desperation; and the echoes of

the forest mocked him, crying — “Faith! Faith!” as if bewildered wretches were seeking

her, all through the wilderness.

The cry of grief, rage, and terror, was yet piercing the night, when the unhappy husband

held his breath for a response. There was a scream, drowned immediately in a louder

murmur of voices, fading into far-off laughter, as the dark cloud swept away, leaving the

clear and silent sky above Goodman Brown. But something fluttered lightly down

through the air, and caught on the branch of a tree. The young man seized it, and beheld a

pink ribbon.

“My Faith is gone!” cried he, after one stupefied moment. “There is no good on earth; and

sin is but a name. Come, devil! for to thee is this world given.”

And maddened with despair, so that he laughed loud and long, did Goodman Brown

grasp his staff and set forth again, at such a rate, that he seemed to fly along the forest-

path, rather than to walk or run. The road grew wilder and drearier, and more faintly

traced, and vanished at length, leaving him in the heart of the dark wilderness, still

rushing onward, with the instinct that guides mortal man to evil. The whole forest was

peopled with frightful sounds; the creaking of the trees, the howling of wild beasts, and

the yell of Indians; while, sometimes the wind tolled like a distant church-bell, and

sometimes gave a broad roar around the traveller, as if all Nature were laughing him to

scorn. But he was himself the chief horror of the scene, and shrank not from its other


“Ha! ha! ha!” roared Goodman Brown, when the wind laughed at him. “Let us hear which

will laugh loudest! Think not to frighten me with your deviltry! Come witch, come

wizard, come Indian powow, come devil himself! and here comes Goodman Brown. You

may as well fear him as he fear you!”

In truth, all through the haunted forest, there could be nothing more frightful than the

figure of Goodman Brown. On he flew, among the black pines, brandishing his staff with

frenzied gestures, now giving vent to an inspiration of horrid blasphemy, and now

shouting forth such laughter, as set all the echoes of the forest laughing like demons

around him. The fiend in his own shape is less hideous, than when he rages in the breast

of man. Thus sped the demoniac on his course, until, quivering among the trees, he saw a

red light before him, as when the felled trunks and branches of a clearing have been set

on fire, and throw up their lurid blaze against the sky, at the hour of midnight. He paused,

in a lull of the tempest that had driven him onward, and heard the swell of what seemed a

hymn, rolling solemnly from a distance, with the weight of many voices. He knew the

tune; it was a familiar one in the choir of the village meeting- house. The verse died

heavily away, and was lengthened by a chorus, not of human voices, but of all the sounds

of the benighted wilderness, pealing in awful harmony together. Goodman Brown cried

out; and his cry was lost to his own ear, by its unison with the cry of the desert.

In the interval of silence, he stole forward, until the light glared full upon his eyes. At one

extremity of an open space, hemmed in by the dark wall of the forest, arose a rock,

bearing some rude, natural resemblance either to an altar or a pulpit, and surrounded by

four blazing pines, their tops aflame, their stems untouched, like candles at an evening

meeting. The mass of foliage, that had overgrown the summit of the rock, was all on fire,

blazing high into the night, and fitfully illuminating the whole field. Each pendent twig

and leafy festoon was in a blaze. As the red light arose and fell, a numerous congregation

alternately shone forth, then disappeared in shadow, and again grew, as it were, out of the

darkness, peopling the heart of the solitary woods at once.

“A grave and dark-clad company!” quoth Goodman Brown.

In truth, they were such. Among them, quivering to-and- fro, between gloom and

splendor, appeared faces that would be seen, next day, at the council-board of the

province, and others which, Sabbath after Sabbath, looked devoutly heavenward, and

benignantly over the crowded pews, from the holiest pulpits in the land. Some affirm,

that the lady of the governor was there. At least, there were high dames well known to

her, and wives of honored husbands, and widows, a great multitude, and ancient maidens,

all of excellent repute, and fair young girls, who trembled lest their mothers should espy

them. Either the sudden gleams of light, flashing over the obscure field, bedazzled

Goodman Brown, or he recognized a score of the church-members of Salem village,

famous for their especial sanctity. Good old Deacon Gookin had arrived, and waited at

the skirts of that venerable saint, his reverend pastor. But, irreverently consorting with

these grave, reputable, and pious people, these elders of the church, these chaste dames

and dewy virgins, there were men of dissolute lives and women of spotted fame, wretches

given over to all mean and filthy vice, and suspected even of horrid crimes. It was strange

to see, that the good shrank not from the wicked, nor were the sinners abashed by the

saints. Scattered, also, among their palefaced enemies, were the Indian priests, or

powows, who had often scared their native forest with more hideous incantations than

any known to English witchcraft.

“But, where is Faith?” thought Goodman Brown; and, as hope came into his heart, he


Another verse of the hymn arose, a slow and mournful strain, such as the pious love, but

joined to words which expressed all that our nature can conceive of sin, and darkly hinted

at far more. Unfathomable to mere mortals is the lore of fiends. Verse after verse was

sung, and still the chorus of the desert swelled between, like the deepest tone of a mighty

orga n. And, with the final peal of that dreadful anthem, there came a sound, as if the

roaring wind, the rushing streams, the howling beasts, and every other voice of the

unconverted wilderness, were mingling and according with the voice of guilty man, in

homage to the prince of all. The four blazing pines threw up a loftier flame, and

obscurely discovered shapes and visages of horror on the smoke-wreaths, above the

impious assembly. At the same moment, the fire on the rock shot redly forth, and formed

a glowing arch above its base, where now appeared a figure. With reverence be it spoken,

the figure bore no slight similitude, both in garb and manner, to some grave divine of the

New-England churches.

