By Larry Fyffe
As far as PreRomantic poet William Blake was concerned, the essential elements composing the Universe (earth, air, water, and fire), poetically speaking, are unbalanced within the human psyche:
“Does the spring hide its joy
When buds and blossoms grow?
Does the sower
Sow by night?
Or the ploughman in the darkness plow?”
(Blake: The Earth Answers)
According to Blake, Mother Earth, having given birth to a creature able to imagine, to contemplate its own existence, has been undermined by the rise of the male component of power (water) with its spirit (air)of rationalism, a characteristic associated with Apollo, the Sun God, in Greek mythology.
The female component, accused by the new order, of being the authoress of her own demise due to her unrestrained curiousity, the value of intuition and emotion are down-graded; dogmatic religion and the scientific method established as the accepted means to acquire knowledge.
It is incumbent on the true artist, asserts Blake, is to alert human beings about their ‘fallen’ state:
So too, Bob Dylan:
“There’s too much confusion
I can’t get no relief
Business men, they drink my wine
Ploughmen dig my earth
None of them along the line
Know what any of it is worth”
(Bob Dylan: All Along The Watchtower)
Because of her beauty, the Victorian poet Robert Graves, like the Romantic poets before him, idealizes the Goddess Mother Earth, associated with the close-by, ever-changing Greek Moon Goddess Diana:
“All saints revile her, and all sober men
Ruled by the God Apollo’s golden mean –
In search of which we sailed to find her
In distant regions likeliest to hold her
Whom we desired above all things to know
Sister of the mirage and echo”
(Robert Graves: The White Goddess)
As said, Blake envisions Mother Earth as representing the Imagination; Transcendental Romanticism results.
Bob Dylan, on the macro as well as the micro, or the individual Muse level does too, but his desire for renewed artistic expression leads him to escape from the countryside to the city, to Desolation Row, in search of a different perspective, a fiery view that comes from more than a small-town blacksmith shop – but with some regret:
“Once I had mountains in the palm of my hand
And rivers that ran through every day
I must have been mad
I never knew what I had
Until I threw it all away”
(Dylan: I Threw It All Away)
But throw it all away he did, and with the inspiration of a newfound female Muse, his creative spirit takes flight, creating a music-based synaesthesia-filled art form that links together the fragmented images of the always-awake cityscape that stimulates all the senses, all the time:
“Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’rd tryin’to be so quiet?
We sit here stranded, though we’re all doin’ our best to deny it
And Louise holds a handful of rain, temptin’ you to defy it
Lights flicker from the opposite loft
In this room the heat pipes just cough
The country music station plays soft
But there’s nothing, really nothing to turn off
Just Louise and her lover so entwined
And these visions of Johanna that conquer my mind”
(Dylan: Visions Of Johanna)
What is on the site
1: Over 390 reviews of Dylan songs. There is an index to these in alphabetical order on the home page and an index to the songs in the order they were written in the Chronology Pages.
2: The Chronology. We’ve taken all the songs we can find recordings of and put them in the order they were written (as far as possible) not in the order they appeared on albums. The chronology is more or less complete and is now linked to all the reviews on the site. We have also recently started to produce overviews of Dylan’s work year by year. The index to the chronologies is here.
3: Bob Dylan’s themes. We publish a wide range of articles about Bob Dylan and his compositions. There is an index here.
4: The Discussion Group We now have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook. Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link
5: Bob Dylan’s creativity. We’re fascinated in taking the study of Dylan’s creative approach further. The index is in Dylan’s Creativity.
And please do note The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, is starting to link back to our reviews.