In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, we can clearly see Romanticism because he appreciates nature to such an extent. In Iron Maidens version although judging off the genre you wouldn’t assume that it is romantic but when you listen to the lyrics it is evident, “See his eye as he stops one of three Mesmerizes one of the wedding guests” from the beginning there is hints of beauty. Iron Maiden’s version is such a good fit because it embodies one of romanticism’s main components, nature. Also the poems tone fits with the music because of the pace of the song. In the song it is moving at a pace that is similar to the poems. Also throughout the song you feel the passion and emotion. Although Iron Maiden is heavy metal it still embodies something beautiful and emotional. All in all the story narrates something that is greater than feelings it narrates love. Romanticism is supposed to mean something creative or something imagined and this song does all of this. The song also has a imagery because the sounds make you feel and see the lyrics. It’s deeper than reading them because you can simply envision them.
Though heavy metal may not be what most people consider romantic poetry, Iron Maiden’s rendition of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” is still able to capture the details of the original poem and the romantic aspects within it. The song presents a strong focus on the story of the original poem and the emotions in the writing by breaking away from normal expectations for a heavy metal song by both changing the rhythm and tempo at different parts, but also just in choosing to make the song thirteen minutes long. The music serves to tell a story and uses these shifts throughout the song, work to capture that sense of imagination for the audience and emphasize the mysterious nature of what is happening at that point of the story. While the band does choose to present the poem in a more summarized form, there are moments where they choose to directly quote the poem and read it word for word. I found that while originally reading the poem, the lines chosen in the song to quote such as,
“Four times fifty living men,
(And I heard nor sigh nor groan)
With heavy thump, a lifeless lump,
They dropped down one by one.
Four times fifty living men
(And I heard nor sigh nor groan)
With heavy thump, a lifeless lump,
They dropped down one by one.” (Part III)
didn’t originally standout to me in comparison to the other stanzas around it, but the song’s presentation of lines like these and the tone of the song while these lines are sung make them stand out. These lines are read in more subdued and mysterious tone that grabs the audience’s attention and makes them listen carefully to the story of the mariner. But it isn’t just moments like this that carry the emotions of the poem and represent romantic literature, but also the moments of faster or louder play that may be more expected from heavy metal music. The presentation of moments in the story through this tone of music capture the mysterious and supernatural moments of the story and make it feel as though the mariner is fighting for survival against forces of nature. By using music as a medium to present this poem, the emotional impact from parts of the poem and the visceral feeling caused by some of these moments is more strongly felt by the audience.
Iron Maiden’s version of the ballad evokes similar sensational imagery as Coleridge’s original version in addition to retaining the same themes revolving around the conflict between humanity and nature. This is successfully done in spite of the notable gaps of lyrics detailing the tumultuous sea voyage in the original. Structurally, the two are not too dissimilar, as they are both composed of almost exclusively four to six line stanzas, and the heavy metal version emulates the gap between stanzas and parts with lyrical pauses in favor of solely playing a melody. In addition, due to the innate rhyme scheme of ballads and the traditional denotation that they are passed down orally from person to person, the heavy metal version in certain senses not only presents the poem in a traditional fashion because of its accompanying musical components but because it is a translation designed to be expressed orally as opposed to read, it improves upon the medium.
The primary distinguishing factor between the two versions are the lyrics themselves. The Iron Maiden version simplifies the lyrics slightly in favor of using a more contemporary form of English which is more easily palpable to modern audiences regardless of whether they have higher education or not. This lyrical simplification is no degradation however, rather it is possible that because the themes and literary power of the work are still present, (if slightly muted by having slightly less of it) the song version is a literature of power. It provides an important and meaningful message in an easily accessible package. The tone of the musical version also amplifies the aspects of romanticism in the work, because music conveys powerful emotions in ways that words are incapable of conveying. A rapid tempo mirrors the tumultuous nature of the sea voyage, while a slower melodic pause mirrors the deep introspection of the lyrical speaker.
Music is a way of bringing stories back to life and breathing new life into them. Rock and heavy metal music works especially well as a medium for this type of revival because of how diverse the sounds can be within the discography of one band. Iron Maiden’s take on “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is a great example of bringing to life a poem with the diverse range of sound that only a metal band could bring. The way that the poem begins is very attention grabbing and each stanza contains at least one set of rhyming lines. Those rhymes help establish the pattern and general rhythm for the rest of the poem. Iron Maiden manages to capture that element and rework it into the instrumental that they play beneath the lyrics. The beat is a constant repetition in the background that helps ground the listener in the rhythm of the lyrics.
The different instruments combined together manage to create not only a hard fast-paced beat at the beginning of the song but as it goes on they also manage to create a smooth ballad towards the middle. This ability to turn the tide of the song helps the audience visualize first the wedding and then the actual story being told within the story of the Mariner. Then as we approach the end of the song it picks up the pace once more as if to remind the listener that we aren’t actually experiencing everything in real time with the Mariner, but instead at the wedding listening to a tale.
