Bob Dylan: Roll On, William Yeats, Roll On

This article was updated 21 March 2018


By Larry Fyffe

Bob Dylan says he borrows the ‘jingle jangle’ fragment in the below lyrics from a Lord Buckley monologue:

I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey, Mr, Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle mornin’, I’ll come followin’ you
(Bob Dylan: Mr. Tambourine Man)

But it could be that he uncovers it in this prison (crowbar hotel) song, mentioned by Jackie Hayden in his book on Bob Dylan:

A hungry feeling
Came o’er me stealing
And the mice were squealing
In my prison cell
And that old triangle went jingle jangle
All along the banks of the Royal Canal
(The Old Triangle)

In ‘Let’s Roll, Baby, Roll’, Dylan sings “Well, I was sleepin’ with the devil in the crowbar hotel”, but more applicable to the point that Dylan borrows phrasing from other songs is the following:

It’s a restless hungry feeling
That don’t mean no one no good
When everything I’m a-saying’
You can say it just as good
(Bob Dylan: One Too Many Mornings)

May well be that the phrase fragment ‘hungry feeling’ is original to Dylan and merely coincidental, or even a subconscious copy, or it might just be a well-known expression. From an artistic and legal point of view, the fragment is what it is and nothing more.

I have already pointed out the influence of William Yeats on Bob Dylan’s work. And Jackie Hayden in his book on the impact of Celtic music and lyrics on Bob Dylan’s singing and songwriting notes this traditional Celtic song about ‘Helen, My Secret Love’ that Dylan covers:

I know a valley fair
Eileen Aroon
I know a cottage there,
Eileen Aroon
Far in the valley shade
I know a tender maid
Flowered of the hazel glade
(Traditional: Eileen Aroon)



I would add that poet William Yeats follows up with the comforting Romantic Transcendentalistic:

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree
And a small cabin build there, of clay and
wattles made ..
And I shall have some peace there, for peace
comes dropping slow
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where
the cricket sings
(William Yeats: The Lake Isle Of Innesfree)

There is this written and sung by Bob Dylan:

Flowers on the hillside, bloomin’ crazy
Crickets talkin’ back and forth in rhyme
Blue river runnin’ slow and lazy
I could stay with you forever and never
realize the time
(Bob Dylan: You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome)

More Yeatian in theme it would be hard to get than in the lyrics quoted below:

You’re gonna leave me now, I know
But I’ll see you in the sky above
In the tall grass, in the one I love
(Bob Dylan: You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome)

The following with a slightly revised Yeatian theme concerning solace found in the countryside:

Build me a cabin in Utah
Marry me a wife, catch a rainbow trout
Have a bunch of kids who call me ‘pa’
That must be what it’s all about
(Bob Dylan: Sign On The Window)

In the lyrics above, Bob Dylan alludes as well to another Eileen Aroon-influenced poem by Yeats:

I went out to the hazel wood
Because a fire was in my head
And cut and peeled a hazel wand
And hooked a berry to a thread
And when white moths were on the wing
And moth-like stars were flickering out
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout
(William Yeats: The Song Of Wandering Aengus)

Dylan rhymes trout/about; Yeats, trout/out.

See also:
Bob Dylan And William Yeats:


  1. The Auld Triangle was first made public in the great Brendan Behan’s first play, The Quare Fellow (1954). Behan credited his friend Dicky Shannon as the author.

    Brendan’s brother Dominic Behan in the eighties accused Dylan of plagiarising his (Dominic’s) song “The Patriot Game” in “With God on Our Side.” But whereas “The Patriot Game” is a satire on fanatical subservience to a cause, WTOOS looks at the underlying causes of bigotry (just as “Only A Pawn in Their Game” isn’t really about Medgar Egar’s but the origin of his assassin’s racism); it’s really about education and how Americans are taught in school to hate in the name of God. Both songs use the traditional melody “The Merry Month of May”, but Dylan claims it as his original tune, whereas Behan acknowledges his debt to tradition.

  2. Perhaps – mainly because of the traditional melody used in both songs explains why there was no plagiarism lawsuit

    -See also Tony’s ‘With God On Our Side-The Patriot Game’.

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