Writing Rime of the Ancient Mariner Part 2

Similar to Kathleen’s  Mermaid Boneyard series of posts this will also be a series that will begin as an exploration of writing I’ve already done. From there it will progress, God willing, into the completion of a screenplay. (Does that rustling in the trees sound like chuckling? Is the Lord laughing at my plans?)

I believe I started the project when I was looking for something to listen to on Librivox. I had listened to one of the Librivox recordings of Moby Dick during my daily bicycle commute to work, this was quite a feat given the length of Moby Dick and how short my commute ride was.

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However long it took, I had finished it and, while in between audio books, I was listening to my heavy metal Pandora station and on came Iron Maiden doing Rime of the Ancient Mariner. If you are not familiar with this song, or with Maiden then I encourage you to click through on the link and you will be treated to a 13:27 minute epic heavy metal hair band rendition of the poem. And if you do click through and find it to not be to your musical taste then at least slide the progress counter out to around 5:55 to hear a clip of Richard Burton reading the poem embedded into the bands live show.


In the song we get to hear Burton narrate this section of 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.”

Pretty heavy stuff, eh? That led me to a search for Burton’s recording of the poem but for some reason it was only available on cassette tape at amazon … yes, you read that correctly I said … cassette.


This then led me back to Librivox where there was a version, but it was read by a woman. Now I love listening to women readers … of like, Jane Austen and such, but of Rime of the Ancient Mariner? Really? There isn’t a single female character in the whole blasted ballad! Is that sexist of me? Regardless, I really wanted to hear it so download it I did. The whole thing is only 30 or so minutes long so I was able to hear it over and over and over … and guess what? I still liked it. In fact I liked it so much that I printed it in written form (Blechh! Reading! I hate reading … oh, but I love you oh gentle reader 😉 )

The Librivox version was fine and is definitely responsible for my continued interest in the poem which is the inspirational spark that led to my starting the the screenplay which led to these blog entries, but it was my first exposure to the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, as an 80’s hair metal tune, that I will always remember. When Spinal Tap sing their epic ode-to-to-druids-past, Stonehenge, they are basically mocking Iron Maidens’ Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and the many other similar songs of this era.


Of course Richard Burton did not have quite the level of wordsmithery to draw inspiration from as can be found in Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel and David St. Hubbins (named after the patron saint of quality footwear), what with lyrics like this from Stonehenge:

Won’t you take my hand
We’ll go back in time
To that mystic land
Where the dewdrops cry
And the cats meow

I will take you there
I will show you how

“And the cats meow…” <wipes tear> With lyrics like that to compete with is it really any wonder that Richard Burton’s recording of Mariner could only be found on cassette?

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