Much of what defined Romantic poetry is its use of flowery language, its indulgence in the senses, and its focus on intuition over reason. All of these factors seep into the emotion of the reader, or at least it attempts to. With poems written in a lyrical ballad, a song like form is almost encouraged when reading these poems. None so much as Samuel Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
When this piece was sung by the heavy metal band Iron Maiden, the emphasis moved from old Poe-like horror to a more exciting tale of adventure. The poem is a story, regardless if it’s read or sung, but the emphasis on characters becomes exaggerated depending on how the piece is portrayed. For example, the poem itself has a few characters of interest, the mariner being the obvious focus. Within the song, Life itself becomes an important emphasized character. This is seen in 4:02 of the song,
“She… she, Life in Death,
She lets him live, her chosen one”
If character and genre, like adventure, are the main focus in the song, then one might venture to say the small background details are more elevated in the poem. By reading lines of rich flowery detail, common to poems within the Romantic era, these lines are not so easily drowned out by other factors like the singers’ tone of voice, or the instruments in the background. Instead, details are indeed what enrich the poem, making the journey more important than the genre or “the main character”.
Iron Maiden’s version of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner alter it for various reasons, shifting the focus of perspective due to other nuances like music. But it fits into the emphasis of Romantic poetry as it seeks to further saturate the story with feeling. There is no attempt in trying to take the story away from itself, or change its meaning in any way, simply it adds a new taste, indeed shifting perspectives, but offering another flavor to the romantic and dreamy style prose.
One thing to keep in mind is in fact Iron Maiden’s ability to alter with the use of music. It is very much like John Berger’s Ways of Seeing in which he talks about how the mood or story of a painting can be altered by adding music, as an example. Does this example apply to the poem in which music takes the original feelings away from the poem, and thus negatively stripping the poem of its originality? Or maybe music just gives the purpose of this misty poem a fresh coat of paint.
Food for thought.