Bob Dylan Disguises Himself As Ezekiel (Part II)


By Larry Fyffe

“Lily, Rosemary, And The Jack Of Hearts” is easily interpreted as a modern allegory that depicts the historical journey of the Jewish people:

The festival was over, the boys were all planning for a fall
The cabaret was quiet except for the drilling in the wall
The curfew had been lifted and the gamblin’ wheel shut down
Anyone with any sense had already left town
He was standin’ in the doorway lookin’ like the Jack of Hearts

The ‘festival’ of Atonement is over, the fasting of the Hebrews for their misbehavior that caused God to become angry. They were punished by the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of Solomon’s Holy Temple by the Babylonians. Before that loyal followers of God, including Ezekiel, had been banished from Judea by the King of Babylonia:

Back then, Ezekiel the prophet, has visions of God sitting atop a roulette-type wheel carried by four winged creatures:

And they four had one likeness and their appearance
and their work was if it were a wheel within the middle of a wheel
(Ezekiel 1:16)

In Bob Dylan’s version, The Jack of Hearts, Ezekiel re-incarnated, returns to the town of Jerusalem and enters the Holy Temple that has been turned into a Cabaret and gambling den. There, he puts on a show that, like Ezekiel of yore, warns of doom and gloom if the people of Israel (everybody for that matter) do not change their misbegotten ways.

In the original version , Ezekiel has more than one vision that involves digging a hole in the Temple walls – one is to demonstrate to the townsfolk that at least he has the good sense to pack up his things and leave town:

Dig thou through the wall in their sight
And carry out thereby
In their sight shalt thou bear it out upon thy shoulders
And carry it forth in the twilight
(Ezekiel 12: 5, 6)

For details, see Part I of “Bob Dylan Disguises Himself As Ezekiel”.

In another vision, the Hebrew prophet meets up with two woman of questionable character – Aholah and younger sister Ahoibah:

Aholah played the the harlot when she was mine
And she doted on her lovers, on the Assyrians her neighbours
(Ezekiel 23: 11)

She represents the people of northern Israel who collaborated with the Syrians of that time:

And when her sister Abolibah saw this, she was more corrupt in
her inordinate love than she
And in her whoredoms more than her sister in her whoredoms
(Ezekiel 23:12)

She represents the people of southern Judea who co-operated, not only with the Syrians, but also with the Iraqis – then called Babylonians.

Bob Dylan presents us with visions of Big Diamond Jim (King Solomon of the united Hebrews), Lily (Aholibah) and Rosemary (Aholah):

Rosemary started drinkin’ hard and seein’ her reflection in the knife
She was tired of the attention, tired of playin’ the role of Big Jim’s wife
She had done a lot of bad things, even once tried suicide
Was lookin’ to do just one good deed before she died
She was gazin’ to the future, riding on the Jack of Hearts
(Bob Dylan: Lily, Rosemary, And The Jack Of Hearts)

The ancient Sumarians of Mesopotamia (Iraq) were known to commit mass suicide to be with their ruler after his death, and they had ceremonial structures that resemble those of Aztec Mexico.

The King of Diamonds thinks he might have once seen Rosemary there with the Jack of Hearts:

“I know I’ve seen that face before”, Big Jim was thinkin’ to himself
“Maybe down in Mexico or a picture up on somebody’s shelf”
(Bob Dylan: Lily, Rosemary, And The Jack Of Hearts)

The eternal cycle of history is a theme of many Dylan song lyrics.

(End of Part Two)

Stay tuned for Part III, the exciting conclusion of “Lily, Rosemary, And The Jack Of Hearts”

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