The Pain in the Window

By Larry Fyffe

An individual can peer through the windows of his or her house, as if these glassed constructions were its eyes, and observe outside natural forces, and people, from which one is sheltered. The structure of these man-made objects, these eye-like windows, is beyond price in so far as an artist’s comparitive imagination is concerned.

An individual is separated from the outside world but cannot completely escape from it because of the mind’s memories from the past, both good and bad, happy and sad:

“I cannot grasp the shadows
That gather near the door
Rain falls round my window
I wish I’d seen you more”
(Bob Dylan: I Can’t Escape From You)

The mind is a metaphorical window that looks out into the external world, and retains images of things considered harmful, and of people best forgotten:

“Go away from my window
Leave at your own chosen speed
I’m not the one you want, babe
I’m not the one you need
You say you’re lookin’ for someone
Who’s never weak, but always strong”
(Bob Dylan: It Ain’t Me Babe)

And it’s capable, as well, of feeling empathy for the plight of others, a plight an artist often synchronizes with weather conditions outside a window:

“The wind howls like a hammer
The night wind blows cold and rainy
My love, she’s like some raven
At my window with a broken wind”
(Bob Dylan: Love Minus Zero)

Of course, sometimes a window is just a window, literally an escape route; to which a poet or songwriter might refer with a bit of cruel, sexist, and hyperbolic humour:

“Well, I took me a woman late last night
I’s three-fourths drunk, she looked all right
‘Till she started peelin’ off her onion gook
She took off her wig, said, ‘How do I look?’
I’s high flyin’, bare naked, out the window”
(Bob Dylan: I Shall Be Free)

A window can also represent metaphoically a means of escape from a mindset that confines oneself to an oppressive prison, mostly of one’s own making:

“Can you please crawl out your window?
Use you  arms and legs, it won’t ruin you
How can you say he will haunt you?
You can go back to him any time you want to”
(Bob Dylan: Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window)

A window can be compared to a watchful shield that protects the individual from those outside of the self that appear to be other than what they actualy are:

“Look out your window, baby, there’s a scene you’d like to catch
There’s a band playing ‘Dixie’, a man got his hand outstretched
Could be the Fuhrer
Could be the local priest
You know sometimes Satan, you know be comes as a man of peace”
(Bob Dylan: Man Of Peace)

Even Christ’s teachings or, at least, the way his followers use them, are no assured security. When it comes right down to it, the final decision, given the prevailing weather conditions, is up to the individual: whether to let go of his or her protective shield or not:

“Crickets are chirpin’, the water is high
There’s a soft cotton dress on the line hangin’ to dry
Window wide open, African trees
Bent over backwards from a hurricane breeze
Not a word of goodbye, not even a note
She gone with the man in the long black coat”
(Bob Dylan: Man In The Long Black Coat)

Everyone has windows that from the inside look outside. Dylan’s view is rather an Existentialist one, or would be, were it not for those reflections that keep getting in his way – haunting memories:

“Down every street there’s a window
And every window made of glass
We’ll keep on lovin’, pretty baby
For as long as love will last
Beyond here lies nothin’
But the mountains of the past”
(Bob Dylan: Beyond Here Lies Nothin’)

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.

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

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.

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5 Responses to The Pain in the Window

  1. Larry Fyffe says:

    Correction: “he comes as a man of peace”

  2. Hannes Schmid says:

    You forgot “motorpsycho nightmare“.
    “ I crashed through the window at a hundred miles an hour.“

  3. Pia says:

    My Love she is like some Raven at My window with a broken wing… I believe are the right words

  4. Frank Andrews says:

    A window can be a mirror, letting you look out and look back at yourself at the same time: the self and others superimposed.

    “I was riding on a train one time from Durango, Mexico, to San Diego. I fell asleep on the train and woke up in this town called Monterey. I guess it was about past midnight. Not too much happening. . . . And a family was getting off the train. An old man was stepping up on the platform to get up on the train. And he came down the aisle and took a seat across the aisle from me. Meantime the train was still in the station. Anyway, I was watching this whole thing through the window, which was turned into a long mirror. And finally I felt a strange vibration and I had to turn to look at this man. He wasn’t wearing anything but a blanket. So I turned my head to look at him. Both his eyes were on fire, I could easily see that, and there was smoke coming out of his nostrils. I said, well, this is the man I had to talk to. So I turned back to look out the mirror again. I finally got up the courage to talk to him. And the train started moving and the conversation went something like this . . .”
    Charlotte 1978, introducing “Señor.”

  5. Larry Fyffe says:

    Pia…Dylan sings both versions( is; ‘s) and lyric sites give both too.

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