Brutal Legend: “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” Rocks On For Ages

Brutal LegendThe way in which the musical composition compliments the retelling of “The Ancient Mariner” is one of the most well executed examples of transcribing a work of poetry into a masterpiece of Heavy Metal, One that definitely follows the methodology of Romanticism (although not traditionally). For the most part, the way in which the poem is read can be hard to rework into a musical format, seeing how the poem does not stay consistent in how it delivers its rhymes; For example, in one stanza, it can go “A B C B” and the next it goes “A B C C B” or “A B C B D B”. I think the way in which Iron Maiden translates it, in which most of the verses go for the classic “A B A B” makes it more palatable than trying to shove the original text in its entirety into a song that might not ring melodically into the ears of the audience.

It is also important to take a look at who is particularly telling the tale of the Mariner. In the original text, it is the Mariner himself who had lived through the event which he describes to a random passerby who is on his way to a wedding. Now, the fact that the listener is going to a wedding is not important, but the fact that he is just a regular individual who has to be told by the cursed fellow due to his belief in the need to tell his truth adds to the importance of making his victims of his storytelling into “a sadder and wiser man.” However, when you get into the speaker/singer of Iron Maiden, he is not retelling the story from his point of view but rather passionately telling the story of the Mariner from the text, as we hear the singer never refer to himself as the Mariner. This creates a bit of a disconnect from the text that can’t be recaptured; and yet, the lyrical nature of the composition does add an epic nature to the tale of the Mariner that was not originally there within the text, as it could easily be read as a Shel Silverstein poem in the right delivery.

The tone plays a major part in both interpretations, whereas the original text has one that is foreboding and conscientious of its ultimate message and the Iron Maiden single switches from epic fantastical legend to ghost story to brutal legend of the ultimate rock-itude in the matter of fifteen minutes. In the original text, it works as it was not ultimately meant to be a song so it comes off very memorable due to the fact the pauses within the text are so lifelike by themselves that the story is able to be more digestible and lasts longer in the minds of the reader. In the Iron Maiden track, its loud and fast and heavy, the guitar riffs screeching like the spirits and the bass keeping the blood pumping, the drums thundering in the back so loud it’s impossible to ignore the tale of the Mariner. It ultimately keeps the audience invested as the song has so many hooks both lyrically and instrumentally.

Ultimately, I believe that the Iron Maiden Interpretation is definitely an embodiment of Romantic poetry as it is full of passion and rhythm in a way that completely engrosses the audience; just as how Romantic art draws the view in with its beautiful depictions of the subject, music is able to move the soul in a manner that no other artistic medium can replicate: it can rock on in the minds of listeners for generations as long as it kicks ass. And this track is the Brutal Legend of Kick-Assery.

-Alejandro Joseph Serrano

One thought on “Brutal Legend: “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” Rocks On For Ages

  1. I found it intriguing that you brought up the idea that in the retelling if the tale you mention that it is not actually a retelling but rather the singer takes the role of the Mariner and is casually telling the story to those who are listening. To see that you tie in how this makes this ballad become more alive in a sense is a compelling arguement since before this I didn’t see it in this light. This interpretation can be improved if perhaps you gave readers an example of where in the ballad you see the things you mention throughout your post such as when explaining the rhyme scheme. It would help readers see the comparison you are making from the song to the original work.

    Diana Moreno


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