Iron Maiden’s Rendition of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Ignoring the obvious discrepancies Iron Maiden’s heavy metal rendition of the song “The Rime of the Ancient by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (e.g. its ignorance of meter and interest in a rhyme scheme), the heavy metal song pays homage to the Coleridge poem adequately. Although Coleridge’s poem featured the rhyme meter of a traditional ballad (iambic trimeter);

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Iron Maiden did not. However, this was not the only facet of what classifies as a romantic poem. If a romantic poem is one in which the senses are evoked in such a powerful (consider synesthesia) way (as our consensus in class), Iron Maiden’s song does justice, or at the very least, accomplishes this. Although Iron Maiden changes the lyrics to an extend (it serves as an abridgment to the poem)

  • visual imagery
  • synthesia
  • poetic tune and how it influences the tone

***still trying to gather my thoughts and put them to words***


-Sara Nuila-Chae


Nightmare on a Boat

As you search for purpose and reason in your life through the realms of academia and erudition, perhaps fervent scouring of the vast depths of philosophy and science have sapped the essence of your weary mind; it is now then, the time to embrace your unique soul and the boundaries of raw emotion to harness your latent aptitude. Romanticism embodies the feeling you get after finishing all of your finals or papers, an exuberant spark of joy, the exclamation mark, the incessant cry of a newborn, a declaration that emotion holds more meaning to the human experience than the infinitude of logic.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner takes you on a distortion of reality, an eventful mind-bending tale of confounding sequences. The journey that you embark upon while reading of the experience that the Ancient Mariner shares, encourages you to look beyond what you see, to listen to more than what you can hear. Your imagination is paramount and to neglect it would spell emptiness and suffering altogether. Coleridge’s poems tell us to live fruitfully and experience continuously, reinventing the norm and insinuating creation and originality. Centuries later, his tale of a nightmare at sea, would continue on.

Plug the amp, align your cymbals, tune your six-strings, where else but music lays the ultimate expression of individuality and freedom of spirit? Iron Maiden breathes horror, excitement, uncertainty, fear, and wisdom in their reinterpretation of the romantic classic. The phases of varying tempo in Iron Maiden’s version of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner express the development of emotion in the story. Repetition echoes the lament and suffering of the Mariner. The sudden intensity of the climax breathes raw emotion and absolute passion through persistent beats. Perhaps the spirit of Coleridge remains head-banging to this metal classic Although the song represents creative ingenuity, the powerful imagery of Coleridge’s Poem is unmatched through the metal reproduction.

The ominous feeling of grief and hopelessness captured by Samuel Taylor Coleridge can not be imitated. “The water, like a witch’s oils, Burnt green, and blue and white.” (30)The unusual coloring of the water signifies an abnormal otherworldly presence. The lines of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner induce spooking chills and a sense of uncertainty.

The juxtaposition of intense metal and image-inducing poetry enables us to understand the capacities of human imagination. Emotion can be represented in an endless number of ways. As Iron Maiden’s classic, of a romantic classic, lives on to entertain new audiences, we are reminded that imagination and individuality live on and on. I’m sure Coleridge would be proud, in some way.


Thomas Pham

Poetry and Music

Iron Maiden’s interoperation of the rime of the ancient mariner is perfect in my opinion. The pace and rhythm of the song reflect how the poem creates and shifts moods as the story progresses. Iron Maiden uses a lot of what I would describe as very loud and although it might sound off-putting at first when compared to simple readings of the poem which all sound somber slow, the fast paced rhythm of the song bring the poem into a different light. The Iron Maiden song make the poem sound exciting and gives it this rollercoaster of a story from sped up to slowed down but if we look at the poem, Samuel Taylor Coleridge does in his work using various literary devices like rhyme in the first stanzas to create a sense of a fast paced and exciting story as it’s opening up.


