Bob Dylan and Allegory (Part II)

Part one of this series of articles by Larry Fyffe is available here:  Bob Dylan and The Allegory

In considering a Bob Dylan song, Kees de Graaf notes that the biblical bride/bridegroom allegory in made use of by the singer/songwriter:

God(Jesus) is the groom and his people (the church) are the bride. The Bible reveals over and over again, God’s chosen people were disloyal to Him and acted like harlots ….But in spite of this continuous adultery, God’s burning love keeps on searching the bride’s heart, till in the end He finds her and makes her ready for the eternal marriage …..
(Kees de Graff: Soon After Midnight)

All’s well and good.

In the song ‘Thunder On The Mountain’, Bob Dylan makes use of the Christian bride/bridegroom allegory, but this time the reference is one involving irony,
ie, is contrary to what the reader or listener expects:

I’ve been sitting down studying the art of love
I think it will fit me like a glove
I want some real good woman to do just what I say
Everybody got to wonder what’s the matter with the cruel world today
(Bob Dylan: Thunder On The Mountain)

In the lyrics above, the allegory is bemusedly mocked for serving the selfish interests of a rather boorish and unChristian bridegroom.

In my biographical analysis of that song I refer instead to Greek and Roman mythology: to Zeus, the God of the Sky, the womanizing commander-in-chief and the wielder of thunder bolts; to Apollo, the god of music and player of the golden lyre; to Venus, the goddess of the art of love and seduction, and rider of the half-shell, and dispenser of bemused mockery (Larry Fyffe: Geoffrey Chaucer And Thunder On The Mountain).

Seemly unaware of Dylan’s relationship with Joan Baez, Kees de Graaf responds:

In my opinion, the essence of this does not
make sense, no matter how many references
to Chaucer you may find in it
(Comments: Geoffrey Chaucer And Thunder On The Mountain)

Perhaps de Graaf is unaware of the song quoted below, written many years before ‘Thunder On The Mountain’:

You strayed into my arms
And there you stayed
Temporarily lost at sea
The Madonna was yours for free
Yes the girl on the half-shell
Would keep you from harm
(Joan Baez: Diamonds And Rust)

Biographical references by Dylan in ‘Thunder On The Mountain’, I note are augmented by allusions to Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’, and by allusions interpreted by me to be ancient Greek and Roman mythological ones:

The mythological God of Thunder is looking down and Dylan knows he has to serves someone and that is Zeus’ sun-god Apollo ……Venus, on the half-shell, the sexy daughter of Zeus, can be a threat to blood-sworn oaths …
(Larry Fyffe: Geoffrey Chaucer And Thunder On The Mountain)

My analysis is completely coherent though it omits the ironical reference to the Christian bride/bridegroom analogy. It is certainly not one that ‘makes no sense’ – if one is fully aware of biographical information on Bob Dylan.

The Christian references in ‘Thunder On The Mountain’, are indeed overt, and I should have included them. But the mythological ones are suggested by the song’s lyrics, and so I stand by the analysis.

The series continues…

What else is on the site

1: Over 450 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.  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

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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