“Bring forth the converts!” cried a voice, that echoed through the field and rolled into the


At the word, Goodman Brown stepped forth from the shadow of the trees, and

approached the congregation, with whom he felt a loathful brotherhood, by the sympathy

of all that was wicked in his heart. He could have well nigh sworn, that the shape of his

own dead father beckoned him to advance, looking downward from a smoke-wreath,

while a woman, with dim features of despair, threw out her hand to warn him back. Was

it his mother? But he had no power to retreat one step, nor to resist, even in thought,

when the minister and good old Deacon Gookin seized his arms, and led him to the

blazing rock. Thither came also the slender form of a veiled female, led between Goody

Cloyse, that pious teacher of the catechism, and Martha Carrier, who had received the

devil’s promise to be queen of hell. A rampant hag was she! And there stood the

proselytes, beneath the canopy of fire.

“Welcome, my children,” said the dark figure, “to the communion of your race! Ye have

found, thus young, your nature and your destiny. My children, look behind you!”

They turned; and flashing forth, as it were, in a sheet of flame, the fiend-worshippers

were seen; the smile of welcome gleamed darkly on every visage.

“There,” resumed the sable form, “are all whom ye have reverenced from youth. Ye

deemed them holier than yourselves, and shrank from your own sin, contrasting it with

their lives of righteousness, and prayerful aspirations heavenward. Yet, here are they all,

in my worshipping assembly! This night it shall be granted you to know their secret

deeds; how hoary-bearded elders of the church have whispered wanton words to the

young maids of their households; how many a woman, eager for widow’s weeds, has

given her husband a drink at bed-time, and let him sleep his last sleep in her bosom; how

beardless youth have made haste to inherit their father’s wealth; and how fair damsels–

blush not, sweet ones–have dug little graves in the garden, and bidden me, the sole guest,

to an infant’s funeral. By the sympathy of your human hearts for sin, ye shall scent out all

the places–whether in church, bed-chamber, street, field, or forest–where crime has been

committed, and shall exult to behold the whole earth one stain of guilt, one mighty blood-

spot. Far more than this! It shall be yours to penetrate, in every bosom, the deep mystery

of sin, the fountain of all wicked arts, and which inexhaustibly supplies more evil

impulses than human power–than my power at its utmost!–can make manifest in deeds.

And now, my children, look upon each other.”

They did so; and, by the blaze of the hell-kindled torches, the wretched man beheld his

Faith, and the wife her husband, trembling before that unhallowed altar.

“Lo! there ye stand, my children,” said the figure, in a deep and solemn tone, almost sad,

with its despairing awfulness, as if his once angelic nature could yet mourn for our

miserable race. “Depending upon one another’s hearts, ye had still hoped that virtue were

not all a dream! Now are ye undeceived! Evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your

only happiness. Welcome, again, my children, to the communion of your race!”

“Welcome!” repeated the fiend-worshippers, in one cry of despair and triumph.

And there they stood, the only pair, as it seemed, who were yet hesitating on the verge of

wickedness, in this dark world. A basin was hollowed, naturally, in the rock. Did it

contain water, reddened by the lurid light? or was it blood? or, perchance, a liquid flame?

Herein did the Shape of Evil dip his hand, and prepare to lay the mark of baptism upon

their foreheads, that they might be partakers of the mystery of sin, more conscious of the

secret guilt of others, both in deed and thought, than they could now be of their own. The

husband cast one look at his pale wife, and Faith at him. What polluted wretches would

the next glance show them to each other, shuddering alike at what they disclosed and

what they saw!

“Faith! Faith!” cried the husband. “Look up to Heaven, and resist the Wicked One!”

Whether Faith obeyed, he knew not. Hardly had he spoken, when he found himself amid

calm night and solitude, listening to a roar of the wind, which died heavily away through

the forest. He staggered against the rock, and felt it chill and damp, while a hanging twig,

that had been all on fire, besprinkled his cheek with the coldest dew.

The next morning, young Goodman Brown came slowly into the street of Salem village,

staring around him like a bewildered man. The good old minister was taking a walk along

the graveyard, to get an appetite for breakfast and meditate his sermon, and bestowed a

blessing, as he passed, on Goodman Brown. He shrank from the venerable saint, as if to

avoid an anathema. Old Deacon Gookin was at domestic worship, and the holy words of

his prayer were heard through the open window. “What God doth the wizard pray to?”

quoth Goodman Brown. Goody Cloyse, that excellent old Christian, stood in the early

sunshine, at her own lattice, catechising a little girl, who had brought her a pint of

morning’s milk. Goodman Brown snatched away the child, as from the grasp of the fiend

himself. Turning the corner by the meeting- house, he spied the head of Faith, with the

pink ribbons, gazing anxiously forth, and bursting into such joy at sight of him, that she

skipt along the street, and almost kissed her husband before the whole village. But

Goodman Brown looked sternly and sadly into her face, and passed on without a


Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest, and only dreamed a wild dream of a


Be it so, if you will. But, alas! it was a dream of evil omen for young Goodman Brown. A

stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man, did he become,

from the night of that fearful dream. On the Sabbath-day, when the congregation were

singing a holy psalm, he could not listen, because an anthem of sin rushed loudly upon

his ear, and drowned all the blessed strain. When the minister spoke from the pulpit, with

power and fervid eloquence, and with his hand on the open Bible, of the sacred truths of

our religion, and of saint- like lives and triumphant deaths, and of future bliss or misery

unutterable, then did Goodman Brown turn pale, dreading lest the roof should thunder

down upon the gray blasphemer and his hearers. Often, awaking suddenly at midnight, he

shrank from the bosom of Faith, and at morning or eventide, when the family knelt down

at prayer, he scowled, and muttered to himself, and gazed sternly at his wife, and turned

away. And when he had lived long, and was borne to his grave, a hoary corpse, followed

by Faith, an aged woman, and children and grand-children, a goodly procession, besides

neighbors, not a few, they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone; for his dying

hour was gloom.

