by Larry Fyffe
This article continues on from Bob Dylan and the Synaesthesia of Nettie Moore.
The depiction of the traditional senses of touch, taste, smell, sound, sight, and other sensations (in similes and metaphors) as intricately entangled is a literary device detected in a number of Bob Dylan’s song lyrics.
Such literary synaesthesia is found in the Holy Bible – the sense of touch, of kissing a beloved, described in terms of the senses of taste and smell:
His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers His lips like lilies, dropping smelling myrrh
(Song Of Soloman 5:13)
Not to be confused with the medically recognized neurological condition, below is a lyric by the singer/songwriter that employs the synesthetic technique – ‘black’ being a ‘colour’ oft associated with depression:
Winter's gone, the river's on the rise I loved you then, and ever shall But there's no one left here to tell The world has gone black before my eyes
(Bob Dylan: Nettie Moore ~ Dylan, Pike, et al )
In another song, the senses of sight and of sound, without an inspirational Muse, are hyperbolically depicted as being damaged:
If not for you Winter would have no spring Couldn't hear the robin sing I wouldn't have a clue Anyway, it wouldn't ring true If not for you
(Bob Dylan: If Not For You)
Writers of the Gothic ilk claim they sense a dark otherworld inhabited by spirits and ghosts:
By a route obscure and lonely Haunted by ill angels only Where an eidolon, named Night On a black throne reigns upright I have reached these lands but newly From an ultimate dim Thule From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime Out of space - out of time
(Edgar Allan Poe: Dreamland)
A world not unknown to the singer/songwriter – from his ‘Time Out Of Mind’ album:
Last night I danced with a stranger But she just reminded me you were the one You left me standin' in the doorway In the dark land of the sun
(Bob Dylan: Standing In The Doorway)
Many an artist sees the external world of reality as downright black and sorrowful – it’s bound to tangle up your tongue:
I end up then In the early evenin' Blindly punchin' at the blind Breathin' heavy Stutterin' And blowin' up where t' go What is it that's exactly wrong?
(Bob Dylan: Untitled Poem)
That is Bob Dylan, or at least his persona, says the Romantic nature poets be too happy in their happiness:
I wandered lonely as cloud That floats on high o'er vales and hills When all at once I saw a crowd A host of golden daffodils Beside the lake, beneath the trees Fluttering and dancing in the breeze
(William Wordsworth: I Wandered Lonely As A Crowd)
The Universe itself may be personified – sensed as synesthetic – by the Transcendentalist poets, but, especially to the Modernist writers, Nature is simply unsympathetic to the human condition. Death awaits us all:
I stood unwound beneath the skies And clouds unbound by laws The crying rain like a trumpet sang And asked for no applause
(Bob Dylan: Lay Down Your Weary Tune)
Though not an apocalyptic writer because he glimpses signs of hope that this is not the end, Bob Dylan, nevertheless, senses something ominous passing through Walt Whitman’s leaves of grass:
He saw an animal as smooth as glass Slithering his way through the grass Saw him disappear by a tree near the lake ["Ah, think I'll call it a snake"]
(Bob Dylan: Man Gave Names To All The Animals)
Humans, like cats, have an inherent sense of fear when it comes to snakes:
A narrow fellow in the grass Occasionally rides You may have met him - did you not? His notice sudden is .... But never met this fellow Attended or alone Without a tighter breathing And zero at the bone
(Emily Dickinson: A Narrow Fellow In The Grass)
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