By Larry Fyffe
Social Darwinism is an ideology that sanctifies the control over the technological means of production by the capitalist class. Donning the mask of science, its advocates the claim that evidenced-based Darwinian natural selection explains the formation of classes under the capitalist economic system: a reaction to Karl Marx’s assertion that existing social conditions are the result of the control of the means of production for profit, including the production of products necessary for mankind’s survival.
In reaction to both Social Darwinism and scientific evolution, Modernist poet William Carlos Williams puts Hegelian Romanticism back on its feet, contriving a secular religion that envisions a slow but progressive process operating in the Universe.
The poet-priest declares the artistic imagination, with its thoughts both dark and bright, be the intended goal, pre-set in the constitution of Creation even before mankind arrives upon the scene. That is, essence precedes man’s existence, and random natural selection and philosophical Existentialisms are over-ruled by Design Creationism, by an imaginative spirit personified:
Earth, the Blakean symbol of the poetic imagination, but with its thoughts, its ideas, given a modern twist by Williams – a material basis, grounded in the objective correlatives of figurative language – that suggests Romantic idealism has its roots in scientific Darwinism.
But, according to Williams, it’s a tough struggle for the imaginative spirit within the brain to contend with the defiled social conditions imposed by capitalist economics:
(Williams: The Pure Products Of America)
Alluding to a Scottish Romantic poem:
(Robert Burns: My Heart’s In The Highlands)
Apparently, all is not well in America, and the Modernist poetry of Williams, as well as the Romantic of Burns, impacts the song lyrics of Bob Dylan:
(Bob Dylan: Highland)
As I’ve pointed out before, when Dylan pays tribute to a poem in his song lyrics, he varies a bit the end-rhymes of the original: ‘roe’ and ‘go’ to ‘flow’ and ‘go’.
The poems of William Carlos Williams suggest the better a piece of art be adapted to contemporary social conditions and the technology thereof, the better chance of it surviving.
Oral and aural oriented lyrics intended to be sung with music, designed, not by money-hungry capitalists, but by the artistically skilled, to wake up the public-at-large to the message contained therein – rock and rolling folkish songs mixed in the basement with eye-catching images -, a recipe for a new art form to keep the chimes of the creative imagination freely flashing:
With “w’s” alliterating, Williams Carlos Williams writes:
(Williams: The Red Wheelbarrow)
Sings Dylan, accompanied musically:
(Bob Dylan: Buckets Of Rain)
Neither Darwinist, Social Darwinist, nor Marxist, Romanic-influenced poet William Carlos Williams intuits a vitalistic spirit flowing through Nature; nay, throughout the whole Universe – below animating plants:
To The Contagious Hospital)
Bob Dylan, owl of Minerva flying at dusk, awaits the awakening of Man …
What did you see my blue-eyed son; what did you see my darling young one?
What is on the site
1: Over 400 reviews of Dylan songs. There is an index to these in alphabetical order at the foot of 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.