Bob Dylan And Jacques Prevert


By Larry Fyffe

Considering poet Arthur Rimburd as a precursor thereof, Andre Breton comes to lead the Surrealist Movement, an offshoot of absurdist anti-bourgeois Dadaism, and he attempts to reconcile the thoughts of Sigmund Freud and with those of Karl Marx. His poems depict the social contradictions experienced by ordinary people imprisoned by the supposedly ‘rational’ rules of capitalist economics. 

To this end, ‘Tweedle-Dum’ Breton arranges words not in a standardized format, but by using a ‘stream of consciousness’ technique that produces images that flow, yet are fragmented, like the dreams of the subconscious when the conscious mind is asleep. 

In translation:

My wife with eyes full of tears
With eyes of purple panoply, and of a magnetic needle
My wife with eyes of water to be drunk in prison

(Andre Breton: Freedom Of Love)

Singer/songwriter/musician Bob Dylan tones Breton’s poetry down a bit:

Ramona,  come closer
Shut softly your watery eyes ....
Your magnetic movements
Still capture the minutes I'm in

(Bob Dylan: To Ramona)

‘Tweedle-Dee’ Jacques Prevert dwells on the fluidly thought processes of childhood being dammed up by socializing institutions(Lawrence Ferlinghetti translates the poem below):

At each mile
Each year
Old men with closed faces
With gestures of reinforced concrete

(Jacques Prevert: The Straight And Narrow)

Bob Dylan too is concerned with the restrictive roles placed upon the young:

May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
May you stay forever young

(Bob Dylan: Forever Young)

The French poet, who writes the screenplay for the Romantic drama ‘Children Of Paradise’, laments the loss of the mysterious imaginings of the young. Below Jacques Prevert, in translation, correlates the emotion of sorrow with objects man-made, and from the world of Nature:

Dead leaves are picked up by the shovel
Memories and regrets too
And the north wind carries them away 
In the cold night oblivion
See, I haven't forgotten
The song you used to sing to me

(Jacques Prevert: Dead Leaves)

A poem immortalized in a famous song:

Since you went away, the days grow long
And soon I'll hear old winter's song
But I'll miss you most of all, my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

(Bob Dylan: Autumn Leaves ~ Prevert/Kosma/Mercer)

A Canadian musician, and singer/songwriter, criticizes Dylan for his being a ‘plagiarist’ even as she sings:

I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It's love's illusions I recall
I really don't know love at all .....
I've looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose, and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all

(Joni Mitchell: Both Sides Now)

But, albeit in translation, there’s:

We love, and we live
We live, and we love
And we don't really know
What life is
And we don't really know
What the day is
And we don't really know
What love is

(Jacques Prevert: Song)


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