Frost Fills The Window; Dylan’s Knocking On The Door

By Larry Fyffe
 
Sometimes but not all the time, an Existentialist amoral outlook darkens Bob Dylan’s song lyrics – there’s no meaning to life’s existence, no feeling of a guiding spirit flowing through external Nature; only the presence of the violence-backed morality of religion, and the political ideology of ‘Social’ Darwinist capitalist ideology; everything is broken:
 
They got Charles Darwin trapped out there on Highway Five
The judge tells the High Sheriff, I want him dead or alive
I don’t care
High water everywhere
Well, the cuckoo is a pretty bird, she wobbles as she flies
I’m pitchin’ the Word Of God, I’m puttin’ out your eyes
I asked Fat Nancy for somethin’ to eat, she said take it off the shelf
As great as you are man, you can’t be greater than yourself
I told her, I didn’t really care
(Bob Dylan: High Water Everywhere)
 
Sometimes one finds a bridge, a bridge of sighs, still intact, however – a connection to some female muse or work of Nature (a cuckoo, perhaps), or even a work of man-made art – a sign of vitality of an existence worth living:
 
                Love at the lips was touch
As sweet as I could bear
And once that seemed too much
I lived on air
That crossed from sweet things
                The flow of – was it musk
From hidden grapevine springs
Down hill at dusk?
(Robert Frost: To Earthward)
 
Earth, air, fire, and water: Blakean symbols of imagination, spirit, desire, and 
power, out of which develops Romantic Transcendentalist poetry that shows 
itself surviving in Bob Dylan’s song lyrics:
 
As I went out one morning
To breath the air around Tom Paine’s
I spied the fairest damsel
That ever did walk in chains
(Dylan: As I Went Out One Morning)
 
The restraints of society can thwart the imagination – thoughts and feelings that 
one can become greater than the present self. According to many of the Romantic poets. Nature shows otherwise though the journey may be tough:
 
Tree at my window, window tree
My sash is lowered when night comes on
But let there never be curtain drawn 
Between you and me ….
But tree I have seen you taken and tossed
And if you have seen me when I slept
You have seen me when I was taken and swept
And all but lost
(Frost: Tree At My Window)
 
The alliterating solid sounds of w’s and t’s alternating with fluid s-sounds be the 
artistic means by which Robert Frost closes the perceived gap between the 
objective world of Nature and the imaginative world of humankind as the poet, at the same time, personifies the tree.
 
Dylan, using the same poetic devices, would unchain the fair damsel; pun intended or not, there be ‘frost’ and ‘lost’; ‘tossed’ and ‘lost’, as he pays tribute to
poet Frost. The external world, including technological objects therein, personified:
 
Well, winter time is comin’, the windows are
filled with frost
I went to tell somebody but I could not get it across
Well, I want to be your lover baby, I don’t want to be your boss
Don’t say I never warned you when your train gets lost
                (Dylan: It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry)
 
 And, of course, Bob Dylan’s song lyrics are ofen double-edged in meaning; there’s the flaw, not the flow, of becoming overly highbrow, proudful, and losing 
touch with people. And so says Robert Frost:
 
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in the woods, and I –
I took the one less travelled by
And that has made all the difference
(Frost: The Road Not Taken)
 
And the singer/songwriter realizes death awaits us all -symbolized by the iceberg: 
 
The Titanic sails at dawn
Everybody’s shouting, Which side are you on?
And Ezra Pound and TS Eliot fighting in the 
captain’s tower
While calypso singers laugh at them and fishermen
hold flowers
Between the windows of the sea where lovely mermaids flow
And nobody has to think too much about Desolation Row
(Dylan: Desolation Row)
 
It makes a difference which path or side you are on;
 
Some say the world will end in fire
Some say in ice
                 From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favour fire
(Frost: Fire And Ice)
 
Dylan favours frost with a capital f:
.
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What is on the site

1: Over 400 reviews of Dylan songs.  There is an index to these in alphabetical order below on this 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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3 Responses to Frost Fills The Window; Dylan’s Knocking On The Door

  1. Larry Fyffe says:

    * According to Romantic poets, Nature shows…. comma not period

  2. Larry Fyffe says:

    often

  3. Larry Fyffe says:

    The ear misheard: it’s ‘she warbles as she flies’ (High Water)

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