By Larry Fyffe
The ‘Untold Dylan’ offices have been inundated with letters. Writers thereof are shocked and appalled at the assertion that Bob Dylan imitates the form of the English sonnet when structuring some song lyrics; most of these letters, many with an Italian stamp on them, contain the retort that, although blank verse is often used in translating, it’s the Petrarchan format that’s employed by the American singer/songwriter; not the Shakespearen pattern (as claimed in the article “Bob Dylan And Franciso Petrarch – Part III”). Many of the letters say that there be no hard and fast rule that a Petrarchan sonnet can’t end in a couplet.
A number of letters note that while admittedly the song below links up with William Shakespeare’s Sonnet XV – “Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay” -, the lyrics are easily reformulated as a sonnet having an octave and a sestet.
First the octave:
It's been such a long, long time Since we loved each other And our hearts were true One time, for one brief day, I was just the man for you Last night, I heard you talkin' in your sleep Sayin' things you shouldn't say Ooh, baby You just might have to go to jail someday
Then the sestet:
Is there anywhere We can go Is there anybody We can see? Ah, maybe It's the same for you as it is for me (Bob Dylan: Long And Wasted Years)
A number of writers note that this song is really three Petrarchan sonnets set in a row:
I ain't seen my family in twenty years That ain't easy to understand They may be dead by now I lost track of them after they lost their land Shake it up baby, twist and shout You know what it's all about What are you doin' out there in the sun anyway Don't you know the sun can burn your brains right out? My enemy crashed into dust Dropped in his tracks, and lost his lust He was run down hard, and broke apart He died in shame, he had an iron heart I wear dark glasses to cover my eyes There are secrets in them that I can't disguise
(Bob Dylan: Long And Wasted Years)
And the final Petrarchan:
Come back baby, if I hurt your feelings I apologize Two trains runnin' side by side Forty miles wide Down the eastern line You don't have to go I just came to see you 'cause you're a friend of mine I think that when my back was turned The whole world behind me burned It's been a while Since we walked down that long, long aisle We cried on a cold and frosty morn We cried because our souls were torn So much for tears So much for them long and wasted years
(Bob Dylan: Long And Wasted Years)
Pointed out by some writers is that the following song differs from the Shakespearean sonnet in that the couplet is part and parcel of the sestet rather than it being a concise statement about a change in perspective.
As illustrated by:
She was married when we first met Soon to be divorced I helped her out of a jam I guess But I used a little too much force We drove that car a far as we could Abandoned it out west Split up on a dark and sad night Agreeing it was best She turned around to look at me As I was walkin' away I heard her say over my shoulder We'll meet again some day On the avenue Tangled up in blue
(Bob Dylan: Tangled Up In Blue)
Don’t send no more letters – no …….if any song by Bob Dylan fits into a foureen-line format, let’s just call it a “Dylanesque sonnet”.
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