By Larry Fyffe
It’s all about the unrequited love for Laura:
It was on that day when the sun's rays Was darkened in pity for its Maker That I was captured, and did not defend myself Because your lovely eyes had bound me, Lady It did not seem to me to be a time to guard myself Against Love's blows, so I went on Confident and unsuspecting; from that my troubles Started, amongst the public sorrows Love discovered me all weaponless And opened the way to the heart though the eyes Which are made the passageways and doors of tears So that it seemed to me it does him little honour To wound me with his bow in that state He not showing his bow at all to you who are armed
(Franciso Petrarch: It Was On That Day)
Disorder in form and content be the order of the day as far as the creators of Postmodern art are concerned, but innovation, the hallmark of a true artist, that is taken too far afield will catch the attention of only a few members of the public, if that. Traditional art, whether considered ‘high or ‘low’, that retains its appeal in the public domain is a sign of worthiness.
In literature, the fourteen-line Petrarchan sonnet (it usually comments on love), has endured. In the song by Bob Dylan, below, the prosodic structure of the Petrarchan sonnet can be detected even when somewhat concealed within the written lyrics of the song, and the traditional positioning of the octave and the sestet is inverted.
In death you face life With a child and a wife Who sleep-walks through your dreams into walls You're a soldier of mercy You're cold, and you curse, "He Who no cannot be trusted must fall"
Loneliness Tenderness High society Notoriety You fight for the throne And you travel alone Unknown as you slowly sink And there's no time to think
(Bob Dylan: No Time To Think)
In the following song, Dylan pays tribute to the traditional form of the sonnet – its name derived from Francisco Petrarch, a poet from the fourteenth century; the eight-line octave presents an event or a problem to the reader or the listener; the six-line sestet comments on the event or solves the problem.
Early one mornin', the sun was shinin' I was laying in bed Wonderin' if she'd changed at all If her head was still red Her folks they said our lives together Sure was gonna be rough They never did like mama's homemade dress Papa's bankbook wasn't big enough
And I was standin' on the side of the road Rain fallin' on my shoes Heading out for the East Coast Lord knows I've paid some dues Gettin' through Tangled up in blue
(Bob Dylan: Tangled Up In Blue)
The Bard pokes a bit of fun at the use of Petrarchan love conceits:
My mistress eyes are nothing like the sun Coral is far more red than her lips' red If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun If hairs be wires, black wire grows on her head
(William Shakespeare: Sonnet CXXX)
And so does Bob Dylan:
Well the woman I love, she got a hook in her nose Her eyebrows meet, she wears second-hand clothes She speaks with a stutter, and walks with a hop I don't know why I love her, but I just can't stop
(Bob Dylan: The Ugliest Girl In The World ~ Dylan/Hunter)
‘Tangled Up In Blue’ continues in a series of the sonnets:
She lit the burner on the stove And offered me a pipe "I thought you'd never say 'hello', she said "You look like the silent type" Then she opened up a book of poems And handed it to me Written by an Italian poet From the thirteenth century And every one of those words rang true And glowed like burnin' coal Pourin' off of every page Like it was written on my soul From me to you Tangled up in blue
(Bob Dylan: Tangled Up In Blue)
What else is here?
An index to our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page. You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.
There is an alphabetic index to the 550+ Dylan compositions reviewed on the site which you will find it here. There are also 500+ other articles on different issues relating to Dylan. The other subject areas are also shown at the top under the picture.
We also have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook which mostly relates to Bob Dylan today. Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link
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.