-Noel Nevarez

Iron Maiden: The New Romantics

Although many did not consider Iron Maiden’s heavy metal version of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem as a romantic poem, I beg to differ. For Coleridge, the Romantics should be breaking away from classical and elaborate styles, such as that of Pope’s. Romantic poetry should be accessible to the common man, whether or not he achieved this is a different story. It should provoke a powerful feeling of human emotion and I feel that Iron Maiden stays true to that idea more than Coleridge actually does. Iron Maiden has evolved and become representative of Romantic poetry in the 20-21st century.

In the first stanza Iron Maiden phrases it as “Hear the rime of the ancient mariner/ See his eye as he stops one of three/ Mesmerizes one of the wedding guests/ Stay here and listen to the nightmares of the sea” while Coleridge writes “It is an ancyent Marinere,/ And he stoppeth one of three:/ “By they long grey beard and thy glittering eye/ Now wherefore stoppest me” (Coleridge 51). They both are discussing the same thing, but take different approaches. In using a quote to tell the reader what the mariner says, Coleridge evokes the presence of the mariner that creates a different experience through out the poem. We become a part of the story because it is as if he is speaking to us directly. While Iron Maiden does not quote the mariner, but chooses to just tell us what he’s doing and what is going on. In doing this, Iron Maiden create the sense of oral folklore, as if we were sitting down around a campfire hearing an old sailor tells us the stories told while out at sea. They both portray the experience differently, but they both give us a rich and powerful experience nonetheless.

Iron Maiden’s version, at least to me, is much truer to the statement of romantic poems being universal for everyone. Anyone can understand and relate, which can explain their popularity. They’re use of musical instruments even enhance the experience and human emotion. I don’t need to count the rhyme schemes or anything, I just have to listen. Through the act of listening Iron Maiden take us on a different voyage of human emotions that are stimulated by sound and touch. I know it’s cliche but you feel the music too, you feel your foot shaking, for fingers hitting the desk and your focus on the experience more than anything else, which can’t be replicated by just reading the poem.

-Nancy Sanchez


Brace your Necks

After rocking out like a wild animal (kidding), I found it was rather relatable how I was able to understand the message in a more modern-day time. Normally, I do not listen to Iron Maiden, and I was not keen on the definition of romanticism. I have come to realize that these past couple years, I have been on a quest in search of spiritual awakening and deeper understanding. That ties in with romanticism. It is not only the nature I search, but also the metaphors, the hidden messages in readings. With the Iron Maiden song, the visuals place someone out at sea, sometimes in rough waters. There are ghoul-like or zombie creatures constantly shown. That may be reminding us of our mortality.


I found particularly interesting how I came across a statistical breakdown of music genre a couple of years ago. The results were that Rock and Roll was largely the most listened to with a percentage of about 33%. Then there was hip hop with 9% and classical with 1% for reference. That goes to show that for romanticism to be to the common man, it must target the largest audience. Thus, it was an effective choice for the song to be played by Iron Maiden. It is not to say that romanticism cannot be composed through classical music, but we all know that that is more of a niche (and privileged) audience.

-Daniel Estrada

And the Thirst Goes On and On

For my blog post I would like to propose we step away from Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere” and look at Romanticism as a whole through the lens of the Iron Maiden song “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” I suggest that though the title and tale are obviously borrowed directly from Coleridge, Iron Maiden does more than just channel one story into a modern era, but instead draws ties from their own struggle back to those of writers and performers in the Romantic Era through “The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere.”

Near minute 2:15 in the song, the lead singer belts out:

And the curse goes on and on at sea /
And the curse goes on and on for them and me.

Day after day, day after day, /
we stuck nor breath nor motion /
as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean /
Water, water everywhere and /
all the boards did shrink /
Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink.

To me, these words mean little in terms of “The Mariner” and much in terms of the struggle of Romantic writers. If we look at those lyrics as a tale in and of themselves of what a Romantic writer went through, they begin to take on a different shape. By saying “the curse goes on… at sea,” this could be describing the way in which true Romantic writers felt the need to take to voyages and live their experiences (whether it be in the wilderness or on the open ocean). In a way this calling was a curse as it was highly dangerous.

