By Larry Fyffe
Throughout the poetry of William Blake, good and bad spirits flitter; the pre-Romantic poet envisions that, in the past, there was a time when the material human body was not out of balance; not overly-governed by Reason to the detriment of Intuition and Imagination:
“And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountan green
And was the Holy Lamb of God
On England’s pastures seen”
In his poetry, Samuel Coleridge rejects the tenets of organized religion to a much lesser extent than Blake does; the Romantic poet Coleridge envisions in external Nature a sense of Oneness; an Absolute Spirit showing human reason, intuition and imagination to be united.
“And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills
Where blossomed many an incence-bearing tree
And here were forests ancient as the hills
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery”
(Coleridge: Kubla Khan)
Bob Dylan, with his Judaic background takes issue with Coleridge’s conclusion that the Promised Land is here now. No, the metaphoric Messiah is yet to come.
Coleridge’s flaw: unlike fellow Romantic transcendentalist poet William Wordsworth, Samuel mixes his poetic vision with a hard drug, pain-relieving opium:
“And all should cry, Beware, Beware
His flashing eyes, his flashing hair
Weave a circle round him thrice
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey dew hath fed
And drunk the milk of Paradise”
(Coleridge: Kubla Khan)
Coleridge and Dylan are both aware of the same biblical verse:
“And I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians
And to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large
Unto a land flowing with milk and honey”
America is not the Promised Land, according to Bob Dylan; its people tricked, drugged, and enslaved by the Great Deceiver into believing ‘The American Dream’ – that all of men can be saved by worshipping at the feet of the Golden Calf.
“It’s undeniable what they’d have you to think
It’s indescribable, it can drive you to drink
They said it was the land of milk and honey
Now they say it’s the land of money
Who ever thought they could make that stick
It’s unbelievable that you can get this rich this quick”
(Bob Dylan: Unbelievable)
Adding a typical Dylanesque sardonic twist at the end; Dylan can ‘t help it, if he’s lucky!
The myth of the American Dream sticks. However, for the great majority of Americans it’s not believable.
So Bob Dylan sides politically with Ginsberg-heralded ‘no-more-auction block’ Abolitionist poet Wiliam Blake, and not with the sedated Samuel Coleridge.
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