Bob Dylan And Helen Jackson

Bob Dylan And Helen Jackson

By Larry Fyffe

Like her friend Emily Dickinson, Helen Jackson be an associate of the American Romantic Transcendentalist movement whose writers sense in Nature the Oneness of all things, including mankind.

With the aid of new technology, Helen Jackson’s novel ‘Romana’ turnes into a movie that features the following song:

Ramona, I hear the missions bells above
Romona, they’re ringing out our song of love
I press you, and caress you, and bless the day
you taught me to care
To always remember the rambling rose you wear in your hair
Romana, when the day is done, you’ll hear me call
Romana, we’ll meet beside the water fall
(Ramona – by Gilbert and Wayne)

Jackson’s portrayal of never-ending love, singer/songwriter Bob Dylan expresses too. He also reacts against such idealism because of the shifting circumstances of existential reality – time does not stand still, and you’re on your own:

I’d forever talk to you
But soon my words
They would turn into a meaningless ring
For deep in my heart
I know there is no help I can bring
Everything passes
Everything changes
Just do what you think you should do
And someday maybe
Who knows baby
I’ll come crying to you
(Bob Dylan: To Ramona)

Like a number of followers of the Transcendental movement, Helen Jackson takes a political stand in her novel, and condemns the maltreatment of native American ‘Indians’; she considers their culture of sharing more in line with Nature than the greed-driven culture of the European newcomers to America:

“How generous”, warmly exclaimed Ramona
“I think they are better than we are, Filipe”
(Helen Jackson: Ramona)

In the Jackson novel, her native lover and Ramona flee from racist land grabbers. However, while Bob Dylan denounces the exploitation of fellow human beings, he champions individuals who do not conform, and instead strive to reach their full creative potential:

I’ve heard you say many times
That you’re better than no one
And no one is better than you
If you really believe that
You know you got
Nothing to win and nothing to lose
From fixtures and forces and friends
Your sorrow does stem
That hype you and type you
Making you feel
That you got to be exactly like them
(Bob Dylan: To Ramona)

There’s nothing wrong, sings Dylan, with believing in yourself, and working at being the best at what you desire to do. There is purpose in life. Rainer Rilke tells Dylan what that is: “the purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things”.

Poet Emily Dickinson, living in a patriarchal society, will settle for recognition as an equal:

I died for beauty, but was scarce
Adjusted to the tomb
When one who died for truth was lain
In an adjoining room
He questioned why I failed
“For beauty”, I replied
“And I for truth – themself are one
We brethren are”, he said
And so, as kinsmen met a night
We talked between the rooms
Until the moss had reached our lips
And covered up our names
(Emily Dickinson: I Died For Beauty)

Dylan sings that it best not to think of the future; instead, keep on the move like a rolling stone:

In the dime stores and bus stations
People talk of situations
Read books, repeat quotations
Draw conclusions on the wall
Some speak of the future
My love, she speaks softly
She knows there’s no success like failure
And failure is no success at all
(Bob Dylan: Love Minus Zero)

The howl coming from a distant tower is that of Bob Dlyan’s captain:

I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker
And I have seen the Eternal Footman hold my coat and snicker
And in short, I was afraid
(TS Eliot: Prufrock)

What else is on the site

1: 500+ 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 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 produced 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 our articles on various writers’ lists of Dylan’s ten greatest songs.

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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