La Mancha Is Blowing In The Wind: Bob Dylan And Don Quixote

By Larry Fyffe

Ain’t it just like the knight to play tricks on you when you’re trying to be so quiet.

In some of his song lyrics, Bob Dylan is none other than the reincarnation of Don Quixote riding atop his tired old horse.

And like Miguel Cervantes’ noble knight-errant, he’s gentlemanly humorous about being overwhelmed by the decadent state of affairs that’s inherited from the past. He takes refuge in his own mind:

“And if you hear vague traces of skippin’ reels of rhyme
To your tambourine in time, it’s just a ragged clown behind
I wouldn’t pay it any mind, it’s just a shadow
You’re seeing that he’s chasing”
(Bob Dylan: Mr. Tambourine Man)

“It’s just windmills you see that’s he’s chasing”, Bob Dylan could just as well have written.

Since life’s too short for one idealistic visionary man to solve all the problems of these modern times, art’s the only shield, and a deranged detachment of the senses the only shelter from the raging storm outside.

Hope of progress is nothing but a romantic delusion:

“‘I think I’ll call it America’
I said as we hit land
I took a deep breath
I fell, I could not stand
Captain Ahab started writing up some deeds
He said, ‘Let’s set up a fort
And start buying this place with beads’
Just then a cop comes down the street
Crazy as a loon
He throws us all in jail
For carrying harpoons”
(Bob Dylan: 115th Dream)

 The contrived symbols of social status, and the unmanly weapons of modern warfare are, for this valorous knight, the trademarks of fake crusaders out for selfish gain:

“Gypsy Davey with a blow torch, he burns their camps
With his faithful slave Pedro behind him he tramps
With a fantastic collection of stamps
To win friends and influence his uncle”
(Bob Dylan: Tombstone Blues)

Women, those helpless damsels in distress, our brave knight sees as heavenly creatures from another world:

“My love she speaks like silence
Without ideals or violence
She doesn’t have to say she’s faithful
Yet she’s true like ice, like fire
People carry roses
And make promises by the hour
My love she laughs like the flowers
Valentines can’t buy her”
(Bob Dylan: Love Minus Zero)

But all is not what it seems …if you have some beads:

“Well, the last I heard of Ahab
He was stuck on a whale
That was married to the deputy
Sheriff of the jail”
(Bob Dylan: 115th Dream)

Of course, for all this romantic foolishness, Dylan Quixote, suffers mightily:

“Just remember wakin’ up on a little shore
Head busted, stomach cracked
Feet splintered, I was bald, naked
Quite lucky to be alive though”
(Bob Dylan: Talkin’  Bear Mountain Picnic Blues)

What else is on this site

1: Over 360 reviews of Dylan songs. 

2: The Dylan Chronologies.  

3: Bob Dylan’s themes.  .

4:   The Discussion Group    Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

5:  Bob Dylan’s creativity.

6: A classification of Bob Dylan’s songs and partial Index to Dylan’s Best Opening Lines

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