Iron Maiden’s rendition of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Coleridge encaptures a modern interpretation of the poem, in the form of metal music. Moving past text on a piece of paper, the melodic transposition of the poem into metal music is very intense in its purpose: Iron Maiden offers a unique perspective in which to interpret the poem by combining the senses (auditory and visual), which is a staple in Romanticism.
Direct references are paid to Coleridge’s poem, exemplifying a sense of responsibility the band has to the poem:
“Day after day, day after day,
we stuck nor breath nor motion
as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean
Water, water everywhere and
all the boards did shrink
Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink.”
While the lyrics aren’t verbatim to the poem’s lines, it nonetheless follows the same idea as the original but highlights the imagery further. The image of a painting comes into play, calling forth thoughts of a paintbrush strokes, ever so harsh and careful as the sea itself. Furthermore, the structure of the song parallels that of a storm at sea; in between the heavy riffs and screaming vocals, we are taken to a calm interlude-mimicking the eye of the storm. In this interlude, we find shelter and are given the chance for self-reflection just as the mariner contemplates his fallen crew and the eeriness of the ghost ship.
The purpose of the poem’s rendition to music lies in the foundations of Romanticism itself. To be accessible to others, to both admire and fear nature, to overflow with emotions, to experience the world’s forces and its relations to the self. This I argue, is achieved through the song. Granted, many might not like metal or feel as though the song does justice to the poem, but anyone who listens to metal understands the genre’s important theme is to express raw emotion. In a sense, Coleridge captures that rawness of nature in the poem. Iron Maiden simply breathes life into it or rather, screams at it to wake up.