By Larry Fyffe
As previously mentioned, surrealistic poet Arthur Rimbaud refers to nursery rhymes of yore, more often than not twisting their themes. In days of old such rhymes be a coded way to convey political or religious messages in order to avoid being burned at the stake. Singer/songwriter Bob Dylan makes modern use of this literary device, adding traditional songs to the list.
Post Modern irony be a characteristic feature of a number of Bob Dylan’s songs. For example, the fragmented lyrics of ‘Scarlet Town’, based on the old ballad ‘Barbara Allan’, can be interrupted as a narrative about Little Boy Blue who refrains from blowing his trumpet in case it wakes up Jesus who is hiding under a haystack; it’d be all over for Baby Blue if the Christ-to-be, not really that inclined to have His sensual physical body crucified, manages to escape from His predestined fate – for the Christ Child to become the Messiah, there must be no way for Him to get out of the crucifixion; Mankind won’t get saved (see: Bob Dylan And Arthur Rimbaud – Part II):
As the song referenced in the black-humoured lyrics above indicates, it would be severely messing with destiny if Jesus gets away, and never comes back ever again to tend His sheep, most having gone astray:
(Ernest Tubb: Walking The Floor Over You)
In the manner of Arthur Rimbaud, Bob Dylan plays around with other nursery rhymes in his song lyrics:
One’s about the possibility of an apocalyptic nuclear war:
The source is an old rhyme – the intent of which is to scare the wits out of children:
(Sing A Song Of Six Pence: Nursery Rhyme)
Below is another bit from the Dylan song about The Bomb:
The source be a rhyme about childhood sexual curiosity:
(There Was A Little Boy: Nursery Rhyme)
But there’s more to the lyrics than that when Rimbaud’s poetic symbolism is taken into account. He, like poet William Blake, ridicules the Christian Church for celebrating with Christmas suppers the suppression of human sexuality (symbolized Rimbaud does by the colour ‘red’ – Freud’s ‘Id’, ‘the other’, as it were). This fosters psychological problems, according to the French poet.
With Existentialist humour, Dylan out-rimbauds Rimbard:
The source, of course:
(Little Jack Horner: Nursery Rhyme)
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