~by Amber Loper
Romantic poetry is not the first thing that comes to mind when someone thinks of heavy metal. Especially not Iron Maiden. However, poetry is at the core of all music with lyrics. Just as there are different genres of music, there are different styles of poetry, and even within those categories there are many many themes. Iron Maidens translation of Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner still holds the spirit of romantic poetry, but uses a different method of expressing the message. The most important thing is that between the translation of poem to song it doesn’t lose the message. In fact, it enhances the message, because Iron Maiden is retelling the tale of the ancient mariner, ironically, because the mariner is cursed to retell it for all time, making the singers of Iron Maiden the vessels of the ancient mariner’s tale.
In Coleridge’s poem, he generally sticks to an eight syllable-six syllable consecutive pattern, but it is more of a guideline than a rule, as he frequently adds extra syllables or takes them away wherever he pleases. When listening to Iron Maiden’s iteration, it’s clear that they do the same thing and they mix it into the song by elongating syllables or picking up the pace of the lyrics. Both methods help to add an emphasis or different effect that is more apparent than in a written poetry. Poetry is meant to be read allowed, not silently in our thoughts, so subtle changes in syllables and rhythm can be easily missed. By translating the poem into a song, these subtleties can not be noticed.
Not only is Iron Maiden’s song more like romantic poetry than it appears, but Coleridge’s poem is more metal than one would expect from a poem. In the third part of the poem, the mariner says, “I bit my arm, I sucked the blood,/And cried, A sail! a sail!”. This is something fans dream about seeing on the stage of a heavy metal bands concert. This story is about a ship lost at sea with ghosts, and zombies. If that isn’t metal, I don’t know what is.