Glyph of the word 'iala'ala'.


  • (adv.) everywhere

Lelea, lelea iala’ala…
“Water, water everywhere…”

Notes: Nor any drop to drink: The chilling refrain from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (see the full text of the poem here). It is also the subject of the ninth best Iron Maiden song:

Number 9
“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”

Iron Maiden's album Powerslave

Powerslave (1984)

For those who haven’t read the Coleridge poem, the song “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (almost fourteen minutes in length, by the way. To fit it onto YouTube, it had to be broken into two parts: part 1 and part 2) is a good summary. It goes something like this:

At a wedding, this strange old man stops one of three wedding guests that he might tell them a tale. He tells the guest how he used to be a mariner on a ship, and how on one particular voyage, an albatross started following them around (flying around the ship, keeping them company, etc.). The crew all loved the bird, and took it as a bird of good omen. Then one day (why, no one can say), the mariner takes it upon himself to shoot the albatross. Then the winds and the sea turn against them. The crew takes the albatross and hangs it about his neck as punishment for killing it.

Then things get weird.

The crew all die of thirst as they float adrift, but the mariner remains alive. Then he somehow is sunk down into the sea where he comes upon a host of sea phantoms, or something, and the mariner is given to understand that all creatures great and small are precious, and that he did wrong to kill the albatross. Once he understands this and repents, the albatross falls from his neck, and, after awhile, he washes ashore. Thereafter, he is fated to go around the world telling his tale, so that all will know to be kind to all creatures great and small.

Written at the end of the 18th century, this poem was (and is) kind of silly. In order for it to work, you have to throw out your inhibitions and take it at face value, going along with everything it throws at you. That’s what I like about this Iron Maiden rendition of the poem (it’s not the full poem; it’s shortened): It treats the source material quite seriously and the song itself is epic.

The song has three or four distinct movements (which you can hear if you listen to the song) that accompany the action of the poem. And in live shows, it’s even better, where they add sound effects for the creaking of the ship during the middle section and play it up wonderfully. By adding musical accompaniment, one is able to kind of get into the spirit of the story. And even at almost 14 minutes, this song is one of their most popular live pieces. That’s saying something for a modern rock concert!

Overall, it’s a great listening experience. It’s a true metal masterpiece, and worth of the number 9 spot in my personal Iron Maiden top ten.

A note on this word: There’s actually another, totally unrelated (like, not even close) word that has the exact same phonological form. In this one, the glottal stop is epenthetic (it pops up between like vowels); in the other one, it’s the intervocalic realization of h. Funny. I’ll have to do that word some day…

Oh, and one more mariner comment. I always wondered why on Earth the mariner shoots the albatross. It makes absolutely no sense; there’s just no reason for it. Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer of Iron Maiden, offers a unique interpretation at the beginning of one of their live performances when he says to the crowd, “This is not what to when a bird [defecates] on you!” It makes sense if you read up on the history (I guess it comes from a true account where a sailor shot an albatross hanging around their boat because they thought it was a bad omen [they were having unfavorable winds, etc.]. So there, even though it was cruel, it was at least motivated by some sort of human logic), but without it, it’s just some dude killing a bird. Odd, to say the least.

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