Gustave Doré

French, 1832–1883

The Ice Was All Around, illustration for Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, New York, Harper and Row, 1877

And now there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.

And through the drifts the snowy cliffs
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.
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!

—Samuel Coleridge, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 1798

Gustave Doré illustrated a new edition of Samuel Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which was unveiled during the height of public interest in polar exploration. Coleridge’s poem was inspired by accounts of Captain Cook’s journey, related to the poet by his tutor, who was the astronomer aboard the expedition.

In his engravings, Doré dramatizes the fate of a captain and his crew whose ship veers off course toward Antarctica. An albatross appears suddenly, and their fortunes favorably turn out of danger. But after their leader kills the albatross, all the men perish. The surviving mariner eventually redeems himself, but must wander the earth espousing the love of all living things.