While Iron Maiden’s musical interpretation of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” attempts to pay homage to the romantic poetry, in terms of poetic form, much is lost. Coleridge’s ballad utilizes a strict adherence to the iambic tetrameter/trimeter form, with ABAB rhyme scheme. The artistic liberty with which Iron Maiden renders the song, not only changes the rhythmic beat to stressed/unstressed/stressed (cretic trisyllabic foot(?)), but the rhyme scheme is sporadic or in some instances, completely absent. Evidently the song uses triplet musical rhythmic structure as the primary melody for the song, changing the disyllabic nature of the original poem.
In addition to these dissimilarities, the song features a break down of three parts, paralleling the poem in terms of sections, but instead using them as an exposition of the beginning melody, an interlude, and finally a recapitulation of the melody and lyrics from the song’s exposition. This significantly augments the poem because in terms of structure, it is unchanging; Iron Maiden’s interpretive stance establishes a melody, moves into a morose instrumental interlude, and then reaffirms the introductory melody, though changing the lyrics and some musical elements.
If one is to forgo the form and focus on the content of the song, I do not think it is a bad interpretation, and pays adequate honor to the poem in terms of tone, plot, lyrical speaker, and imagery. Much of the song’s lyrics takes verses verbatim, or abridges them for more palatable phrasing. That is to say that Iron Maiden changes the lyrics of the song to fit their musical rhythm and to speed up the plot in general. I actually enjoyed the cretic trisyllabic foot, paired with rhythm guitar riff triplets, because it added an element of anxiety within the tone of the song, which I believe best replicates the mood of the poem. Unfortunately, I’m not a fan of metal, but I can appreciate the effort of the musicians that created the song, and it is clear to see why Metal remains one of the most progressive genres in terms of melodic phrasing and lyrical content.
- Sara Nuila-Chae