Student 1

Former Student

Professor Nancy Carol Bryant

ENG 251-102

26 November 2019

Aylmer as Tragic Hero in “The Birthmark”

Nathaniel Hawthorne, a prolific writer widely known for The Scarlet Letter, intertwines

the running themes of religion, the innate evils of mankind, and the condition of human ethics

throughout his works. His short fiction possesses the same literary power that many of his novels

do, and “The Birthmark” is no exception, especially when it comes to asking the reader to

observe the moral ambiguities that persist in society. For instance, Aylmer, a character in the

story described by the third-person narrator as “a man of science, an eminent proficient in every

branch of the natural philosophy,” demonstrates a disgraceful avarice for perfection that

ultimately destroys his wife, Georgiana (952). However, despite the superficial appearance of

villainy, Aylmer’s character more closely follows the template of a tragic hero. The distinction

is important because if readers view Aylmer as always already primed for evil, they miss the

ethical point of the work: that tragedy befalls us when we fail to accept imperfection as the

natural state of humankind, a state that ennobles us by encouraging the development of mutual

empathy and service. Close examination demonstrates that the presence of a fatal flaw in

Aylmer, his good intentions and genuine affection for Georgiana, and the epiphany he

experiences in the midst of tragedy all promote his characterization as a tragic hero, not an

irredeemable villain.

Integrally, if Aylmer is a tragic hero, not a villain, he must possess a tragic flaw that leads

to his downfall, and indeed, Aylmer fits this mold. His tragic flaw is hubris brought about by a

Student 2

distorted view of science that causes him to behave more as a magic-seeking medieval alchemist

than as a truth-seeking nineteenth-century chemist. Literary scholar Lea Newman states that

Hawthorne “made Aylmer a tragic hero whose urgent good will coincides with inordinate pride

and a deficient sense of reality” (34). Indeed, Aylmer has trouble accepting reality because he

has trouble understanding human limitations, which is never more evident than when he

describes his absolute faith in the elixir he has brewed to eliminate Georgiana’s one

imperfection: “The concoction of the draught has been perfect… Unless all my science have

deceived me, it cannot fail” (961). A more careful scientist would admit the possibility of human

error, a misunderstanding of principles, or a misapplication of methodologies. Reasonable

scientists know that experiments often do fail or may succeed but with unforeseen consequences

that void the experiment’s initial success. Battling against the very forces of nature, Aylmer

seeks to cure human imperfection, but as Hawthorne’s fiction repeatedly shows, human

imperfection is innate and irreversible, and Aylmer’s experiment perverts the order inherent

within the chaos. In the end, Aylmer achieves his goal of perfecting Georgiana, but the short-

lived accomplishment has fatal consequences, and Georgiana’s last words to Aylmer show that

she is the more apt scientist between them, as she is able to perceive and grasp the enormity of

his tragic flaw.

Another aspect of Aylmer’s characterization that forecloses upon a reading of him as a

common villain is that such a character shows no signs of remorse, acts only for his or her

personal benefit, and strives for a goal intended to destroys the order and peace in society. In

contrast, Aylmer acts on a benevolent intention of “saving” humankind and ultimately shows

signs of remorse for his actions. The impetus for his fatal experiment is a desire to eliminate

Georgiana’s only imperfection—the birthmark on her cheek in the shape of a hand, as if it had

Student 3

been placed there by God himself, as a symbol of humanity’s flawed nature. His goal, then, is to

to release the perfection that she so nearly embodies. As Aylmer later proclaims to Georgiana,

“Thy sensible frame, too, shall soon be all perfect” (961). His apparently superficial fixation with

a mere physical birthmark belies a deeper motive in Aylmer. Scholar Richard Fogle argues that

“Aylmer’s purposes are less inane” because “he seeks his patient’s or victim’s good” (126).

Humanity’s longstanding fascination with good and evil tends to dilute the truer, more relative

nature of morality. Aylmer believes that if he can eliminate physical imperfection, he can

eliminate moral imperfection, as the birthmark has to him become a symbol of humankind’s

moral fallibility. A tragic hero’s motives are more complex, more ambiguous than a strict

villain’s motives. Hawthorne often warns readers of his fictions about the futility of seeking

human perfection. Unfortunately, because Georgiana dies just as the birthmark has faded from

her cheek, the upshot of Aylmer’s experiment is that he “tries to play God and succeeds in

playing the devil instead” (Fogle 126). Hawthorne’s Christian perspective denotes that in

believing that he could repair what God had left imperfect, Aylmer has shown the arrogance of

the devil and has thus taken a human life. However, it is important to understand that Aylmer

does not know this about himself and his motives; it is a lesson he learns only with Georgiana’s

death. It is clear to the reader, though, that his intentions, despite their flawed basis, are more

altruistic than those of a true villain.

