We saw a performance of ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, with selected music by Purcell, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Rory Kinnear did an excellent delivery of the poem, while the music came from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, memorably including a theorbo, a kind of gigantic lute.
In some ways it was an odd combination, as the poem is obviously not contemporary with Purcell. It worked pretty well, though: perhaps it helped that Coleridge’s poem is self-consciously archaic in manner – something that made it an uncomfortable inclusion in the Lyrical Ballads when first published, as that was supposed to demonstrate poetry in ordinary language. The content of the Rime doesn’t really bear much examination, but it is full of powerful images and phrases, which explains its enduring popularity.