Bob Dylan And Edward Taylor: Yes, No, or Maybe (Part IV)

by Larry Fyffe

Bob Dylan And Edward Taylor: the series

Bob Dylan And Edward Taylor (Part One)

Bob Dylan And Edward Taylor: If There’s An Original Thought Out There, I Could Use One Right Now (Part II)

Bob Dylan, Edward Taylor, And The Painted Face (Part III)

An odd duck is Puritan poet Edward Taylor, who having been exposed to the  writings of the Metaphysical poets, employs their witty style to expound the rigorous tenets of John Calvin.

To wit, you can’t have it both ways, writes Taylor. There’s no pussyfooting around with the tricky Devil when sure in your faith you are a member of God’s Elect; you be not holy enough to wear a crown of thorns like Jesus Christ Himself, but a prickly cushion of thorns you bear in a world that’s fallen into sin – it’s a touchy situation:

Not yea, not no
On tip toes thus? Why sit on thorns?
Resolve the matter: Stay thyself or go
Ben't both ways born

(Edward Tayor: An Address To The Soul Occasioned By A Rain)

Singer/song writer Bob Dylan transfers the poem’s rather amusing style to the down-to-earth relationship between the sexes:

I said, "Are you doing well?"
She says, 'Go ask your father"
I said, "Give me yes,  no, or maybe"
She say, "Why should I bother?"

(Jack Savoretti: Touchy Situation ~ Dylan/Savoretti)

Mainline Christians claim the Fall’s initiated by Eve with her being deceived by the Devil into tasting the juicy apple, and because Adam goes along with it, both get kicked out of the Garden of Eden – a conviction that’s particularly taken to heart by the Puritans who flee to America:

O woe is me! Was ever heart like mine?
A sty of fifth,  a trough of washing swill
A dunghill pit, a puddle of mere slime
A nest of vipers, hive of hornets' stings
A bag of poison, civet box of sins

(Edward Taylor: Still I Complain, I Am Complaining Still)

What artist amongst us could resist such stimulating synestheia:

What is it that you are trying to achieve girl?
Do you think we can talk about it some more?
You know, the streets are filled with vipers
Who've lost all ray of hope
You know, it ain't even safe no more
In the palace of the Pope

(Bob Dylan: Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight)

Taylor, a Puritan pastor, has no problem drawing from the Bible’s sensuous ‘Song Of Solomon’ (“And the roof of thy mouth like the best of wine…”) since  sex within marriage is considered a gift from God:

Nay, though I make no pay for this red wine
And scarce do say I thank ye for't; strange thing!
Yet were thy silver skies my beer bowl fine
I find my Lord would fill it to the brim
Then make my life, Lord, to thy praise proceed
For thy rich blood, which is my drink indeed

(Edward Taylor: Stupendous Love! All Saints’ Astonishment)

Creating art for art’s sake seems more to Dylan’s taste than swallowing down any of the vampiric lines from the Puritan poet:

I been to Babylon
I gotta confess
I could still hear the voice crying in the wilderness
What looks large from the distance, close up is never that big
Never could drink that wine, and call it blood
Never could learn to look at your face, and call it mine

(Bob Dylan: Someone’s Got A Hold Of My Heart)

Note the Dylanesque rhyme twist: ~ ‘wine’/’fine’ ; ~ ‘wine’/’mine’

Taylor sometimes arranges individual letters in a special way in a poem to form a particular pattern or word:

(A)spiring love, that scorns to hatch a wish
(B)eneath itself, the fullest, chiefest bliss
(C)ontained within heaven's crystal pale and shine
(D)oth wish its object always; so doth mine
(E)lect no more presented in desire
(F)or heaven's roof, aye, let not a wish soar higher

(Edward Taylor: Love Poem To Elizabeth Fitch)

And Dylan does the same sometimes in his song lyrics:

Sad-eyed lady of the (l)(o)(w)la(n)(d)(s)
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes
My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums
Should I leave them by your gate
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?

(Bob Dylan: Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands)

Sara [Lownds] be Bob Dylan’s first wife.

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.

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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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