Moving on, the lyrics say, “the thirst goes on… for them and me.” Here, if thinking in terms of writers we see the “thirst,” or desire, for the Romantic writer is being channeled and recognized by the modern poet in Iron Maiden (this is the first instance of the first person being used throughout). It could  be both implying that they are both “thirsting” for new material and will never be able to quench their passions for experience and need to commune with the world around them on a gritty, dirty, raw, cursed level (which seems very true for writers in both genres).

The part which discusses “day after day… we stuck nor breath nor motion” describes the way in which there is a sort of monotony about playing it safe and writing about the same old stuff. It describes the frustration at not being able to breathe life into a work and set it to motion, or give it real relevancy in the time. I believe this is why Romanticism and heavy metal were unexpected and shocking to the senses. They had to break out of the daily grind in order to talk about the daily grind in a way that would actually resonate with their complacent audiences.

Additionally, the part about “as ideal as a painted ship upon a painted ocean,” could be referring to the way in which both artists feel about being oppressed by stagnation. To go back to Dryden, the general consensus was enough of Shakespeare we need more new authorship. For Iron Maiden, it’s enough with sex, drugs and rock and roll, we need more metal. Neither genre wants to just be a painted piece on a preset canvas. Both want to break out of the mold and do something edgy and interactive that will make their audiences squirm.

To sum it up, in the final lines, there is discussion about “water” being “everywhere,” but it’s “shrink[ing].” This could describe the drying out, or evaporating effect of previous genres of literature as they lose their potency and prominence (like Dryden alluded to). Additionally, this idea that there is “not a drop to drink,” brings us full circle to the justification of why these “cursed” poets have to take their voyages into the literary (and sometimes physical) abyss in the first place. They are just so “thirst[y]” for new material.

It is my hope that “thirst” is never truly quenched, for when that day comes we will never again experience the startling sensation of being drenched in a downpour of impassioned words.


Elle Lammouchi

Headbanging in a Romantic way

Iron Maiden’s ode to The Rime of The Ancient Marinere mirrors the original poem in many ways. There are portions when they directly quote the poem. This direct quoting is sung by an aggressive and passionate  singer accompanied by very skilled musicians who play high tempo and energizing music. There also seems to be an urgency in the way the lead singer orates the tune. Though this song is full of emotion and definitely causes an emotional response from the listener. However, I do not believe the poem did The Ancient Marinere justice.    

The overall tone of The Ancient Marinere was somber and eerie. Iron Maidens portrayal is incredibly harsh and aggressive. With a fast guitar and hammering drums it gives you a feeling that you are in an action movie, not listening to romantic poetry. This may be the band’s interpretation of the tone. I believe it their song leaves room for only one interpretation of the song.The song does not do justice to the poem because there is no room for the listener to interpret their own feelings for the poem. The song is just the feelings and thoughts of the people in the band.

In contrast to Iron Maidens ode to romantic poetry there is Fleetwood Mac’s piece titled Albatross. This was written by Samuel Coleridge and is inspired by The Rime of The Ancient Marinere. This song is biggest selling rock instrumental of all time in the UK. The song has a continuous drum beat throughout the song accompanied by the light tapping of symbols, it’s almost ominous. There is also a very steady but structured guitar solo, the center of the song. In the background there is chimes from a second guitar. It fills you with a somber yet hopeful feeling. There is also no words in this song. I feel this is incredibly important because this song is pure emotion felt from reading the poem. The listener can identify with the emotion but can make their own opinion on what the meaning of the poem is to them.   

-Maya Gonzales

Iron Maiden and Romantic Poetry

When listening to Iron Maidens heavy metal version of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” the first thing I notice is the tone of the speaker and the similarity of to Romantic Poetry. In Romantic Poetry it seems that emotion or experiences is meant to be expressed over actually just simply stating something and so the tone in Iron Maidens brings to life the feeling of Coleridges poem. It’s crazy and kind of scary but it also doesn’t need as much words to explain which is why he does a brief introduction and then lots of guitar music. You can feel rather than rely on actual words of the chaotic song which ties into the poem such as

“And now the STORM-BLAST came, and he

Was tyrannous and strong:

He struck with his o’ertaking wings,

And chased us south along.