Lastly, an epiphany marks a new epoch in the life of a tragic hero. Usually beginning

during or at the end of a tragedy, the epiphany illuminates the tragic hero’s prior blindness to his

tragic flaw. While tragic heroes experience epiphanies that give them moral insight, straight

villains do not. Aylmer’s epiphany arises upon the death of Georgiana when he realizes that his

obsession with the birthmark was corrupt and that if he had “reached a profounder wisdom, he

Student 4

need not thus have flung away the happiness which would have woven his mortal life of the self-

same texture with the celestial” (962). His obsession with Georgiana’s birthmark gradually

clouds his rationality, causing him to be led by his pride and grand illusions. Terence Martin

explains that Aylmer “failed to look beyond the shadowy scope of time, and, living once for all

in eternity… [to] find the perfect future in the present” (962). Martin further elaborates this point

by showing that Aylmer’s epiphany is that “to be is to be imperfect, that the price of human

existence is imperfection” (56). Aylmer unquestionably sets in motion a tragedy when he first

decides to eliminate Georgiana’s birthmark. Moreover, his thinking is flawed, his understanding

of humanity is flawed, and his own character is significantly flawed—however, in the end he

realizes his flaws and now has the opportunity to become a better scientist with more empathy

for humanity’s flaws.

In conclusion, Aylmer’s character accurately demonstrates the elements of a tragic hero.

His fatal flaw, his belief in his benevolent intentions, and his eventual epiphany and

acknowledgement of wrongdoing show that Hawthorne’s purpose was to create a deeply

philosophical (and theological) tragedy that reminds readers of man’s innate and permanent state

of imperfection. In “The Birthmark,” as well as other works by Hawthorne, he consistently

works with the theme of learning to accept ambiguity, even moral ambiguity. On the surface,

Aylmer appears to be a narcissistic, unethical, possibly deranged scientist; however, a more in-

depth analysis of his character reveals a mix of elements found in almost every human being. As

a result, Hawthorne urges readers to empathize with themselves and with each other, to show

some grace when confronted with obvious human failing. By the end of the story, Aylmer is in a

position to do the same.

Student 5

Works Cited

Fogle, Richard H. Hawthorne’s Fiction: The Light & the Dark. University of Oklahoma Press,


Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “The Birthmark.” The American Tradition in Literature, 12th ed., edited

by George Perkins and Barbara Perkins, McGraw Hill, 2009, pp. 952-962.

Martin, Terence. Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Lewis Leary, Revised ed., Twayne Publishers,


Newman, Lea B. V. A Reader’s Guide to the Short Stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by

Hershel Parker, G.K. Hall & Co., 1979.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1798)


An ancient Mariner

meeteth three gallants

bidden to a wedding feast,

and detaineth one.

IT is an ancient Mariner,

And he stoppeth one of three.

‘By thy long beard and glittering eye,

Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?

The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide, 5

And I am next of kin;

The guests are met, the feast is set:

May’st hear the merry din.’

He holds him with his skinny hand,

‘There was a ship,’ quoth he. 10

‘Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!’

Eftsoons his hand dropt he.

The Wedding-Guest is

spell-bound by the eye of

the old seafaring man,

and constrained to hear

his tale.

He holds him with his glittering eye—

The Wedding-Guest stood still,

And listens like a three years’ child: 15

The Mariner hath his will.

The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:

He cannot choose but hear;

And thus spake on that ancient man,

The bright-eyed Mariner. 20

‘The ship was cheer’d, the harbour clear’d,

Merrily did we drop

Below the kirk, below the hill,

Below the lighthouse top.

The Mariner tells how the

ship sailed southward with

a good wind and fair

weather, till it reached the


The Sun came up upon the left, 25

Out of the sea came he!

And he shone bright, and on the right

Went down into the sea.

Higher and higher every day,

Till over the mast at noon——’ 30

The Wedding-Guest here beat his breast,

For he heard the loud bassoon.

The Wedding-Guest The bride hath paced into the hall,

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heareth the bridal music;

but the Mariner continueth

his tale.

Red as a rose is she;

Nodding their heads before her goes 35

The merry minstrelsy.

The Wedding-Guest he beat his breast,

Yet he cannot choose but hear;

And thus spake on that ancient man,

The bright-eyed Mariner. 40

The ship drawn by a

storm toward the South


‘And now the Storm-blast came, and he

Was tyrannous and strong:

He struck with his o’ertaking wings,

And chased us south along.

With sloping masts and dipping prow, 45

As who pursued with yell and blow

Still treads the shadow of his foe,

And forward bends his head,

The ship drove fast, loud roar’d the blast,

The southward aye we fled. 50

And now there came both mist and snow,

And it grew wondrous cold:

And ice, mast-high, came floating by,

As green as emerald.

The land of ice, and of

fearful sounds, where no

living thing was to be


And through the drifts the snowy clifts 55

Did send a dismal sheen:

Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken—

The ice was all between.

The ice was here, the ice was there,

The ice was all around: 60

It crack’d and growl’d, and roar’d and howl’d,

Like noises in a swound!

Till a great sea-bird,

called the Albatross,

came through the snow-

fog, and was received

with great joy and


At length did cross an Albatross,

Thorough the fog it came;

As if it had been a Christian soul, 65

We hail’d it in God’s name.

It ate the food it ne’er had eat,

And round and round it flew.

The ice did split with a thunder-fit;

The helmsman steer’d us through! 70

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And lo! the Albatross

proveth a bird of good

omen, and followeth the

ship as it returned

northward through fog

and floating ice.

