(line number references are to the 1834 version of the poem unless otherwise stated).


The date of the voyage is unspecified because it is in a sense timeless, though there are some clues. The archiac words and many of the lines suggest a medieval period. For example, crossbows (line 81) were not used after the sixteenth century and many of the Christian oaths and viewpoints expressed are pre-Reformation. The best indication is given in lines 105-106; the first reliable record of a ship “breaking into that silent sea” (the Pacific) was Magellan’s voyage of 1520, so the Mariner’s voyage must have taken place before then. (Magellan’s route was through the Straits named after him, north of Tierra del Fuego; the Cape of Good Hope, the southernmost tip of the South American continent, was not rounded until Drake's voyage of 1578.) On the other hand, knowledge of the earth’s geography sufficient to make such a voyage even thinkable was only really discovered in the fifteenth century, the age of the navigators.

So for those who want to fix a date, 1500 is as good as any.

Magellan’s ship under reconstruction in Puerto Rico