The Arrows They Are A-Flyin’: Bob Dylan Disguised As Robin Hood

By Larry Fyffe

“Seen the arrow on the door post
Saying ‘This land is condemned
All the way from New Orleans to Jerusalem'”
(Dylan: Blind William McTell)

A Biblical Romantic vision by Bob Dylan  – a corrupted society, a New Babylon, whose inhabitants sit side-saddle on the Golden Calf, cast out of idealistic Eden, from the  land of milk and honey, and  into a Hell-on-Earth.

The arrow in the door presumably shot by the sharp-eyed Will Scarlet, a member of Robin Hood’s merry band. Will still hides out in Sherwood Forest  by himself. At one time, he lived with Little John Lennon before the big guy passed away:

“You burned so bright
Roll on, John
Tiger, tiger, burning bright
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
In the forest of the night”
(Bob Dylan: Roll On, John)

Reminding Robin of a message delivered to him years ago on the streets of Rome by Will Blake, who was driving a chariot.  Also an outlaw from the tiger-stalked forests of England, and brother to Will Scarlet, Blake warns the then Lord Robert of Zimmerman about declining English cuture.

“And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills
Bring me my bow of burning gold
Bring me my arrows of desire
Bring me my spear; O clouds unfold
Bring  me my chariot of fire”
(William Blake: Jerusalem)

The Blake poem Zimmerman reworks. He passes the warning on to Friar Tuck, Robin’s friend, the jealous monk. The  hooded outlaw’s song lyric speaks about one of the holy man’s many sons:

“As his youth now unfolds
……He’s young and on fire
Full of hope and desire
In a world that’s been raped, raped and defiled”
(Dylan: Lord Protect My Child)

Then Robin Hood disguises himself as Bob Dylan, enters an archery contest to prove that he’s a really good archer, and not just the master thief that the Sheriff of Nottingham makes him out to be. Besides, there’s a $15.oo prize at stake.

“And the dust of rumours covers me
But if the arrow is straight
And the point is slick
It can pierce through dust
No matter how thick”
(Dylan: Restless Farewell)

With his well-aimed arrows, Bob Dylan captures the prize, and a trophy is handed to him by The Nobles of the Roundtable:

“Electric light still struck like arrows,
fired but for ones
Condemned to drift, or else be kept from drifting”
(Dylan: Chimes Of Freedom Flashing)

With the help of his merry band, the hooded bowman escapes down the courthouse steps. He bounds over the castle wall faster than Eroll Fynn.

And they’re off, over the hill, riding eight white horses, chasing after the King’s deer:

“With the twang of an arrow, and
snap of the bow
…… my heart’s in the Highlands at the break of day
Over the hills and far away”
(Dylan: Highlands)

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The Chronology Files

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  1. You see Mr. Knight Larry Fuffy. You have borrowed a lot of sentences from Bob Dylan, but this is not a retelling of the story of Bob Hood, this a whole new fantasy story.
    And what a story!!!
    Very amusing, elegant and innovative.
    Thank you.

  2. And I thank you, Babette…for not knocking me off the log and into the water like Little John did to Robin Hood!

  3. He comes up to me, and says,
    ‘Are you registered to vote’
    (Henry Rollins: Art To Choke Hearts)

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