And a good south wind sprung up behind;

The Albatross did follow,

And every day, for food or play,

Came to the mariners’ hollo!

In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud, 75

It perch’d for vespers nine;

Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,

Glimmer’d the white moonshine.’

The ancient Mariner

inhospitably killeth the

pious bird of good omen.

‘God save thee, ancient Mariner!

From the fiends, that plague thee thus!— 80

Why look’st thou so?’—’With my crossbow

I shot the Albatross.


‘The Sun now rose upon the right:

Out of the sea came he,

Still hid in mist, and on the left 85

Went down into the sea.

And the good south wind still blew behind,

But no sweet bird did follow,

Nor any day for food or play

Came to the mariners’ hollo! 90

His shipmates cry out

against the ancient

Mariner for killing the bird

of good luck.

And I had done an hellish thing,

And it would work ’em woe:

For all averr’d, I had kill’d the bird

That made the breeze to blow.

Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay, 95

That made the breeze to blow!

But when the fog cleared

off, they justify the same,

and thus make

themselves accomplices

in the crime.

Nor dim nor red, like God’s own head,

The glorious Sun uprist:

Then all averr’d, I had kill’d the bird

That brought the fog and mist. 100

‘Twas right, said they, such birds to slay,

That bring the fog and mist.

The fair breeze continues;

the ship enters the Pacific

Ocean, and sails

northward, even till it

reaches the Line.

The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,

The furrow follow’d free;

We were the first that ever burst 105

Into that silent sea.

The ship hath been Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,

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suddenly becalmed. ‘Twas sad as sad could be;

And we did speak only to break

The silence of the sea! 110

All in a hot and copper sky,

The bloody Sun, at noon,

Right up above the mast did stand,

No bigger than the Moon.

Day after day, day after day, 115

We stuck, nor breath nor motion;

As idle as a painted ship

Upon a painted ocean.

And the Albatross begins

to be avenged.

Water, water, everywhere,

And all the boards did shrink; 120

Water, water, everywhere,

Nor any drop to drink.

The very deep did rot: O Christ!

That ever this should be!

Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs 125

Upon the slimy sea.

About, about, in reel and rout

The death-fires danced at night;

The water, like a witch’s oils,

Burnt green, and blue, and white. 130

A Spirit had followed

them; one of the invisible

inhabitants of this planet,

neither departed souls nor

angels; concerning whom

the learned Jew,

Josephus, and the



Michael Psellus, may be

consulted. They are very

numerous, and there is no

climate or element without

one or more.

And some in dreams assuréd were

Of the Spirit that plagued us so;

Nine fathom deep he had followed us

From the land of mist and snow.

And every tongue, through utter drought, 135

Was wither’d at the root;

We could not speak, no more than if

We had been choked with soot.

The shipmates in their

sore distress, would fain

throw the whole guilt on

the ancient Mariner: in

sign whereof they hang

the dead sea-bird round

his neck.

Ah! well a-day! what evil looks

Had I from old and young! 140

Instead of the cross, the Albatross

About my neck was hung.


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‘There passed a weary time. Each throat

Was parch’d, and glazed each eye.

A weary time! a weary time! 145

How glazed each weary eye!

The ancient Mariner

beholdeth a sign in the

element afar off.

When looking westward, I beheld

A something in the sky.

At first it seem’d a little speck,

And then it seem’d a mist; 150

It moved and moved, and took at last

A certain shape, I wist.

A speck, a mist, a shape, I wist!

And still it near’d and near’d:

As if it dodged a water-sprite, 155

It plunged, and tack’d, and veer’d.

At its nearer approach, it

seemeth him to be a ship;

and at a dear ransom he

freeth his speech from the

bonds of thirst.

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,

We could nor laugh nor wail;

Through utter drought all dumb we stood!

I bit my arm, I suck’d the blood, 160

And cried, A sail! a sail!

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,

Agape they heard me call:

A flash of joy; Gramercy! they for joy did grin,

And all at once their breath drew in, 165

As they were drinking all.

And horror follows. For

can it be a ship that

comes onward without

wind or tide?

See! see! (I cried) she tacks no more!

Hither to work us weal—

Without a breeze, without a tide,

She steadies with upright keel! 170

The western wave was all aflame,

The day was wellnigh done!

Almost upon the western wave

Rested the broad, bright Sun;

When that strange shape drove suddenly 175

Betwixt us and the Sun.

It seemeth him but the

skeleton of a ship.

And straight the Sun was fleck’d with bars

(Heaven’s Mother send us grace!),

As if through a dungeon-grate he peer’d

With broad and burning face. 180

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Alas! (thought I, and my heart beat loud)

How fast she nears and nears!

Are those her sails that glance in the Sun,

Like restless gossameres?

And its ribs are seen as

bars on the face of the

setting Sun. The Spectre-

Woman and her Death-

mate, and no other on

board the skeleton ship.

Like vessel, like crew!

Are those her ribs through which the Sun 185

Did peer, as through a grate?

And is that Woman all her crew?

Is that a Death? and are there two?

Is Death that Woman’s mate?

Her lips were red, her looks were free, 190

Her locks were yellow as gold:

Her skin was as white as leprosy,

The Nightmare Life-in-Death was she,

Who thicks man’s blood with cold.

Death and Life-in-Death

have diced for the ship’s

crew, and she (the latter)

winneth the ancient


The naked hulk alongside came, 195

And the twain were casting dice;

“The game is done! I’ve won! I’ve won!”

