In the appendices to this Broadview edition, reviews, correspondence, and a selection of contemporary verse and prose situate the work within the popular and experimental literature of its time, and allow readers to trace the work’s transformations in response to the pressures of the literary marketplace.
The mariner's tale begins with his ship departing on its journey. Despite initial good fortune, the ship is driven south by a storm and eventually reaches Antarctica. An albatross appears and leads them out of the Antarctic, but even as the albatross is praised by the ship's crew, the mariner shoots the bird ("with my cross-bow / I shot the albatross"). The crew is angry with the mariner, believing the albatross brought the south wind that led them out of the Antarctic. However, the sailors change their minds when the weather becomes warmer and the mist disappears ("'Twas right, said they, such birds to slay / that bring the fog and mist"). However, they made a grave mistake in supporting this crime, as it arouses the wrath of spirits who then pursue the ship "from the land of mist and snow"; the south wind that had initially led them from the land of ice now sends the ship into uncharted waters, where it is becalmed.
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
-- Kubla Khan