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 ....
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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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.