Quoth she, and whistles thrice.

No twilight within the

courts of the Sun.

The Sun’s rim dips; the stars rush out: 200

At one stride comes the dark;

With far-heard whisper, o’er the sea,

Off shot the spectre-bark.

We listen’d and look’d sideways up!

Fear at my heart, as at a cup, 205

My life-blood seem’d to sip!

The stars were dim, and thick the night,

The steersman’s face by his lamp gleam’d white;

From the sails the dew did drip—

At the rising of the Moon, Till clomb above the eastern bar 210

The hornéd Moon, with one bright star

Within the nether tip.

One after another, One after one, by the star-dogg’d Moon,

Too quick for groan or sigh,

Each turn’d his face with a ghastly pang, 215

And cursed me with his eye.

His shipmates drop down


Four times fifty living men

(And I heard nor sigh nor groan),

With heavy thump, a lifeless lump,

They dropp’d down one by one. 220

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But Life-in-Death begins

her work on the ancient


The souls did from their bodies fly—

They fled to bliss or woe!

And every soul, it pass’d me by

Like the whizz of my crossbow!’


The Wedding-Guest

feareth that a spirit is

talking to him;

‘I fear thee, ancient Mariner! 225

I fear thy skinny hand!

And thou art long, and lank, and brown,

As is the ribb’d sea-sand.

I fear thee and thy glittering eye,

And thy skinny hand so brown.’— 230

But the ancient Mariner

assureth him of his bodily

life, and proceedeth to

relate his horrible


‘Fear not, fear not, thou Wedding-Guest!

This body dropt not down.

Alone, alone, all, all alone,

Alone on a wide, wide sea!

And never a saint took pity on 235

My soul in agony.

He despiseth the

creatures of the calm.

The many men, so beautiful!

And they all dead did lie:

And a thousand thousand slimy things

Lived on; and so did I. 240

And envieth that they

should live, and so many

lie dead.

I look’d upon the rotting sea,

And drew my eyes away;

I look’d upon the rotting deck,

And there the dead men lay.

I look’d to heaven, and tried to pray; 245

But or ever a prayer had gusht,

A wicked whisper came, and made

My heart as dry as dust.

I closed my lids, and kept them close,

And the balls like pulses beat; 250

For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky,

Lay like a load on my weary eye,

And the dead were at my feet.

But the curse liveth for

him in the eye of the dead


The cold sweat melted from their limbs,

Nor rot nor reek did they: 255

The look with which they look’d on me

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Had never pass’d away.

An orphan’s curse would drag to hell

A spirit from on high;

But oh! more horrible than that 260

Is the curse in a dead man’s eye!

Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse,

And yet I could not die.

In his loneliness and

fixedness he yearneth

towards the journeying

Moon, and the stars that

still sojourn, yet still move

onward; and everywhere

the blue sky belongs to

them, and is their

appointed rest and their

native country and their

own natural homes, which

they enter unannounced,

as lords that are certainly

expected, and yet there is

a silent joy at their arrival.

The moving Moon went up the sky,

And nowhere did abide; 265

Softly she was going up,

And a star or two beside—

Her beams bemock’d the sultry main,

Like April hoar-frost spread;

But where the ship’s huge shadow lay, 270

The charméd water burnt alway

A still and awful red.

By the light of the Moon

he beholdeth God’s

creatures of the great


Beyond the shadow of the ship,

I watch’d the water-snakes:

They moved in tracks of shining white, 275

And when they rear’d, the elfish light

Fell off in hoary flakes.

Within the shadow of the ship

I watch’d their rich attire:

Blue, glossy green, and velvet black, 280

They coil’d and swam; and every track

Was a flash of golden fire.

Their beauty and their


O happy living things! no tongue

Their beauty might declare:

A spring of love gush’d from my heart, 285

He blesseth them in his


And I bless’d them unaware:

Sure my kind saint took pity on me,

And I bless’d them unaware.

The spell begins to break. The selfsame moment I could pray;

And from my neck so free 290

The Albatross fell off, and sank

Like lead into the sea.


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‘O sleep! it is a gentle thing,

Beloved from pole to pole!

To Mary Queen the praise be given! 295

She sent the gentle sleep from Heaven,

That slid into my soul.

By grace of the holy

Mother, the ancient

Mariner is refreshed with


The silly buckets on the deck,

That had so long remain’d,

I dreamt that they were fill’d with dew; 300

And when I awoke, it rain’d.

My lips were wet, my throat was cold,

My garments all were dank;

Sure I had drunken in my dreams,

And still my body drank. 305

I moved, and could not feel my limbs:

I was so light—almost

I thought that I had died in sleep,

And was a blesséd ghost.

He heareth sounds and

seeth strange sights and

commotions in the sky

and the element.

And soon I heard a roaring wind: 310

It did not come anear;

But with its sound it shook the sails,

That were so thin and sere.

The upper air burst into life;

And a hundred fire-flags sheen; 315

To and fro they were hurried about!

And to and fro, and in and out,

The wan stars danced between.

And the coming wind did roar more loud,

And the sails did sigh like sedge; 320

And the rain pour’d down from one black cloud;

The Moon was at its edge.

The thick black cloud was cleft, and still

The Moon was at its side;

Like waters shot from some high crag, 325

The lightning fell with never a jag,

A river steep and wide.

The bodies of the ship’s

crew are inspired, and the

ship moves on;

The loud wind never reach’d the ship,

Yet now the ship moved on!

Beneath the lightning and the Moon 330

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The dead men gave a groan.