The poem itself does this back and forth but it is far more subtle than its song counterpart because the story transitions easily as the poem itself is divided into 7 different parts. The reader sees the divides and is aware of the difference in story if they are reading carefully. The song clearly breaks apart the different elements of the story. The reader hears the sounds and knows they’re at the wedding, they’re on the sea, etc.
The music brings an element of drama to the poem that didn’t exist before. It makes easier for the listener to understand the poem and to get lost in the story. This song works similarly like the soundtrack of a movie or a television show in the sense that the instrumentals themselves are able to help the listener distinguish which part of the story they are currently at.
Who knew the Romantics and their larger than life poetry continues to exist in our rock and metal bands today?
By Diana Lara
Iron Maiden, an English heavy metal band, would be an unlikely figure to incorporate poetic elements within their music but their rendition of Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” proves their versatility is unmatched and they demonstrate how heavy metal can seamlessly incorporate elements of romantic poetry. In true Iron Maiden fashion their heavy metal rendition is backed by drums, bass, and Bruce Dickinson’s powerful vocals as he belches the poem with slightly altered lines but still incorporating some of the poems original ones to stay true to the poem and Coleridge. The song incorporates a lot of similar elements that Coleridge implemented in his original romantic poem such as the imagery, rhythmic beat, and even poetic tone that leads one to conclude that the poem and the song version are closer in composure than one would expect.
Iron maiden stayed true to the imagery that Coleridge presented in his song and made sure their short but descriptive lines stayed loyal to the original poem’s stanzas in order to get the original story across. The same descriptive details remain in Maiden’s song and are even simplified enough to understand the story through the song much easier and therefore, the imagery jumps out just as much in the song as in the poem. Along with the descriptive lyrics, what really emphasizes the poem is the tune and rhythm of the beat and instruments that accompany the lyrics. With the upbeat rhythm, I feel like this helped create a playful yet dramatic element to the song and provided the right atmosphere for the lyrics and the plot of the song which is a similar element that partakes in romantic poetry. By allowing there to be rhythmic tone/beat to the song, Iron Maiden stayed true to that romantic poetry element and helped the rhyme and flow of the song. The form of the song also helped its reception, as the song is written in (almost entirely) ABAB verses which helped the flow and the sound of the song making the poem a lot more musically satisfying. Overall, the simple yet impactive elements of romantic poetry that Iron Maiden stayed true to in their heavy metal rendition of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” allowed for the song to be just as memorable and impactful as Coleridge’s original poem and thus, they proved that poetry and song composure can be closer than one would expect.
The 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
At first glance, Maiden’s heavy metal performance of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” might not appear to belong in the same category as romantic poetry. This common perception can be directly related to the question of what our society, our experiences, and our minds consider to be a power of literature. Connecting to what we learned earlier semester, I argue that literature is not bound by text and consists of music, paintings, art, etc. On that note, I feel as though anything in this world can be interpreted through/ as poetry. It is simply up to the reader and receiver of such literature to utilize their own experiences to decide in what ways such poetry lives.
Romantic literature was once the face of societal rejection and absurdity. The rise of romantic literature to readers was seen as out of this world and did not appeal to the society to which it was birthed to. This same societal reaction relates to how many audiences interpreted Rock music/ Rock culture when it emerged during the 1950s. Both groundbreaking forms of literature of power utilized their art form as a way to make waves of resistance, resilience, and revolution. Generations change, and with that change comes a shift in our we perceive, accept, and generate different cultures and forms of information.
When listening to Maiden’s version of the poem, I still feel the poem’s essence, yet I am moved in a different way due to the form, style, and intensity to which it is delivered. Both Coleridge’s poem and Maiden’s song utilize rhyme schemes and repetitive syllables as a means to engage the audience and project emotion. Both works stick to similar themes regarding spirituality through connection with the natural worlds. Essentially the song moves as a retelling of Coleridge’s poem in a modern take. The song sings, “The albatross begins with its vengeance/ A terrible curse a thirst has begun/ His shipmate to blame…” continuing the original story of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere is a captivating poem about the Marinere, interrupting a young man about to go to a wedding, telling the story of a wild storm and how it caused treachery over a ship full of crewmen. The crewmen battle with Life-in-Death and Death and perish in front of the eyes of the Marinere. The Marinere lives the rest of his life haunted by the compulsion to share his tale to anyone who will listen. Based on the tragic events that transpired in the poem, it wouldn’t be considered Romantic poetry. However, because it goes deep into the emotions of the Marinere and focuses greatly on the description of the wedding and the sea, it would be considered Romantic poetry.
Given the long, tragic story that this poem depicts, of course, an artist was going to make music out of it. In this case, it was the heavy metal band, Iron Maiden.
It makes sense, actually. All music derives from poetry, especially poetry that depicts an interesting story that has the ability to captivate an audience. The story that is told in the poem could only be told through the anger and drive of heavy metal. The heavy guitar and almost panicked rhythm of the song creates a certain urgency that is very evident in the poem when read aloud. I think that the rendition by Iron Maiden is perfect for this poem.
