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Sin and Suffering

            And we were three - yet, each alone (The Prisoner of Chillon, III, 49).
             Alone, alone, all, all alone (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, IV, 232).
             These lines are taken from the poems of two virtually opposite writers, both of whom, however, reveal a deep interest in the effect which a person's (mis)deeds can have on his own life or on other people's lives. In The Prisoner of Chillon the three brothers have to suffer for their father's beliefs. In The Rime of the Ancient Mariner the Mariner has to bear the consequences of his own action. The price which all of them have to pay, though, is ultimately the same: estrangement from the rest of mankind, utter loneliness, stagnation, and the oppression of silentness. These form the parts of an ordeal during which the sinner has to reconsider and reassess his attitude towards life in order to pass through it and be admitted again into the world of the living. Both the Mariner and the eldest of the brothers (the sole survivor of six) experience similar sufferings, finally to return to the world as different human beings with changed views and new beliefs.
             Between the two poems, however, there are differences as well as similarities - the most obvious being probably intimately linked with the different dispositions of the two poets. While Coleridge fuses the natural with the supernatural in a nevertheless vivid description of one man's suffering in the open sea where he is left at the mercy of the elements, Byron's description is much more realistic as a portrayal of a man who is going through great psychological torment. The settings also are very different - a ship lost at sea, at one moment hurled by the wild waves and at the next set motionless upon "a painted ocean", as opposed to the bare cell where the only motion comes from the prisoners themselves and the only sound (apart from their attempts to speak to each other) is the clanking of their chains.

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