A Beautiful World of Ethereal Places and Ephemereal Wonders

Their colors are distinct as those of the sun and regularly and obviously blended, though less vivid, fine specimens may be found any night at the foot of the upper Yosemite fall, glowing gloriously amid the gloomy shadows and thundering waters, whenever there is plenty of moonlight and spray.

– John Muir

Dear my fellow venerable peers and aspiring scholars, I present to you a plea.

Awaken your slumbering reverence of nature within. This world that we share asks for our appreciation now more than ever. The strength of a movement is determined by the collection of the will of its individuals. Wordsworth intuitively composed his poetry at a time of boiling industrial forthcoming, but do not hesitate to relate its antiquity to the pertinence it has in a world of modern environmental peril. Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads is as contemporary to our present problematic endeavors with Earth as you could possibly imagine. Their words continue to speak for a voiceless mother Earth, the most beautiful of all planets we have ever encountered. As students of the University of California, Merced, we are granted an opportunity to embrace a pioneering spirit that has fueled and characterized the United States of America for centuries. Considering our proximity to the greatest wilderness of them all, Yosemite, we are living embodiments of Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier Thesis, which spoke to the roaring passion for Western expansion and human inquisitiveness. Go forth and revel within the temples of awful (awe-inspiring) natural wonder, avoid the temptation and distractions of modernity, as they serve no true purpose to your free-spirited soul.

Wordsworth and Coleridge have me lost in a world of beauty and pain. Romanticism speaks to me like a siren-wailing fire truck calls to a lonesome canine to howl incessantly. I’m enamored by this imaginative prose, delicate as a rose, insinuating thoughts of philosophical scorn, like an unforgiving thorn. I have literally and figuratively lost myself in the forests of the Sierra Nevada, blanketed by chilling darkness, but it was then, that I had ever felt more alive. I was young then, and my eyes scrambled in the twilight in fear of black bears. I know now, that these lovable bears in comparison to fearsome grizzlies of the north or population dwindling from receding landscapes of polar bears, are not to be feared. Fresh mountain wind,  towering sequoias revived me from my past loathsome troubles that lay insidious within my mind for so long. The landscapes of this breathtaking mountain range lay etched in my thoughts even with my eyes closed, and are now ingrained in me for the rest of my existence.

The painting “Buttermere Lake: A Shower”, instills moody thoughts in a gloomy overcast. I initially see a bleak landscape of melancholy, that speaks of a desolate past. The rainbow from the painting reminds me of Lower Yosemite Fall’s moonbows. We are within 2 hours of North America’s tallest waterfall. An exciting thought to contemplate itself. I look within these dark clouds of anguish and uncertainty, however, and I find hope. Just as I once lost my wallet and my keys in Yosemite and panicked for my life, I would eventually calm down and see that they were exactly where I had placed, underneath a pile of my belongings. There is always hope even in death and absolute remorse. Even if you cannot see it, there is always light somewhere within or somewhere far beyond the twilight zone. It is only in darkness that light truly shines. Be courageous in the face of overwhelming odds. Fight on until your last dying breath, and submit to no oppressive force. I reference another poem that carries my sentiments. “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” – Dylan Thomas

Buttermere Lake, with Part of Cromackwater, Cumberland, a Shower exhibited 1798 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

Joseph William Turner’s painting carries multiple aspects of Romanticism within its frame. It is an encapsulation of the feelings and emotions of The Lyrical Ballads. Expostulation and Reply discusses enjoying nature even if its morals and lessons taught are not as direct as a lecture of philosophy or a laboratory session of science.

"You look round on your Mother Earth,
          As if she for no purpose bore you; 
          As if you were her first-born birth,
          And none had lived before you!"

William is expostulated by Matthew. Why does he seem to mindless observe the world with his mind adrift in solitary rumination?

"Nor less I deem that there are Powers
          Which of themselves our minds impress;
          That we can feed this mind of ours
          In a wise passiveness.

William explains his penchant for wonderful Mother Earth. He feels that he assimilates notions of patience and lessons of wisdom in the stillness of meditation and deep contemplation.

