Bob Dylan And Charles Baudelaire (Part III)

———–

You might also enjoy

By Larry Fyffe

The Gnostic-like themes and dark images (images be words that evoke the sensations of smell, sight, touch, taste, and hearing in the listener or reader’s mind) found in the  poems of Charles Baudelaire impact the songs of Bob Dylan:

But behold as we passed, hugging the shore
So that we disturbed the sea-birds with our white sails
We saw it was a gallows with three arms
Outlined in black like a cypress against the sky
Ferocious birds perched on their feast were savagely
Destroying the ripe corpse of a hanged man

(Baudelaire: A Voyage To Cythera)

The Greek island, to the Symbolist poet, is not the paradise it’s imagined to be –  there’s a gallows mistaken for a cypress tree. According to Dylan, nor is the cowboy vision of America as the Promised Land.

In the song lyrics below, the singer/ songwriter opts to lighten up the dark image above by throwing some bread crumbs in with the ‘arms’ and ‘sails’ – perhaps burlesque on the ‘sin’ of feeding pigeons:

The cowboy angel rides
With his candle lit into the sun
Though its glow is waxed in black ….
The lampost stands with folded arms
It’s iron claws attached ….
Upon the beach where hound dogs bay
At ships with tattooed sails ….
As he weeps to wicked birds of prey
Who pick up on his bread crumb sins

(Bob Dylan: Gates Of Eden)

In any event, according to both Baudelaire and Dylan, the inhabitants of neither earthly site pass the tough test set down by Jesus, the Christian prophet:

If thy whole body therefore be full of light
Having no part dark
The whole shall be full of light
As when the bright shining of a candle
Doth give thee light

(Luke 11:13)

The cypress tree, for both Dylan and Baudelaire, though somewhat less so than a stone church building, is a symbol, an objective co-relative, of the emotional search for an enduring world, a place where life and love lasts:

Your branches strive to get closer to the sun
Will you always grow, tall tree, more hardy than the cypress?
None the less, we have carefully gathered
A few sketches for your voracious album
Brother who thinks lovely all that comes from afar

(Baudelaire: The Voyage)

Likewise Dylan – only an idiot imagines that there’s an eternal love a-waiting; why you might as well believe that a poster of Brigette Bardot up on the wall will come alive ….you’re gonna wait a long time:

The priest wore black on the seventh day
And sat stone-faced while the building burned
I waited for you on the running boards
Near the cypress trees, while the spring time turned
Slowly into autumn

(Bob Dylan: Idiot Wind)

In short, by death or other circumstance, relationships don’t last forever in the real world:

Window wide open, African trees
Bent over backwards from a hurricane breeze
Not a word of good-bye, not even a note
She gone with the man in the long black coat.

(Bob Dylan: The Man In The Long Black Coat)

A poet influenced by Baudelaire notes that not even concrete man-made objects of Art last:

The roses as then still trembled
The tall proud lilies rocked in the wind
I knew every lark there, coming and going
I found the statue of Flora standing yet
At the end of the avenue, its plaster flaking
Weathered by the bland scents of mignonette

(Paul Verlaine: After Three Years)

The singer/ songwriter goes hyperbolic over the matter:

Broken bottles, broken plates
Broken switches, broken gates
Broke dishes, broken parts
Sheets are filled with broken hearts
Broken words never meant to be spoken
Everything is broken

(Bob Dylan: Everything Is Broken)

Bob Dylan knows an objective co-relative when he sees one:

Yes, I received your letter yesterday
About the time the doorknob broke
When you asked me how I was doing

Was that some kind of joke?

(Bob Dylan: Desolation Row)

What else is on the site?

You’ll find an index to our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page.  You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.

The index to the 500+ songs reviewed is now on a new page of its own.  You will find it here.  It contains links to reviews of every Dylan composition that we can find a recording of – if you know of anything we have missed please do write in.

We also now have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook.  Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

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

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *