The hidden years in Canada 52, rime of the ancient mariner

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Sunday 07 June 23:02


Rime of the Ancient mariner

Here comes the sun, came out of the dashboard and the harpsichord framing made it almost into something baroque. ‘Hey there it really comes’ I said, and we saw the rising sun himself  working his way up beyond the horizons of foothills, that would be called mountains elsewhere in the world. Calgary was built on a plateau, an area between the foothills. Somewhere in that splendor was a town built by farmers that because of the oil people who moved their offices there, had grown into a small city. A hub of commerce that gave wings to the growth which had now become a complex of streets and avenues, through which we drove. The old Pontiac made his way through the maze of traffic lights and intersections and arrived at the parking lot besides the office, where soon the girls would work orders out, when we  were long gone to earn their living.

The girls were stuck up to us, they would not deem us worthy enough to be acknowledged. We might encounter them later in Toby's jug and then they’d be only too happy to drink from us, but in the workplace we were something that ought to crawl under a rock. It was all so fake, and with that thought lingering behind my footsteps we walked to the blue monster that had a cargo really piled up high. ‘Drive her carefully,’  said the forklift driver who followed my gaze, ‘that is going  to grab a lot of wind.’ ‘Thanks,’ I said, ‘I was thinking about the same.’ Old diesels do not have electronic fuel injection, the fuel ignites under compression. The ignition key slid down a few positions and you’d put it in the first position and waited and then you counted slowly to 20. In those 20 counts a filament began to heat the piston and you could start it, if you turned the key next position by turning it,then the fuel pump that went electric would kick in, if you’d turn the key back, the engine stopped because of lack of fuel.

With old diesels that was called glowing. a cold start is impossible and will only cough out soot clouds of unburned diesel from the exhaust pipe. The first work stroke must be made by the piston in the cylinder that pumps over and over again, if you wanted to start it. You’d see the dashboard lights weaken the moment you glowed, which meant it took quite a toll on the battery. Then you could not immediately drive off, the diesel had to come up to temperature, otherwise you’d turn the engine into pulp. The longer you're on the road with an old diesel, the better it runs. At that time you ‘d sit behind the wheel and you’d  study the freight bills. 'It is Medicine Hat today, ‘I told Rico. ‘It will be a long day. We’ll go 600 kilometers round trip and must unload manually, we’l stop for coffee in Brooks. ‘


It was funny that we had been friends for a long time, but that the planning of the driver, was accepted without any back talk. In those hours I had the RESPONSIBILITY and I took it. Rico pulled a book out of a plastic grocery bag. ‘Oh yes,’ I said,’ poems, huh?’ ‘Yes’, chuckled Rico,’ I have with me the anthology of verse.’ ‘If you can just wait until we are out of town where there is less traffic’, I said and brought the blue monster slowly, feeling my way through the combinations of low gears.

After a few hours of driving Rico reached my favorite verse from ‘the Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, by Coleridge. He read a verse. Paused and we let it sink in and then he read it once before and then we discussed the possible images that it evoked. A stanza, which had found its way into contemporary English and had become a saying, since it was born from the pen of Coleridge, in 1798:


Day after day, day after day, We stuck, nor breath nor motion; Axis idle as a painted ship Upon a painted ocean. Water, water, every where, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink.

Ironically, the sailor on his ship of the dead, surrounded by water but there was not a drop to drink because if you drink sea water you will only become more thirsty.


‘I fear thee, ancient Mariner!

I fear thy skinny hand!

And thou art long, and slow, and brown,

Axis is the ribbed sea-sand.



I fear thee and thy glittering eye,

And thy skinny hand, so brown .'-

Fear not, fear not, thou Wedding-Guest!

This body dropt not down.

‘It could have been better,’ I said, 'I think Coleridge was tired. It starts to be doggerel. How many verses Rico? ‘ ‘A hundred or so,’ said my co-driver. ‘He could not bring it to an end, which is ugly’, I continued. ‘He becomes redundant, he starts to repeat himself, adds superfluous words.‘ ‘Do you really mean that,’ said Rico, 'are we talking about the great Coleridge, are you pounding him into the ground? ‘ ‘Yes,’ I said, 'Coleridge raped his own verse. Strong meter, turn per verse into pure gibberish. ‘ and so knocking the great Coleridge, we arrived at our first coffee stop.

Coffee coffee every where

I want a drop to drink


Laughing we got out and I closed the door and we left filled with maritime disasters and demons, visiting sailors, on our way to a drop to drink.

San Daniel 2015

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