There are many similarities between the original poem and the rendition by Iron Maiden. Obviously, they both have very similar subject matter; they both focus greatly on the Marinere and his plight. The rhythm and tone remain the same in both of the pieces. When the action picks up in the poem, the music (i.e., drums, guitar) picks up and sets that atmosphere for the listener to really dive into the story for themselves. Making the song thirteen minutes long really adds to the effect that I think Coleridge was trying to go for, and it was successfully done by Iron Maiden.
The Iron Maiden’s heavy metal version of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is able to take from the Coleridge’s own poem and utilize an extremely alternative (read: conventionally different) approach reading of Romantic poetry: changing the context of the lyrics used helps to convey a unique viewing of poetry through a modern Romantic genre.
The focus of Iron Maiden’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (IMRotAM) differs vastly in context and audience due to different historical context, thus shifting how comparing between Iron Maiden and Coleridge’s take on Romantic poetry as a genre. When I refer to Romanticism, I intend on focusing on the period “from the late 18th to the mid-19th century” as referred to in the lecture notes for class. This isn’t the typical style of Romantic poetry, with IMRotAM differing in many aspects of Romantic characteristics such as a concrete interpretation of it being “a general exaltation of emotion over reason and of the senses over intellect.” However, many elements are retained from Romantic poetry, either through it being plagiarized or referenced in a new light, with their rendition,
Death and she life in death
They throw their dice for the crew
She wins the mariner and he belongs to her now
Then… crew one by one
They drop down dead, two hundred men
She… she, life in death
She lets him live, her chosen one
helping the listener understand context for further imagery taken straight from Coleridge:
“One after one by the star-dogged moon
Too quick for groan or sigh
Each turned his face with a ghastly pang
And cursed me with his eye
Four times fifty living men
(And I heard nor sigh nor groan)
With heavy thump, a lifeless lump
They dropped down one by one.”
Not only this, but in Romanticism itself, I don’t intend on calling heavy metal music itself Romantic music due to the difference in instruments used. While famous Romantic composers(1), including Berlioz, Brahms, Chopin, and Liszt, among many others, were known for their powerful, moving, and emotive pieces, most of them didn’t use the commonly heard electric guitars, bass guitars, and drum sets that are available to artists today, thus spurring a complete comparison. However, similarities to the two can be seen in both genres’ choices to use things such as “imitative music,” (2) which Iron Maiden uses in vocal shifts and instrumental solos within the song to help set the mood and add emotion for the piece but also as a pause in story-telling, the lyrics resuming after almost a break in stanzas of poetry.
The Iron Maiden’s rendition of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner appears to change its shape through a shifted context – it being a song inherently changes how they use the material in order to sing (angrily grrr) their work to the listener. The characteristic of Romantic poetry, the “preoccupation with the genius, the hero, and the exceptional figure in general, and a focus on his/her passions and inner struggles” is the same – somewhat – due to ambiguity. The song opens with the lyric,
which is similar to the opening itself of the Coleridge’s poem:
This element is lyrically done through ambiguity in lyrical writing for song. Through music as a medium, setting and mood are conflated together, and emotion seemingly put onto one character within the song can be as easily applied to the audience listening to “capture them” or further appeal to the listener. Music as a medium is drastically seen when Iron Maiden sings to the modern audience itself, choosing to use words like “we” to directly address the audience in
and the choice to ambiguously open with “Hear the rime of the ancient mariner” without attributing it to anyone but the modern audience by the end of the song. Based on these elements, IMRotAM can be comparable to Romanticism as a modern take of Romantic style poetry through characteristics of Romanticism combining itself with musical composition.
- When I was looking up Romantic composers, I was really surprised to see Rachmaninoff and Beethoven included on the lists, I just wanted to focus on the typical Romantic composers. Super interesting and kinda freaky to see more modern and classical composers included.
- This link is a direct quote essentially of what I mean: https://books.google.com/books/content?id=8iUQAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA41&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U2eTTx2Io4bJ2w-0NV-pweOr8Wu7A&ci=85%2C138%2C745%2C1251&edge=0
When one thinks of romantic poetry, heavy metal isn’t one of the first forms that comes to mind. Especially not a band as renowned for their cannon-blast of exuberant, anthemic bravado, like Iron Maiden. But then again, poetry is the basis for any type of musical genre, including heavy metal.
In this particular song, Iron Maiden does a variation of Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and despite using a different means of conveying the message, it remains a form of Romantic poetry. The most important part of making a different variation of a poem is not losing sight of the original message. Ironically, through their simplified version of the poem, they are telling the story of the mariner, which is what the mariner’s curse actually was. By doing so, Iron Maiden became the messengers of this curse.
One positive thing that I got from taking poetry with Hakala, was that poetry was meant to be read aloud. By doing so, one can hear the meter of the syllables that are being used, and as I read through Coleridge’s poem, I noticed several instances where he would omit, or add an extra syllable. By having this poem portrayed as a heavy metal song, the differences in meter could be heard more frequently. Both of these creators use these changes in meter to make several point of emphasis throughout their works.
Overall, we can conclude that despite heavy metal being a different form of portraying poetry, it can still be considered a form of Romantic poetry. Similar to DeQuincey’s idea of Literature of Power, if this heavy metal song is able to make people feel an emotion, than it could classify as a literature of power, thus making a successful Romantic poem.