Landscapes like the one Turner paints and the ones that you can come across after hiking to a viewpoint are so powerful, that you can’t help but lay speechless. I recall the times I’ve been such amazing views like Glacier Point and Angel’s Landing, and I sat startled and comforted by the immense grandeur for hours.

I make one last reference to another one of Wordsworth’s poems. I ask that you consider your lifestyle and your attachments to materials, just like Wordsworth attempts to convey the contempt of materialism. A life is meant to be fulfilled with experience, and not meaningless objects.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers
.

The World is Too Much With Us

William Wordsworth

Earth day is on April 22. Also, National Park Week is April 15-23. On April 15 and 16 and again on April 22 and 23 you can visit any national park in the country free of charge. As the heavy snowfall from this year’s dramatic winter begins to recede in the Sierra Nevada, I encourage you to take part in experiencing our world within its raw natural boundaries, rather than dwelling within unsatisfying cities. The following link is a website that has been instrumental in my transition from childhood to young adulthood. It has guided me with a knowledgeable content of incredible hikes in Yosemite and also carries a comedic and informative style of prose. Check it out! http://www.yosemitehikes.com/hikes.htm

One last note. Last winter I explored Zion National Park, and after embarking on a notoriously scary but enjoyable hike, I found a drone sitting atop Angel’s Landing. Flying drones are strictly prohibited in these National Parks, and I felt obligated to find the owner before a ranger confiscated it. I’ve been looking for the owner ever since. After a considerable amount of time debating with myself internally over ethical matters, I decided to examine the footage of nature. I was absolutely blown away, and I feel compelled to share. I hope that everyone has the desire to embark on their own expeditions. I recommend the HD setting for enhanced theatrics.

 

Sincerely,

Thomas Pham

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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.

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Thomas Pham

Iron Maiden and Coleridge: Transcending Genre

Samuel Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” has been cycled over the years as an epitome of the Romantic era, where the natural world and love was valued high as a response to the changing industrial world that seemed to dull these sensations. However, Coleridge’s poem seems to have appealed to a metal band like Iron Maiden as an important source of inspiration. Metal usually does not seem to be in the same category as romantic, but this is usually because the way metal is perceived, especially by those that are not familiar with metal. I am not so familiar with metal myself, so from my vantage point, I can see how the specific hard, fast-paced metal sound of Iron Maiden gives them the characteristic of industry—and anything but the valuing of the natural world. In the band’s song of the same name, there is a moment when the sound softens up for spoken lyrics to be said:

“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.”

This is directly taken from the poem toward the end of part III, and it almost seems as if the band excuses themselves by choosing to include the poem section without the fast-paced music in the background. However, even so, when put in the context of a metal song, the dark sensory details and imagery have taken on another sensibility. Much like the ballads and the folklore of any society, reinterpretations are the lifeblood of having folkloric art. In this sense, the Iron Maiden song is another reinterpretation that has given the poem another genre altogether with the same material though. When the poem utilized the description of Death and Life-in-Death in the 10-11 stanzas of part III, the audience obviously will think spooky:

“Are those her ribs through which the Sun

Did peer, as through a grate?

And is that Woman all her crew?

Is that a DEATH? and are there two?

Is DEATH that woman’s mate?

 

Her lips were red, her looks were free,

Her locks were yellow as gold:

Her skin was as white as leprosy,

The Night-mare Life-in-Death was she,

Who thicks man’s blood with cold.”

However, the poem gives it a more spectral tone while the song utilizes a lot of the same language but different delivery. As I mentioned earlier, the poem has transcended a different genre through the interpretation done by Iron Maiden. In Iron Maiden’s use of the death-related imagery, the audience is captivated more by the confrontational style of the song since it is basically yelled and aggressive in its delivery. The song however, bears the burden of illegitimacy since some could say it is a rip-off of the poem, but I believe the different characteristics of the song give it a different style, but still valid modernization of the material/language.

 

–Cesar R

Shredding The High Seas with Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden’s rendition of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Coleridge encaptures a modern interpretation of the poem, in the form of metal music. Moving past text on a piece of paper, the melodic transposition of the poem into metal music is very intense in its purpose: Iron Maiden offers a unique perspective in which to interpret the poem by combining the senses (auditory and visual), which is a staple in Romanticism.

