Not Dark Yet is one of the triumphs of Dylan’s later work – a pivotal point on the album, the darkest moment (despite the title) which then leads the way towards light.
I’ll consider the album as a whole on another occasion, but the song itself manages to create a dreamlike quality of drifting in and out of sleep, while considering the past, and waiting for the end.
It is in many ways a return to the Taoist concept of “Darkness within Darkness, the way to all understanding” – not least achieved by the way the song stretches itself out, with the unexpected additional beat between bars, and the lack of any instrumental lead during the non-vocal verse.
From the “Shadows are falling” line, we find the simple link between the end of the individual’s life, and the end of the day, to be as one. Time and life united in its situation – it is autumn, the elderly man stares at the sunset, ready to take his leave but knowing that the time has not yet quite come. Wondering why he has to continue with memories, achieving nothing new, just being.
There are no regrets here, no sadness, not really a desire for it all to end – just an acceptance that this is how it is.
I’ve always had the feeling since I first heard the song that it is hard to understand it unless you have known an elderly relative or friend who is living alone, or in a home, finishing their days with less fun and enthusiasm than you would have liked them to have. The song captures every element of that reality of the experience and the song itself become entangled totally in life. All that is left are memories: “I’ve still got the scars that the sun didn’t heal.”