In this fragment from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, what does but or ever mean?
I looked to heaven, and tried to pray;
But or ever a prayer had gusht,
A wicked whisper came, and made
My heart as dry as dust.
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But and ever hold their usual meanings, the tricky one is 'or'. It would appear to be an archaic or dialectic form for 'before'
(now archaic or dialect) Before; ere.
1485, Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur, Book VII: "Sey ye never so," seyde Sir Bors, "for many tymys or this she hath bene wroth with you, and aftir that she was the firste that repented hit."