Samuel Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” has been cycled over the years as an epitome of the Romantic era, where the natural world and love was valued high as a response to the changing industrial world that seemed to dull these sensations. However, Coleridge’s poem seems to have appealed to a metal band like Iron Maiden as an important source of inspiration. Metal usually does not seem to be in the same category as romantic, but this is usually because the way metal is perceived, especially by those that are not familiar with metal. I am not so familiar with metal myself, so from my vantage point, I can see how the specific hard, fast-paced metal sound of Iron Maiden gives them the characteristic of industry—and anything but the valuing of the natural world. In the band’s song of the same name, there is a moment when the sound softens up for spoken lyrics to be said:
“One after one by the star dogged moon,
too quick for groan or sigh
each turned his face with a ghastly pang
and cursed me with his eye
four times fifty living men
(and I heard nor sigh nor groan)
with heavy thump, a lifeless lump,
they dropped down one by one.”
This is directly taken from the poem toward the end of part III, and it almost seems as if the band excuses themselves by choosing to include the poem section without the fast-paced music in the background. However, even so, when put in the context of a metal song, the dark sensory details and imagery have taken on another sensibility. Much like the ballads and the folklore of any society, reinterpretations are the lifeblood of having folkloric art. In this sense, the Iron Maiden song is another reinterpretation that has given the poem another genre altogether with the same material though. When the poem utilized the description of Death and Life-in-Death in the 10-11 stanzas of part III, the audience obviously will think spooky:
“Are those her ribs through which the Sun
Did peer, as through a grate?
And is that Woman all her crew?
Is that a DEATH? and are there two?
Is DEATH that woman’s mate?
Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was as white as leprosy,
The Night-mare Life-in-Death was she,
Who thicks man’s blood with cold.”
However, the poem gives it a more spectral tone while the song utilizes a lot of the same language but different delivery. As I mentioned earlier, the poem has transcended a different genre through the interpretation done by Iron Maiden. In Iron Maiden’s use of the death-related imagery, the audience is captivated more by the confrontational style of the song since it is basically yelled and aggressive in its delivery. The song however, bears the burden of illegitimacy since some could say it is a rip-off of the poem, but I believe the different characteristics of the song give it a different style, but still valid modernization of the material/language.