They groan’d, they stirr’d, they all uprose,

Nor spake, nor moved their eyes;

It had been strange, even in a dream,

To have seen those dead men rise. 335

The helmsman steer’d, the ship moved on;

Yet never a breeze up-blew;

The mariners all ‘gan work the ropes,

Where they were wont to do;

They raised their limbs like lifeless tools— 340

We were a ghastly crew.

The body of my brother’s son

Stood by me, knee to knee:

The body and I pull’d at one rope,

But he said naught to me.’ 345

But not by the souls of the

men, nor by demons of

earth or middle air, but by

a blessed troop of angelic

spirits, sent down by the

invocation of the guardian


‘I fear thee, ancient Mariner!’

Be calm, thou Wedding-Guest:

‘Twas not those souls that fled in pain,

Which to their corses came again,

But a troop of spirits blest: 350

For when it dawn’d—they dropp’d their arms,

And cluster’d round the mast;

Sweet sounds rose slowly through their mouths,

And from their bodies pass’d.

Around, around, flew each sweet sound, 355

Then darted to the Sun;

Slowly the sounds came back again,

Now mix’d, now one by one.

Sometimes a-dropping from the sky

I heard the skylark sing; 360

Sometimes all little birds that are,

How they seem’d to fill the sea and air

With their sweet jargoning!

And now ’twas like all instruments,

Now like a lonely flute; 365

And now it is an angel’s song,

That makes the Heavens be mute.

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It ceased; yet still the sails made on

A pleasant noise till noon,

A noise like of a hidden brook 370

In the leafy month of June,

That to the sleeping woods all night

Singeth a quiet tune.

Till noon we quietly sail’d on,

Yet never a breeze did breathe: 375

Slowly and smoothly went the ship,

Moved onward from beneath.

The lonesome Spirit from

the South Pole carries on

the ship as far as the

Line, in obedience to the

angelic troop, but still

requireth vengeance.

Under the keel nine fathom deep,

From the land of mist and snow,

The Spirit slid: and it was he 380

That made the ship to go.

The sails at noon left off their tune,

And the ship stood still also.

The Sun, right up above the mast,

Had fix’d her to the ocean: 385

But in a minute she ‘gan stir,

With a short uneasy motion—

Backwards and forwards half her length

With a short uneasy motion.

Then like a pawing horse let go, 390

She made a sudden bound:

It flung the blood into my head,

And I fell down in a swound.

The Polar Spirit’s fellow-

demons, the invisible

inhabitants of the

element, take part in his

wrong; and two of them

relate, one to the other,

that penance long and

heavy for the ancient

Mariner hath been

accorded to the Polar

Spirit, who returneth


How long in that same fit I lay,

I have not to declare; 395

But ere my living life return’d,

I heard, and in my soul discern’d

Two voices in the air.

“Is it he?” quoth one, “is this the man?

By Him who died on cross, 400

With his cruel bow he laid full low

The harmless Albatross.

The Spirit who bideth by himself

In the land of mist and snow,

He loved the bird that loved the man 405

Who shot him with his bow.”

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The other was a softer voice,

As soft as honey-dew:

Quoth he, “The man hath penance done,

And penance more will do.” 410


First Voice: ‘”But tell me, tell me! speak again,

Thy soft response renewing—

What makes that ship drive on so fast?

What is the Ocean doing?”

Second Voice: “Still as a slave before his lord, 415

The Ocean hath no blast;

His great bright eye most silently

Up to the Moon is cast—

If he may know which way to go;

For she guides him smooth or grim. 420

See, brother, see! how graciously

She looketh down on him.”

The Mariner hath been

cast into a trance; for the

angelic power causeth the

vessel to drive northward

faster than human life

could endure.

First Voice: “But why drives on that ship so fast,

Without or wave or wind?”

Second Voice: “The air is cut away before, 425

And closes from behind.

Fly, brother, fly! more high, more high!

Or we shall be belated:

For slow and slow that ship will go,

When the Mariner’s trance is abated.’ 430

The supernatural motion

is retarded; the Mariner

awakes, and his penance

begins anew.

I woke, and we were sailing on

As in a gentle weather:

‘Twas night, calm night, the Moon was high;

The dead men stood together.

All stood together on the deck, 435

For a charnel-dungeon fitter:

All fix’d on me their stony eyes,

That in the Moon did glitter.

The pang, the curse, with which they died,

Had never pass’d away: 440

I could not draw my eyes from theirs,

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Nor turn them up to pray.

The curse is finally


And now this spell was snapt: once more

I viewed the ocean green,

And look’d far forth, yet little saw 445

Of what had else been seen—

Like one that on a lonesome road

Doth walk in fear and dread,

And having once turn’d round, walks on,

And turns no more his head; 450

Because he knows a frightful fiend

Doth close behind him tread.

But soon there breathed a wind on me,

Nor sound nor motion made:

Its path was not upon the sea, 455

In ripple or in shade.

It raised my hair, it fann’d my cheek

Like a meadow-gale of spring—

It mingled strangely with my fears,

Yet it felt like a welcoming. 460

Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship,

Yet she sail’d softly too:

Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze—

On me alone it blew.

And the ancient Mariner

beholdeth his native


O dream of joy! is this indeed 465

The lighthouse top I see?

Is this the hill? is this the kirk?

Is this mine own countree?

We drifted o’er the harbour-bar,

And I with sobs did pray— 470

O let me be awake, my God!

Or let me sleep alway.

