Blake, Keats, And Spots Of Ink: Spinning Reels Of Rhyme

Blake, Keats, And Spots Of Ink: Spinning Reels Of Rhyme
By LarryFyffe

An analysis of Bob Dylan’s writing style that is available here, and positively
nowhere else.

When Bob Dylan pays tribute to a poem or a song by mentioning it in one of his own songs, he usually reworks some of the original poem’s or song’s lines.

A characteristic of the Dylanesque technique is for the songwriter to leave in tact, or vary a bit, the end-rhymes, or end-words, that are in the original work.

Here, Dylan changes ‘pains’ to ‘pain’,
and ‘drains’ to ‘drain’, end-rhymes that exist in the poem sourced:

“It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there
Well my sense of humanity is going down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing, there’s
been some kind of pain”
(Dylan: It’s Not Dark Yet)

Dylan nods his head to one of the great English Romantic poets:

“My heart aches and a drowsy numbness pains
My senses, as though of hemlock I had drunk
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk”
(John Keats: Ode To A Nightingale)

And here’s a source song that end-rhymes “fears/tears”, but Dylan changes to “fear/tears”:

“Go on back to see the Gypsy
He can move you from the rear
Drive you from your fear
Bring you through the mirror
He did it in Las Vegas
He can do it here
Outside the lights were shining
On the river of tears”
(Dylan: Went To See The Gypsy)

It’s a song made famous by the fabulous Ink Spots:

“There’s a lady they call the Gypsy
She can look in the future
And drive away all your fears
Everything will come right
If you only believe the Gypsy
She could tell at a glance
That my heart was full of tears”
(Steve Angello:The Gypsy)

End-rhymes can remain untouched, “fire/desire”:

“You’re the one that reaches me
You’re the one that I admire
Every time we meet together
My soul feels like it’s on fire
Nothing matters to me
And there’s nothing I desire”
(Dylan: Nobody ‘Cept You)

The poem source is by a pre-Romantic:

“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”
(Willian Blake: Jerusalem)

Another of Dylan’s song lyrics contains as well “unfolds/old” in place of “unfold/gold”:

“As his youth unfolds
He is centuries old
Just to see him at play makes me smile
….He’s young and on fire
Full of hope and desire”
(Dylan: Lord Protect My Child)

Now an unaltered end- rhyme, “bright” with “night”:

“They walked along the old canal
A little confused, I remember well
And stopped into a strange hotel
With a neon burning bright
He felt the heat of the night”
(Dylan: Simple Twist Of Fate)

The original, a poem by the pre-Romantic:

“Did He smile His work to see
Did He who made the Lamb make thee?
Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night”
(William Blake: The Tyger)

Often Dylan creates the end-rhyme anew; here from “brow/x” to “brow/now”:

“You trampled on me as you passed
Left the coldest kiss upon my brow
All of my doubts and fears have gone at last
I’ve nothing more to tell you now”
(Dylan: Tell Ol’ Bill)

It’s a song lyric sourced from a very famous poem by the melancholy

“I see a lily on thy brow
With anguish moist and fever-dew
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too”
(Keats: La Belle Dame Sans Merci)

And this example sourced from the same sad poet with “enjoyed/cloyed” changed to “joyful/x”, and “young/tongue” to”young/ sung”.

“May your heart always be joyful
May your your songs always be sung
And may you stay forever young”
(Dylan: Forever Young)

This particular Dylan tribute to Keats alludes to:

“For ever warm and still to be enjoyed
For ever panting, and for ever young
All breathing human passion far above
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloyed
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue”
(Keats: Ode On A Grecian Urn)

Forever the spinning wheels of rhyme.


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  1. Interesting problem, Janvier…solved by putting the actual English end-rhymes and end-words in brackets in order to explain what Dylan is doing beside Spanish translations of the poems and songs, perhaps??? I’m really not sure how to go about it in Spanish!

  2. Also:

    May you build a ladder to the stars
    And climb on every rung
    May you stay forever young
    (Bob Dylan: Forever Young)

    We are dropping down the ladder rung by rung
    And the measure of our torment is the measure
    of our youth
    God help us, for we knew the worst too young
    (Rudyard Kipling: Gentlemen-Rankers)

  3. Oscar Wilde in ”The Picture of Dorian Gray’ keeps the mythological son of Hellen – Doros (Dorian) – forever young, while his portrait goes gray. Dorian dies when he attacks the painting.

  4. May God bless you and protect you
    May God show you favour and be gracious to you
    May God show you kindness and grant you peace
    (Blessing To Children)

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