On a surface level the poem explores a violation of nature and the resulting psychological effects on the mariner and on all those who hear him. According to Jerome McGann the poem is like a salvation story. The poem's structure is multi-layered text based on Coleridge's interest in Higher Criticism . "Like the Iliad or Paradise Lost or any great historical product, the Rime is a work of transhistorical rather than so-called universal significance. This verbal distinction is important because it calls attention to a real one. Like The Divine Comedy or any other poem, the Rime is not valued or used always or everywhere or by everyone in the same way or for the same reasons." 
"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is said to have been inspired by several historical sources. These include Captain James Cook's voyages, the legend of the Wandering Jew, and especially Captain George Shelvocke's 1726 A Voyage 'Round the World , in which he describes how one of his shipmates shot an albatross that he believed had made the wind disappear. Other sources claim that the poem was inspired by a dream of Coleridge's friend, Cruikshank, and still others believe that Coleridge wrote the strange, sensually-rich text under the influence of opium, as he did his famous "Kubla Khan." "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" has become an important landmark in the literary canon since its publication, and has also contributed certain phrases to common speech. The most notable of these is the secondary definition of the word "albatross," often used to denote "a constant, worrisome burden" or "an obstacle to success." Also in common usage are the poem's most famous lines: "Water, water, every where, / Nor any drop to drink." The phrase has come to mean any situation in which one is surrounded by the object of one's desire but is unable to partake.