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.
Iron Maiden’s heavy metal version of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is, to my own opinion, very much like Romantic poetry. Romantic poetry is often characterized as a focus on the writer or narrator’s emotions and inner world and a celebration of nature, beauty, and imagination. Iron Maiden doesn’t derive away from these specific characteristics in their song. More than anything, they emphasize on these sections of the poem for their song to create a more expressive response from their listeners and to retain the central message of the poem: to love all of God’s creatures and creations.
Of course, Iron Maiden had to take some creative decision making to fit the poem into the rhythmic beat of a rock song. In the opening lines of Iron Maiden’s song, “Hear the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. See his eye as he stops one of three”, is incredibly different from how Coleridge opens his own poem, “It is an ancient Mariner, And he stoppeth one of three.” Of course, Iron Maiden isn’t going to go word-by-word of Coleridge’s poem in a song, they had to change the lyrics, but Iron Maiden’s song keeps the crucial aspects of the poem to express to listeners the severity of the Mariner’s action and the rough and treacherous journey the Mariner and the crewman took. After meeting with death, the song changes tune and only a guitar is heard with a low voice from the singer describing the deaths of the crewman that were affected by the curse. “With a heavy thump, a lifeless lump, they dropped one by one.” This section of the song in its tune is expressing sorrow and grief which reflect back to the lyrics. The song overall is focusing on the narrator’s emotions and how not only what it feels like, but what it sounds like.
The closing remarks of the songs prove that it’s like a Romantic poem as it expressed a celebration of nature, in a darker and gloomier way compared traditional Romantic poetry. “To teach God’s word by his own example, that we must love all things that God made.” The song does almost everything like Romantic poetry but with a darker twist. Therefore, it can be considered Romantic poetry. It expresses a lesson to love nature and see its beauty and the 13-minute song is a journey of both feelings and listening to the Mariner’s inner world.
Iron Maiden’s heavy metal version of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is like Romantic poetry. One of the characteristics of Romanticism is defined as “A predilection for the exotic, the remote, the mysterious, the weird, the occult, the monstrous, the diseased, and even the satanic.” In the poem, the other sailors became angry with the Mariner for killing the albatross. Apparently, seeing an albatross meant good luck. However, the fact that the Mariner killed the albatross implies the he doesn’t believe in luck. The Mariner was shamed for doing something different and not believing in the norm. In other words, he was shamed for being different. When the fog cleared, though, the other sailors changed their mind and claimed that the albatross was actually bad luck and forgave the Mariner. Unfortunately, when the men had no water to drink, they again became angry with the Mariner.
Iron Maiden’s musical version of the poem reminds me of those who are unique because rock music is typically tied with opposing the norm. Iron Maiden praises the Mariner for being different. What truly makes something good luck? The Mariner clearly has thoughts of his own and doesn’t easily believe everything he sees. The Mariner forces us to question what we have painted as our reality. For example, is something really as bad as we make it out to be? Though we are entitled to our own opinions, sometimes we need to question the way we look at things.
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.
Iron Maiden’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is but a rendition of Coleridge’s poem of the same name. The Romantic essence presented in the original poem is convoluted, if not lost completely, in the heavy metal rendition. Iron Maiden tells the story of the mariner using their characteristic metal music, full of the sounds of electric guitars and screaming. These additions to the story of the mariner take great liberties with Coleridge’s poem. When looking at art of the Romantic era, particularly poems such as those found in the Lyrical Ballads, Romanticism is presented in a relaxing form of phrases and images. Though the subjects may be quite Gothic and macabre indeed, truly terrifying images like those found in the demons presented in the music video for this song are not seen. The connection with nature found in Romantic poetry and art brings a much more realistic and peaceful articulation of tragedy than Iron Maiden does with this piece. Looking at Coleridge’s poem, the reader is brought back from the mariner’s story at multiple points to the present scene with the wedding guest. This generally happens when the wedding guest confesses fear of the mariner in response to each terrifying image he adds to his story. It was not the goal of the Romantics or this poem to tell a tale of terror, rather, Romanticism is a way to bring one back to themselves. At the end of the poem, the reader witnesses the wedding guest’s change in outlook on life; it is this that Romantic poetry strives to create. Iron Maiden, on the other hand, appear to revel in the ideas of Death, Life in Death, a dead crew, and a cursed mariner. The entire song focuses on the macabre and terror. Using pictures made on a computer, detached from nature far more than paintings, and instruments that do nothing to recall the sounds heard in times of peaceful reflection, Iron Maiden is extremely different from what one would expect from an artist inspired by the Romantic period. In only one respect “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” resembles Romantic poetry, and that is in its lyrics. The goal of the poet, according to Wordsworth, is to do away with the verse and unusable language of poetry used before him. Iron Maiden’s rendition of Coleridge’s poem does not use the unclear and stuffy language favored by the author. Instead, they summarize the poem with more modern words in the way of Wordsworth.