Direct references are paid to Coleridge’s poem, exemplifying a sense of responsibility the band has to the poem:

“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.”

While the lyrics aren’t verbatim to the poem’s lines, it nonetheless follows the same idea as the original but highlights the imagery further. The image of a painting comes into play, calling forth thoughts of a paintbrush strokes, ever so harsh and careful as the sea itself. Furthermore, the structure of the song parallels that of a storm at sea; in between the heavy riffs and screaming vocals, we are taken to a calm interlude-mimicking the eye of the storm. In this interlude, we find shelter and are given the chance for self-reflection just as the mariner contemplates his fallen crew and the eeriness of the ghost ship.

The purpose of the poem’s rendition to music lies in the foundations of Romanticism itself. To be accessible to others, to both admire and fear nature, to overflow with emotions, to experience the world’s forces and its relations to the self. This I argue, is achieved through the song. Granted, many might not like metal or feel as though the song does justice to the poem, but anyone who listens to metal understands the genre’s important theme is to express raw emotion. In a sense, Coleridge captures that rawness of nature in the poem. Iron Maiden simply breathes life into it or rather, screams at it to wake up.

-Daniel Corral

Music and Emotion

Iron Maiden’s version of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” can be considered as Romantic poetry through the way the song itself is delivered. The instrumental backing the vocals provide a way of a rising and fall of emotion throughout the song. For example, using the video provided to us, starting at about 5:20 there is sudden shift in tone going from a very upbeat tempo to a slow, ominous, elongated instrumental which then becomes the background for a quote from the poem,

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.

The sudden change in dynamic helps add more to the imagery of seeing all of the men die before his eyes. It is also important to note that this piece of the song is in the point of view of the mariner. I would argue choosing to put this particular piece of the song as the mariner remembering also works to further emphasize how the mariner’s tale turns somber as he is telling the sad tale of his journey.

-Elizabeth Dominguez

The Rime of the Modern Mariner

Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!
He prayeth well, who loveth well

Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Part VII
          This part of the poem is the moral of the story. As it is stated in the very end, it pretty much sums up the whole story with the mariner finding his appreciation of nature. He says farewell to the wedding guest and advises the guest to respect all of God’s creations. “All things great and small; For the dear God who loveth us, He made and loveth all.” Every part of nature that the mariner has encountered are made and loved by God. And in return, people should love nature. As stated in the lecture notes, one of the characteristics that defines Romanticism is “a deepened appreciation of the beauties of nature”.
         Furthermore, Iron Maiden’s take on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner covers this part at the very end of the song. Although it is not quoted directly, it is paraphrased and rewritten into:
The Mariner’s bound to tell of his story
To tell his tale wherever he goes
To teach God’s word by his own example
That we must love all things that God made.
– Iron Maiden
            Again, it is stating how the Mariner is telling his story to the wedding guest and how important it is to appreciate the beauty of God’s creations, all things of nature. But it shows more than just appreciation of nature, it also implies a change in the character’s personality and a sense of transcendence and spiritual truth. The three things I just mentioned are one of the many different characteristics of romanticism.
           An example of this change would be the albatross they encounter in the first part. The mariner shoots the albatross and would eventually live to regret that decision. The turning point starts with the shooting of the albatross and it is then the mariner learns the hard way that humans should respect nature. A series of unfortunate events occur after the shooting; the ship starts to enter uncharted waters and is visited by Death and The Nightmare Life-in-Death.

