By Larry Fyffe
The United Kingdom Of Judah/Northern Israel takes the lion as its symbol, a strong country that ought not to be messed with – protected by a wrathful God who punishes His own people for straying from His commandments:
Judah is a lion's whelp From thy prey, my son, thou art gone up He stooped down, he couched as a lion And as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?
(Genesis 49: 9)
Poet William Blake presents a symbolic mythology that advocates a balance between fierceness (the tiger), and gentleness (the lamb). Caught in Hollywood, between the historical towns of Jerusalem and Babylon, between light-filled Heaven and dark-filled Earth, singer-songwriter Bob Dylan utilizes biblical, Blakean, and Shelleyan imagery:
There's a babe in the arms of a woman in a rage And a longtime, golden-haired stripper on stage .... There's a lion in the road, there's a demon escaped There's a million dreams gone, there's a landscape being raped As her beauty fades, and I watch her undrape I won't but then again, maybe I might Oh, if I could just find her tonight
(Bob Dylan: Where Are You Tonight)
Mystical Gnostic battles are going on – inwardly and outwardly – between the proud lion and the meek lamb:
It was gravity which pulled us down And destiny which pulled us apart You tamed the lion in my cage But it was no enough to change my heart Now everything's a little upside down As a matter of fact the wheels have stopped What's good is bad, what's bad is good You'll find out when you're on the top You're on the bottom
(Bob Dylan: Idiot Wind)
In the lyrics below, Judah, the lion, resists the tyranny of modern quick-moving social values whilst the Christian lamb, albeit slowly, yields to them:
Your conscience betrayed you When some tyrant waylaid you Where the lion lays down with the lamb I'd have paid off the traitor And killed him much later But that's just the way that I am
(Bob Dylan: No Time To Think)
Dylanesque double-edged New/Old Testament lines entangle – those who are arrogant enough to think they’re the Absolute One will pay the price:
Like the lion tears the flesh off the man So can a woman who passes herself off as a man They sang 'Danny Boy' at his funeral, and 'the Lord's Prayer' Preacher talking 'bout Christ betrayed It's like the earth opened, and swallowed him up He reached too high, was thrown back to the ground You know what they say about bein' nice to the right people on the way up Sooner or later you'll meet them comin' down Well, there ain't no goin' back when the foot of pride come down Ain't no goin' back
(Bob Dylan: Foot Of Pride)
Dylan really socks it to those who are overly self-righteous in their righteousness. In the lyrics above, the singer, or at least his persona, recognizes that he, himself, is not immune from the hubris of haughtiness:
Let not the foot of pride come against me And let not the hand of the wicked remove me There are the workers of iniquity fallen They are cast down, and shall not be able to rise
(Psalms 36: 11,12)
A sentiment expressed in the following song lyrics as well:
There's a wall of pride high and wide Can't see over to the other side It's such a sad thing to see beauty decay One look at you, and I'm out of control Like the universe has swallowed me whole
(Bob Dylan: Cold Irons Bound)
In Romantic poetry, a warning that nothing’s so permanent as change:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair Nothing beside remains: Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away
(Percy Shelley: Ozymandias)
As sure as the sky is blue, a lioness is hangin’ around, and she’s asking which side are you on:
There's a woman on my lap, she's drinking champagne Got white skin, got assassin's eyes I'm looking up at sapphire-tinted skies I'm well dressed , waiting on the last train .... Ain't no shortcuts, gonna dress in drag Only a fool in here would think he's got something to prove
(Bob Dylan: Things Have Changed)
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