I feel like rock has been used by music artists to express their anger and discontent of the world around them. Romantic Poetry was also used in a similar way to express the emotions that flowed through someone during this time of their life. Romantic Poetry was used to go against what once was. And thus, this reminds me of rock and how in Iron Maiden’s version “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is not what you expect, and it goes against any set ideas or enclosed box that most people want to place “Rock Music” into. The poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” has a dark tone to it. The poem talks about a Mariner who after arriving safely somewhere he kills a bird in which the crew thought was a good omen. The crew isn’t happy, and they express their anger towards the mariner, but it doesn’t matter because they start dropping dead one by one. The Mariner is punished and cursed to live and be alone. The Mariner prays, and god forgives, and he always feels compelled to tell and retell the story. The imagery in the poem and the lyrics are so ugly and dark because the poem is about death and curses. Both the poem and the song are alike because they have a similar rhythm and tone and because the lyrics from the song are inspired from the poem itself.
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.
Despite being in a non-traditional form, Iron Maiden’s heavy metal rendition of Samuel Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is an excellent example Romantic poetry. The song contains a number of elements found in the literary genre, including a focus on nature and expression of vivid emotions. Together these components help the musical piece elevate Coleridge’s ballad and help convey the magnitude of nature and the magnificence of its sheer power.
The aspects of both versions of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” help the reader acknowledge with the Mariner the power the sea, and nature in general, have over living beings. One of the characteristics of Romantic poetry is “[a] deepened appreciation of the beauties of nature.” The Romantics distanced themselves of the artificiality of the cities and looked towards landscapes as refuges where they could take in in its purest, untouched form. While one might be drawn to the aesthetic and serene qualities natural environments may possess, nature’s less soothing aspects can also be classified as a natural beauty. Deadly weather and dangerous creatures tends to lose people’s attention because of the danger associated with them. However, this treachery does have a degree of beauty when you consider its ability be done by the natural world alone, although sometimes influenced by human interference. Just as nature has the capacity to be beautiful and create landscapes that move writers of the Romantic Period with wonder, nature also has the capacity to be twisted and release a vengeance onto humans who enter into it. The power and aggression of latter also moves and causes amazement, though not the most pleasant, and are worthy grounds for a Romantic poem like Coleridge’s.
William Wordsworth defines Romantic poetry by “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” it contains. Coleridge’s poem brings up such feelings through its descriptions of the sea and the events that unfold in the ballad. Such is the case in the following quotation that reads:
“slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.
About, about, in reel and rout
The Death-fires danc’d at night;
The water, like a witch’s oils,
Burnt green and blue and white” (IV. 121-6)
The Mariner describes the appearance of the ocean in rather unpleasant terms, very different from romantic or idealized peaceful waves. The Mariner compares it to a witch’s brew filled with a variety of creatures that could end the lives of any mortal. At the same time, it admires how the sea can be hospitable to such magnificently, wicked creatures. Coleridge’s description demonstrates, like other environments, how the sea can mean life for some but also death for others.
Iron Maiden establishes identical imagery by incorporating exact portions of the Coleridge ballad into their song. The following is an example of it:
“Day after day, day after day
We stuck ne breath ne motion
As idle as a painted ship
upon a painted ocean
Water, water every where
And all the boards did shrink
Water, water every where
ne any drop to drink” (VIII. 111-8)
Maiden’s decision to copy of Coleridge’s text verbatim, like the quotation above, help the song maintain the imagery described in the text while also keeping the story exactly as the Mariner may tell it, since he has likely told his tale countless times because of his curse. By doing so, the heavy metal version of the lyrical ballad is just another recounting from the Mariner himself.
And the curse goes on and on at sea
And the curse goes on and on for them and me
The repetition of “on and on” in this stanza, like the repetition of “water” and “day after day” in the previously mentioned stanza, helps convey the frustration and desperation of the Mariner, who had to traverse through miles of dangerous nature and see unimaginable sights. This portion of the lyrics indicates to the listener that the Mariner had to continue to go through more of these misfortunes during his voyage. Similarly, the repetition in both works shows how the story of the Mariner is told on and on and the Mariner experiences the voyage again, and how doing so is a mark of the impact the natural world left on him.
