Bob Dylan, William Blake, And The Eagles

 by Larry Fyffe

His poems abounding in objective correlatives, the preRomantic William Blake, depicts social authorities dampening the fiery spirit of childhood – innocence lost; the light of motherly love, overshadowed by the sternness of a cold-and-distant father; the teachings of Jesus left behind by the patriarchs of religion who palm off social problems by invoking  the dogma of ‘original sin’.

Blake presents a personal mythology, a vision in which he imagines a re-balance in the established order that drives away the dark clouds created by the Satanic mills of industrialized socirty:

The night was dark, no father was there
he child was wet with dew
The mire was deep, and the child did weep
And away the vapour flew

(William Blake: Little Boy Lost)

In the song lyrics below, singer/songwriter Bob Dylan mocks the image of the tough guy who rebels too much against ‘feminine’ emotionalism:

Now, little boy lost, he takes himslf so seriously
He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerousl
And when bringing up her name
He speaks of a farewell kiss to me

(Visions  Of Johanna)

In the sparcely-worded, symbol-filled (translated) poem below, the sad narrator (a woman, not a a child) expresses the alienation that exists between the sexes in modern society, as well as the alienation experienced by workers that’s wrought by a nihilistic, capitalist society in which people are mere robots: 

He poured the coffee
In the cup ....
He got up
He put 
His hat on his head
He put on his raincoat 
Because it was raining
And he left
Without saying a word to me
Without looking at me
And I buried 
My hands in my face
And I cried

(Jacques Prevert: Breakfast)

Bob Dylan personifies today’s sociey as a sexually seductive woman who’s designed to accumulate material goods:

 And your pleasure knows no limit
Your voice is like a meadowlark
But your heart is like an ocean
Mysterious and dark 
One more cup of coffee for the road
One more cup of coffee 'fore I go
To the valley below

(Bob Dylan: One More Cup Of Coffee)

Harking back to the Holy Bible:

And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour
And decked with gold,and precious stones, and pearls
Having a golden cup in her han
Full of abominations, and filthiness of her fornication ....
I will tell you the mystery of the woman
nd of the beast that carrieth her ....

(Revelations 17:4,7)

Dylan paints a Gnostic picture of present-day America as modern Babylon – the American Dream turns into a hedonistic nightmare. A popular band named the Eagles, with a sound bubbly as a meadowlark’s, carries that biblical theme:

Mirrors on the ceiling
The pink champagne on ice
And she said, 'We are all just  prisoners here of our own device'
And in the master's chambers
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives
But they just can't kill the beast

( Hotel California ~ Henley/Frey/Felder)

Below, song lyrics inspired by poets William Blake, William Wordsworth, Walt Whitman, and the Holy Bible:

But I know a place where we can go
That's still untouched by man
We'll sit and watch the clouds go by
And the tall grass wave in the wind ....
This is the end of the innocence
O' beautiful, for spacious skies
But now those skies are threatening
They're beating ploughshares into swords

(Bob Dylan: The End Of The Innocence ~ Henley/Hornsby)


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  1. *dangerously/hand/And of

    Henley lyrics are printed – Dylan varies them ever so slighty

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