In The MS found in a Bottle, the narrator, after a shipwreck (= naufragio), , is violently thrust (= si ritrova gettato ) upon a phantom ship which has come along. Here the narrator finds outdated maps (= vecchie mappe) and useless navigational tools (= strumenti di navigazione inutilizzabili). Everything on the vessel is very strange and inexplicable to his eyes. Also the crew is old and seem unable to see him. The ship continues its journey southwards and the sailors show signs of hope while they are going to their destruction. Before sinking into a whirlpool (= prima di affondare in un vortice) a the mariner has the time to throw (= gettare) a manuscript (the “manuscript” of the title) in a bottle into the sea..
MS. Found in a Bottle is a horror story about scientific imaginings and the description of a physical world beyond the limits of human exploration.
The supernatural ship the narrator finds himself on brings to mind the story of other legendary ghost ships in The Flying Dutchman, in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.
E. A. Poe quoted S. T. Coleridge as one of his most influent sources. In fact, A Manuscript Found in a Bottle for example, is centred on the struggle of two worlds, death and life-in-death and on the delicate barriers between the commonplace and transient, the mysterious and the eternal, elements that remind S. T. Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Even in this poem, contained in The Lyrical Ballads (1789), the manifesto of the Romantic Movement in
, the poet writes about the meeting of a crew (= ciurma), microcosm of the world, and a ship where death and life-in-death are sailing and playing dice (= giocano a dadi) the destiny of the mariner and his companions. The storm (= tempesta) , the whirlpool, the unknown areas like the South Pole, are all features (= caratteristiche) present both in the poem and in the tale. One of the characters of the tale himself, the Swede (= lo Svedese) , resembles the Ancient Mariner of the Ballad: both of them are figures who react as uneducated men (= uomini incolti) to the revelation of worlds beyond their understanding (= comprensione) as it is the world of our own mind and soul.
The exotic, remote and even imaginary worlds provide the landscape for a psychological descent of man in the depth (= profondità) of his soul , the painted ocean where both sun and ice coexists (so great is the power of imagination, a power that combines the opposites), and where the mariner/every man blesses even the slimy things (= cose viscide) . (see The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, part 2).
The difference between these two great works of art lays (= sta) in their message: Poe’s aim ( scopo) was to frighten the reader who sees his own soul mirrored (= riflesso) in the immense and unknown sea; Coleridge’s purpose was mainly didactic as he wanted to make his reader reflect on Christian values such as punishment, pity and forgiveness (= perdono).