Listen To The Dylanesque Whistle Blowing


By Larry Fyffe

The ‘Dylanesque Rhyme Twist’ applied to the song lyrics of Bob Dylan’s ‘Open The Door, Homer’, indicates that the lyrics have more to do with Omar Khayyam’s ‘Rubaiyat’ than with Count Basie’s ‘Open The Door, Richard.’

My Dylanesque Whistle hypothesis states that the the singer/songwriter often takes rhyme sets (or very close variations thereof) from a poem and transfers them on to the lyrics of a song that’s inspired by that poem:

And, as the cock crew, those who stood before
The tavern shouted – Open the door –
You know how little while we have to stay
And, once departed, may return no more
(Khayyam: The Rubaiyat)

The above poem concerns itself with the confinement of time, and features the rhymes: ‘before’, ‘door’, ‘more’.

Akin to the theme presented in the song below that has for rhymes: ‘door’, ‘before’, ‘more’:

Open the door
I’ve heard it all before
Open the door
I’ve heard it said before
But I ain’t gonna hear it said no more
(Dylan: Open The Door, Homer)

The Dylanesque Rhyme Twist hypothesis is further confirmed by the following examples:

There was a door to which I found no key
There was a veil past which I could not see
Some little talk awhile of me and thee
There was – and then no more of thee and me
(Khayyam: The Rubaiyat)

The rhymes in the above poem about being mostly locked out of ever knowing another’s mind are: ‘key’, ‘see’, ‘me’.

In the similarly-themed song below the rhymes are: ‘me’, ‘see’, ‘key’:

Well, I got the fever down in my pockets
The Persian drunkard, he follows me
Yes, I can take him to your house, but I can’t unlock it
You see
You forgot to leave me
With the key
(Dylan: Absolutely, Sweet Marie)

Observe the Dylanesque Twist in the poem/song lyrics beneath, both presenting a sense of sadness, of despair:

My heart aches and a drowsy numbness pains
My senses as though of hemlock I had drunk
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
(John Keats: Ode To A Nightingale)

Rhymes in the above poem: ‘pains’, ‘drains’.

In the following song: ‘drain’, ‘pain’:

Well, my sense of humanity has gone down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing there’s some kind of pain
(Dylan: Not Dark Yet)

And ‘young’ with ‘tongue’ rhyme in the poem below, a poem about the loss of the beauty and innocence of youth lamented by the preRomantic William Blake, and by later Romantic poets:

And, happy melodist, unwearied ….
For ever panting, and for ever young
All breathing human passion far above
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloyed
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue
(John Keats: Ode To A Grecian Urn)

But ‘young’ with ‘rung’ varies the rhyme a bit in the following song lyrics:

May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
(Dylan: Forever Young)

Romantic poet and songster despair as each tries to hang on to the transcendental ideal that truth and beauty (represented by the Greek God of Music and Light, Apollo, and by the female Muses)be more than just figments of the artist’s subjective imagination; ‘skies’ rhymes with ‘rise’ in the poem:

Pointing with inconstant motion
From the altar of dark ocean
To the sapphire-tinted skies
As the flames of sacrifice
From the marble shrines did rise
As to pierce the dome of gold
Where Apollo spoke of old
(Percy Shelley: Euganean Fields)

And ‘skies’ with ‘eyes’ in the song lyric:

There’s a woman on my lap and
she’s drinking champaign
Got white skin, got assassin’s eyes
I’m looking up into sapphire-tinted skies
I’m well-dressed, waiting on the last train
(Dylan: Things Have Changed)

What else is on the site

  • 1: Over 400 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.  A second index lists the articles under the poets and poetic themes cited – you can find that 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


  1. Dylan’s reference to ‘the Persian drunkard’ in “Sweet Marie” certainly seems to point to the Persian poet, Omar Khayyan, who writes of enjoying:
    “A jug of wine, a loaf of bread – and thou”

    Indeed, the song Count Basie performs may itself have its roots in Fitzgerald’s rendering of Khayyam’s ‘The Rubaiyat’, the translation Woody Guthrie, Dylan’s mentor, transforms into a song.

  2. Even a better fit to the rhyme hypothesis is that Dylan’s ‘Forever Young’ references, not Keats, but Rudyard Kipling’s poem about gentlemen-rankers out on a spree doomed from here to eternity since the rhyming of ‘rung’ with ‘young’ appears in both works:

    We are dropping down the ladder rung by rung
    And the measure of our torment is the measure of our youth
    God help us, for we knew the worst too young
    (Rudyard Kipling: Gentle-Rankers)

  3. ‘Forever Young’ also alludes to:

    The Lord bless thee, and keep thee
    The Lord make His face shine upon thee
    And be gracious unto thee
    The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee
    And give thee peace
    (Numbers 6: 24-26)

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