“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.”
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Part III
This sets up the turning point for the Mariner, as he begins to realize that after his crimes against nature that it is time for him to pay up. It is mentioned that Death and the Nightmare Life-in-Death had played a game of dice in which something was at stake. It turns out that it was the crew’s lives that were at stake. One after one, the crew would die off. This could be cruel irony as the Nightmare Life-in-Death’s name could be an implication of the mariner’s fate. A fate where he will suffer far worse than death for killing the albatross. Thus, he changes his mindset and realizes his wrongs for committing such crimes against nature.
          The prayers that follow after the visit from Death and She-Death and the realization of the beauty of the watery snakes were all changes in the mariner’s personality and spiritual truth. At first he referred to the watery snakes as “slimy things” and would eventually describe them as:
O happy living things! no tongue
Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gushed from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware:
Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
And I blessed them unaware.
– Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Part IV
This description of the watery snakes show a change in the mariner and stresses how important nature is to him. He is now appreciating these snakes he once despised earlier in the poem. And within the song, the mariner doesn’t pray for the doom of the sea creatures, but instead, the beauty. This signifies his change in personality as he would’ve prayed for the death of all sea creatures earlier in the story that is being told. He has finally overcome his beliefs he once had. Not only is it showing the change of the Mariner as a person, but stressing the idea of appreciating nature.
          Finally, the use of language in the Iron Maiden song tells us something about it. The terminology wasn’t very technical, but very easy to understand as the lyrics were “plain”. And one of the objectives of poetry is for the “low and rustic life” where the use of language shouldn’t be so complicated but more empathic. But are the lyrics relatable to the common man? Somewhat. Seamen make as much as the working-class in today’s world (“Able Bodied Seaman Salary”). If we were able to understand and like the song then maybe we are the wedding guest. And if we were able to understand the meaning of it and become a “sadder and wiser” person after it, then yes, the song has romanticism roots all over it.
– Christopher Luong

Electric Guitar and Somber Fear: Iron Maiden

In the fourth section of “The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere,” the reader gets a description of the sounds that are coming from the ghastly landscape of the poem’s setting: “I heard the Lavrock sing;/ Sometimes all little birds that are/ How They seem’d to fill the sea and air/ With their sweet jargoning” (ll. 348-351). The aesthetics of the poem are “sweet,” and the sounds that you hear are the light “sing[ing] of “all [the] little birds” that “fill the sea and air.”

Clearly, these are far different aesthetics than you hear from a metal song where Adrian Smith and David Murray pluck away at the strings of their powerful electric guitars, sliding up and down the scale in a vibrant display of a heavy metal musical virtuoso. Dickinson’s vocals are shrill in tonality, high in pitch, and aggressive in their delivery. So, it seems that aesthetics of the song are somewhat of a shortcoming in the song’s representation.

However, about five minutes into the song, the powerful chug of electric guitars and the slamming percussion of McBrian stop for a moment, to quote the lines near 204, interpreted by the band as: “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.” In this section of the song, the tone of the track switches to a calm and peaceful expression, similar to the aesthetics of the actual poem, noted above. In this section of the song, Dickinson makes reference to the poetry with shocking clarity in a respectful homage. It shows that the band members are conscious of the poem itself, not merely appropriating the track for their acoustic endeavors.

Furthermore, the interpretation of the poem is inherently romantic, given that Coleridge was awed at the idea of a poem’s obscurity. This multiplicity of interpretation leaves the poem as a perfect example of a piece of fiction ripe for interpretation within a musical platform. I believe that Coleridge would have been honored to hear his narrative poetry interpreted in the heavy metal setting.

Peace

—Nathaniel Schwass

Iron Maiden and Romantic Poetry

For next Friday (4/7), students will write a blog post on the YouTube video below, answering the following question: How is Iron Maiden’s heavy metal version of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” like Romantic poetry?  Consider the lyric speaker, the imagery, poetic tone, figurative language, and rhythmic beat the poem shares with the Irion Maiden music video.  Explain your answer through a focused close reading.

Please categorize your post under “The Romantic Turn” and don’t forget to create specific and relevant tags.  The post is due by Friday (4/7) 1pm, but students have the option to revise it until 6pm that day.  And please sign your posts so that your TA, Hannah, and I know who wrote what.  Warning: blank or filler “placeholder” posts submitted after the deadline will not receive a grade!


Out-of-class blog comments: Because Friday’s lecture will be cancelled, students will attend the course virtually by submitting blog comments for three student posts (not your own) due this week.  The comments should answer the following question:

What is the most original idea in this post and how could the student’s interpretation be improved?

The blog comments are due by 2:20 pm that Friday (4/7) and should be 3-4 sentences.  The three blog comments will count as your participation and attendance for Friday’s canceled lecture.