The harbour-bay was clear as glass,

So smoothly it was strewn!

And on the bay the moonlight lay, 475

And the shadow of the Moon.

The rock shone bright, the kirk no less

That stands above the rock:

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The moonlight steep’d in silentness

The steady weathercock. 480

The angelic spirits leave

the dead bodies,

And the bay was white with silent light

Till rising from the same,

Full many shapes, that shadows were,

In crimson colours came.

And appear in their own

forms of light.

A little distance from the prow 485

Those crimson shadows were:

I turn’d my eyes upon the deck—

O Christ! what saw I there!

Each corse lay flat, lifeless and flat,

And, by the holy rood! 490

A man all light, a seraph-man,

On every corse there stood.

This seraph-band, each waved his hand:

It was a heavenly sight!

They stood as signals to the land, 495

Each one a lovely light;

This seraph-band, each waved his hand,

No voice did they impart—

No voice; but O, the silence sank

Like music on my heart. 500

But soon I heard the dash of oars,

I heard the Pilot’s cheer;

My head was turn’d perforce away,

And I saw a boat appear.

The Pilot and the Pilot’s boy, 505

I heard them coming fast:

Dear Lord in Heaven! it was a joy

The dead men could not blast.

I saw a third—I heard his voice:

It is the Hermit good! 510

He singeth loud his godly hymns

That he makes in the wood.

He’ll shrieve my soul, he’ll wash away

The Albatross’s blood.


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The Hermit of the Wood. ‘This Hermit good lives in that wood 515

Which slopes down to the sea.

How loudly his sweet voice he rears!

He loves to talk with marineres

That come from a far countree.

He kneels at morn, and noon, and eve— 520

He hath a cushion plump:

It is the moss that wholly hides

The rotted old oak-stump.

The skiff-boat near’d: I heard them talk,

“Why, this is strange, I trow! 525

Where are those lights so many and fair,

That signal made but now?”

Approacheth the ship with


“Strange, by my faith!” the Hermit said—

“And they answer’d not our cheer!

The planks looked warp’d! and see those sails, 530

How thin they are and sere!

I never saw aught like to them,

Unless perchance it were

Brown skeletons of leaves that lag

My forest-brook along; 535

When the ivy-tod is heavy with snow,

And the owlet whoops to the wolf below,

That eats the she-wolf’s young.”

“Dear Lord! it hath a fiendish look—

(The Pilot made reply) 540

I am a-fear’d”—”Push on, push on!”

Said the Hermit cheerily.

The boat came closer to the ship,

But I nor spake nor stirr’d;

The boat came close beneath the ship, 545

And straight a sound was heard.

The ship suddenly


Under the water it rumbled on,

Still louder and more dread:

It reach’d the ship, it split the bay;

The ship went down like lead. 550

The ancient Mariner is

saved in the Pilot’s boat.

Stunn’d by that loud and dreadful sound,

Which sky and ocean smote,

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Like one that hath been seven days drown’d

My body lay afloat;

But swift as dreams, myself I found 555

Within the Pilot’s boat.

Upon the whirl, where sank the ship,

The boat spun round and round;

And all was still, save that the hill

Was telling of the sound. 560

I moved my lips—the Pilot shriek’d

And fell down in a fit;

The holy Hermit raised his eyes,

And pray’d where he did sit.

I took the oars: the Pilot’s boy, 565

Who now doth crazy go,

Laugh’d loud and long, and all the while

His eyes went to and fro.

“Ha! ha!” quoth he, “full plain I see

The Devil knows how to row.” 570

And now, all in my own countree,

I stood on the firm land!

The Hermit stepp’d forth from the boat,

And scarcely he could stand.

The ancient Mariner

earnestly entreateth the

Hermit to shrieve him; and

the penance of life falls on


“O shrieve me, shrieve me, holy man!” 575

The Hermit cross’d his brow.

“Say quick,” quoth he, “I bid thee say—

What manner of man art thou?”

Forthwith this frame of mine was wrench’d

With a woful agony, 580

Which forced me to begin my tale;

And then it left me free.

And ever and anon

throughout his future life

an agony constraineth

him to travel from land to


Since then, at an uncertain hour,

That agony returns:

And till my ghastly tale is told, 585

This heart within me burns.

I pass, like night, from land to land;

I have strange power of speech;

That moment that his face I see,

I know the man that must hear me: 590

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To him my tale I teach.

What loud uproar bursts from that door!

The wedding-guests are there:

But in the garden-bower the bride

And bride-maids singing are: 595

And hark the little vesper bell,

Which biddeth me to prayer!

O Wedding-Guest! this soul hath been

Alone on a wide, wide sea:

So lonely ’twas, that God Himself 600

Scarce seeméd there to be.

O sweeter than the marriage-feast,

‘Tis sweeter far to me,

To walk together to the kirk

With a goodly company!— 605

To walk together to the kirk,

And all together pray,

While each to his great Father bends,

Old men, and babes, and loving friends,

And youths and maidens gay! 610

And to teach, by his own

example, love and

reverence to all things

that God made and


Farewell, farewell! but this I tell

To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!

He prayeth well, who loveth well

Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best 615

All things both great and small;

For the dear God who loveth us,

He made and loveth all.’

The Mariner, whose eye is bright,

Whose beard with age is hoar, 620

Is gone: and now the Wedding-Guest

Turn’d from the bridegroom’s door.

He went like one that hath been stunn’d,

And is of sense forlorn:

A sadder and a wiser man 625

He rose the morrow morn.

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