Bob Dylan: Tangled Up In Sonnets

By Larry Fyffe

Pointed out by Jochen Marthorst is that the lyrics that make up Bob Dylan’s song ‘No Time To Think’ can be reformulated into a series of reversed Petrarchan-like sonnets with the eight-lined octave coming after the six-lined seset with the rhyme scheme AABCCB.

That article if you have not seen it, is Dylan’s “No Time to Think”: reversing the sonnet with internal rhymes, and Eliot’s cats.”  

In case you are not that familiar with the Petrarchan sonnet, the lyrics presented below demonstrate how it’s done.   And in case you want to hear the song while reading the lyrics presented in this way, here once again is the cover version that Jochen selected…

The first sonnet:

In death, you face life
With a child, and a wife
Who sleep-walks though your dreams into walls
You're a soldier of mercy
And you're cold, and you curse you
Cannot be trusted, must fall

(A different version than the one quoted above says “curse he” to keep the rhyme with “mercy”)

High society
You fight for the throne
And you travel alone
Unknown, as you slowly sink
And there's no time to think

The second sonnet:

In the Federal City
You've been blown and shown pity
For secrets, for pieces of change
The empress attracts you
But oppression distracts you
And it makes you feel violent and strange
Betrayed by a kiss
On a cool night of bliss
In the valley of the missing link
And there's no time to think

The third sonnet:

Judges will haunt you
The country priestess will want you
Her worst is better than best
I've seen all these decoys
Through a set of deep turquoise
Eyes, and I feel so depressed

China doll
Mercury rules you
And destiny fools you
Like the plague with a dangerous wink
And there's no time to think

The fourth sonnet:

Your conscience betrayed you
When some tyrant waylaid you
Where the lion lies down with the lamb
I'd had paid the traitor
And killed him much later
But that's just the way that I am

But the magician is quicker
And his game is much thicker
Than blood, and blacker than ink
And there's no time to think

The fifth sonnet:

Rollin' in jealousy is
All that he sells us
He's contented when you're under his thumb
Madmen oppose him
Your kindness throws him
To survive it you play deaf and dumb

You glance though the mirror
And there's eyes staring clear
At the back of your head as you drink
And there's no time to think

The sixth sonnet:

Warlords of sorrow
And queens of tomorrow
Will offer their heads for a prayer
You can't find no salvation
Have no expectation
Any time, any place, any where

You know you can't keep 'er
And the water gets deeper
That is leading onto the brink
And there's no time to think

The seventh sonnet:

You've murdered your vanity
Burned your sanity
For pleasure you must now resist
Lovers obey you
But they cannot sway you
They are not even sure you exist

Fools makin' laws
For the breaking of jaws
And the sound of the keys as they clink
And there's no time to think

The eighth sonnet:

The bridge that you travel on
Goes to the Babylon
GIrl with the rose in her hair
Starlight in the East
You're finally released
You're stranded with nothin' to share

You turn around for one real
Last glimpse at Camille
'Neath the moon shinin' bloody and pink
But there's no time to think

The ninth sonnet:

Bullets can harm you
And death can disarm you
But, no, you will not be deceived
Stripped of all virtue
As you crawl through the dirt you
Can give, but you cannot receive

No time to choose
When the truth must die
No time to lose
Or say good-bye
No time to prepare
For the victim that's there
No time to suffer or blink
There's no time to think

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