With sloping masts and dipping prow,

As who pursued with yell and blow

Still treads the shadow of his foe,

And forward bends his head,

The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,

And southward aye we fled.”


The song is causing the audience to truly feel the chase and really helps to bring to not necessarily life but feeling of this chase.  The length of the song as well really portrays as well the epic and almost spiritual ties in nature, the song really captures the nature and ambiance of the poem.  Especially at the tone shift at around 5 minutes into the song when it goes from super fast and heavy music to slow and dream like and you can hear the creaking of what most likely is the shape. The voice is sage like and it adds to the effectiveness of capturing the romanticist qualities of the original poem because the music alone is capturing the melancholy and appreaciation of the natural ocean settting before restarting the song but this time in a different almost upbeat tone compared to the creepy beginning. The silence is more impactful than the actual words which makes the song more effective and tie into the idea of romantic poetry. This also captures the Romantic qualities of the supernatural with the eerie sounds and feelings of being chased. The words in the actual poem by Coleridge are conveying this through flow like words and descriptive words such as

“With sloping masts and dipping prow,

As who pursued with yell and blow

Still treads the shadow of his foe,”

Really conveying the eerie supernatural factor that Iron Maiden really plays up throughout the song. The ‘shadow of his foe’ is creepy and most likely unwanted. Especially since this has all started as an initial tale by a creepy old man at a wedding and even as you read the actual poem the person who was grabbed was probably thinking ‘omg when will this story end’ and even while listening to the song by Iron Maiden I think at times the audience at some points are thinking the same thing. The ships going fast as they are trace by something yelling is the vivid imagery that can be enhanced by Iron Maidens quick and fast beat song. The calmness before this also juxtaposes the chaos that comes after and I think that really ties into the songs transitional shift where it gets calmer as well. Thus also adding to the eerie supernatural feel as everything seems to be calm but in the song odd noises are heard with a creepy narrator and in the poem odd things are described.



-Haley Halsey

Iron Maiden’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Romantic poetry has three distinct characteristics – it has a strong emphasis on emotive communication, an emphasis on the raw power of nature, and language directed towards a wider audience. The rime of the ancient mariner song incorporates all three characteristics of Romanticism.

The rime contains hunger, anger, mercy, and redemption, a full gamut of emotions. When the mariner has the crew he is with die “each turned his face with a ghastly pang and cursed me with his eye”. This emotion of anger or betrayal persists in the following stanzas, when the mariner even “wishes he would die” when his guilt at betraying his companions is too strong. Furthermore there is a strong feeling of joy later in the poem for the mariner, when he says “it was a joy he could not believe”, the sight of a boat coming to rescue him. Joy and guilt are both very powerful emotions and thus the poem (or song) has strong emotions.

The poem also emphasises nature and the importance of nature. It describes a “painted ocean”, snow “fog and ice”, an “albatross”. All three of these natural elements are central to the message of the poem. The albatross in particular has a supernatural element to it, and seems to have intentionality to help the sailors outbid their predicament. Furthermore the ocean seems to be an entity of its own, deciding to be still at certain times and quite volatile in others. That ties into the fog clearing, as if it had a mind of its own. These forces of nature are not just plot points, they are to be reckoned with and control the fates of the people onboard.

The diction in the rime is very simple. The sea is “painted”, the “ship sails on”, and the most complicated word in the whole poem is probably “vengeance”. The choice of words in the poem is very simplistic. The reason that Iron Maiden did this, most likely, is to not overcomplicate the syllables necessary for each word. If you have simple language it is easier to add inflection to words and establish rhythm. The unintentional effect of this is that it makes the song more Romantic.