In contrast to the poem, the metal band also conveys fear and original poem’s eerie tone in their music. For most of the song, there is a persistent guitar riff that thunders in the background of the song, reminiscent of a ship confidently rushing forwards through harsh waves, ready to take on anything. This riff and the rhythm of the other instruments shifts once the Mariner comes face to face with Death and Life in Death, who are the consequences of his interference with nature when he killed the albatross. It is silenced then only a few guitar wails can be heard from time to time for roughly two minutes, imitating, in my opinion, “ocean sounds” like whale bellows and the slow swaying of waves. Alone these noises would be soothing to listen to. However, in the context the Mariner is in, all alone in the middle of the ocean with a bunch of dead mates, this beautiful noise is sign of uncertainty and possible danger. This shift is an excellent, chilling transition between the point where the Mariner meets the two figures on the ghost ship and his crew is reanimated. It makes the listener anxious as to what will happen next, just like the Mariner must have been while being cradled by the beautiful but treacherous ocean.
The fickle notion of modernizing any concept, in this circumstance that would concern the poetic and the music genre, is that the evolution does not retain all of the characteristics it once had. Things, especially living things, tend to move away from attributes it does not deem necessary. However, every so often, something relatively useless to the organism or concept will linger, either out of sentimentality or utter confusion. In evolution, this is seen known as a vestigial organ, and even human beings have them (appendices). Whales have them too: hip bones. My point is that, though we can clearly see the link between poetry, especially Romantic poetry, and heavy metal (as well as Rock and Roll) it does not necessarily suggest that the two resemble one another strongly.
Though it tries, Iron Maiden’s version of Samuel Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” does not embody the qualities which would allow it to accurately resemble the Romantic poetry it attempts to imitate as a consequence of lyrical sacrifice in order to promote musical performance. This is where one can most clearly witness the transition from the poetic to the musical: wherein the instrumental is privileged over lyrical advantage and pacing is a result of the performer’s preference rather than the author’s inclination. This, in several ways, veers from the sentiments that Romanticism that the lyrical ballad written by Coleridge once embodied, allowing for the predilections of heavy metal to insert themselves into the lyrics instead.
For example, Romantic poetry is focused on self-reflection as a result of outward observation, especially when that observation is of nature. The lyrical ballad is no exception to this, as is seen in this example: “About, about, in reel and rout/ The Death-fires danc’d at night;/ The water, like a witch’s oils,/ Burnt green and blue and white” (Coleridge 123-126). However, the visuals offered as a reflection of the tale unfolding within Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” are exploited as the saturated fan-art of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The contrast between these two visuals is its veering from the beautiful to a set focus on the undead aspect of the poem. By taking away this, Iron Maiden, unfortunately, discarded what might be called a staple of the Romantic period. In addition to this, the promotion of the zombification taking place in Coleridge’s poem distracts from the journey within “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, essentially missing the point present in the lyrical ballad. To put it simply: the poem was not just about the undead coming back to life, Iron Maiden, so leave your angsty ideals at the door.
In many ways, the Romantic form of poetry was an appeal to the lower class in its ability to invoke sympathy in the reader (or listener). Yet, there is nothing selective about the heavy metal genre which suggests that it would have appealed in majority to the lower class; the income of the listener hardly affects their ability understand the music, let alone enjoy it.
Furthermore, the pacing of the music does not linger upon the pacing of each verse (which is likely a result of the style of heavy metal). While Iron Maiden does justice to the poem by transforming the musical nature of the ballad, the swiftness of each line’s delivery does not allow one to ponder long on the meaning of the verse, as the intention is to enjoy how it sounds above what the line implies. And while Iron Maiden does slow the pacing of the song significantly as a result of the dead falling and rising, which is a reaction that promotes reflection on the event, the song is hindered in it’s forced summarization of the poem. Granted, to include every verse of the original poem in the song was not possible (and even if it did, no one would have the patience to sit through all of that), but to suggest that a summary of a poem can still embody the details of what the author might have implied is simply not possible.
The movement from lyrical ballad to a heavy metal song does not entirely preserve the Romantic qualities of Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in Iron Maiden’s performance of the poem. But, in many ways, it wasn’t necessarily supposed to. Instead, it demonstrates the evolution of one art form into another, leaving vestigial traits that we (the readers) can analyze. This is to say that, though the song is unlike the Romantic poetry it was inspired by, it is reminiscent of what is musical about the genre. In other words, it is an evolution of its impactful traits.