There is certainly a correlation between Romantic ideals and the poetry. But that is not enough to prove causation, and as further research I would recommend an investigation into the causality of romanticism and the poem. 
Joshua jolly 

The Tale Goes On and On: Thank You Iron Maiden For More Romanticism

*As a guitarist and a person who works on his own metal music, I get pretty technical with the Musical terms. If I haven’t posted a link to help out with the terms, I am sorry; I’ll explain them as best as I can*

Bring up one of my favorite bands and I can talk about them for hours; bring up one of my favorite bands in a Literature class and watch as I never stop talking about it. It’s a double whammy. I listen to so much Heavy Metal on a daily basis, so it doesn’t surprise me that Iron Maiden pulls from the Romantic period and seemingly glorifies it with high vocal tonality of Bruce Dickinson and a guitar riff of triplets through the song’s verses played by Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, and the changes in the time signature and tempo to represent the tensions of the poem. If you can’t tell already, I am already in favor of Iron Maiden’s rendition of this piece; this version further exemplifies how romantic “The Rime of the Mariner” is. The song itself could also be considered romantic, too. There are several reasons why. However, we have to remember one of the key elements that makes Romanticism. Romanticism is characterized by emotion and individualism. It’s no surprise that we’re analyzing a piece of poetry that comes from the perspective of just one singular person.

First off, I wanted to analyze Iron Maiden’s song-writing in accordance with the “Mariner”. We’re greeted with a guitar riff (One of 14 different riffs throughout the song) in a standard time signature of 4/4 (Your standard measure of 4 beats/notes played on one measure). The very opening greets listeners with multiple sets of triplets, usually representative of motion. This motion is aggressive and coincides with one of the lines: “Stay here and listen to the nightmares of the sea”.  The fact that the sea is nightmarish suggests that the sailors could be sailing through a storm, furthering an anxious feeling about being on the boat. This sense of emotion is furthered when the Albatross is mentioned as it “flies on through snow and fog/Hailed in God’s name, hoping good luck it brings.” With an aggressive guitar riff and Dickinson’s speedy vocals, listeners who put themselves in the Mariner’s shoes find themselves more anxious than they would just listening to the song. This formula is essentially repeated throughout until the tempo changes, getting faster. We see more of a sense of excitement and terror when Dickinson sings to us:

“There calls the Mariner/There comes a ship over the line/But how can she sail/with no wind in her sails and no tide/See… onward she comes/Onward she nears out of the sun/See, she has no crew/She has no life, wait but there’s two/Death and she Life in Death/they throw their dice for the crew…/Then… crew one by one/they drop down dead, two hundred men/She.. she, life in Death/She lets him live, her chosen one.”

This huge chunk of lyrics gives us such a confusing emotion. Personally, I want to feel excited to see that the Mariner has lived on amidst the chaos on his ship, but to see that he is one of the last one remaining is rather terrifying. He is in solitude upon his ship with one other person. The Bride that’s often referred to, or is it actually an embodiment of death? If you take a look at the last lines of this entire section, she is the one that lets him live. Already, we’re getting to see what the Mariner loves. However, it depends on how one interprets “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Is he in love with causing death? or is he actually in love with the woman that’s there?

Five minutes in we get a time signature change to 3/4 (A Measure containing only three standard beats/notes) and a chilling bass riff accompanied by guitar chords every few measures. With such high notes being played on the bass, it creates an ethereal yet haunting presence. Dickinson speaks lowly throughout this sections describing the now “undead” sailors, their appearance, and the very sounds they make. It’s as if this whole section could be turned into a horror movie. For me, at least, this section makes me feel as if I am the Mariner, witnessing the entire crew committing to these actions.

It doesn’t last long. however, as the time signature switches right back to 4/4 and plays on a higher scale. One could interpret this as a hopeful sign as the Mariner continues his venture regardless of what just happened.

Iron Maiden’s version of the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” does this ancient ballad justice in keeping it just as Romantic as it was during the 18th century. The song itself conveys the very emotion far better than just reading it on one’s own. Then again, I only say that because I am musically inclined and, mostly because of my Chromesthesia, I respond to musical elements with far more emotion than normal.

— Drew C. Guerrero