The Dylanesque Sonnet

By Larry Fyffe
Singer/songwriter Bob Dylan follows the Post Modernist convention of smashing  traditional templates. Below, he strips away the fourteen-line format of the Petrarchan sonnet by placing the sestet between two quatrains instead of  positioning it as the second segment of the poem:
I've torn my clothes, and I've drained the cup
Strippin' away at it all
Thinkin' of you when the sun comes up
Where teardrops fall

By the rivers of blindness
In love and with kindness
We would hold up a toast if we met
To the cuttin' of fences
To sharpen the senses
That linger in the fireball heat

Roses are red, violets are blue
And time is beginning to crawl
I just might have to come see you
Where teardrops fall

(Bob Dylan: Where Teardrops Fall)


The sonneteer’s not really sorry about what he’s done – it’s actually rather clever!
As if to leave a clue about what’s happening, the first half of the song’s lyrics follows more closely the traditional form of the Italian sonnet:
There’s the first eight lines, the octave:
Far away where the soft winds blow
Far away from it all
There is the place you go
Where tear drops fall
Far away in the stormy night
Far away and over he wall
You are in the flickering light
Where teardrops fall
Then comes the sestet of six lines:
We banged the drums slowly 
And played the fife lowly
You know the song in my heart
In the turning of the twilight
In the turning shadows of moonlight
You can show me a new place to start
(Bob Dylan: Where Teardrops Fall)
Carrion, regardless -the Owl of Minerva flies at twilight and in its claws be clasped the corpse of the traditional sonnet. 
And of an American folksong:
Oh, beat the drum slowly, and play the fife lowly
Sing the Death March as you carry me along
Take me to the valley, there lay the sod over me
I'm a young cowboy, I know I've done wrong
(Marty Robbins: The Street Of Laredo ~ F. Maynard)
With a little untwisting, here’s another example of a Dylanesque Sonnet that’s near to the traditional form. It follows up on the theme of ‘Where Tearsdrops Fall”:
How long can I stay in this nowhere cafe
While night turns into day
I wonder why i'm so frightened of the dawn
All I have, and all I know
Is this dream of you that keeps me living on
There's a moment when
All things become new again
But that moment might have past and gone
All I have, and I all I know
Is this dream of you that keeps me living on
I look away, and I keep seeing it
I don't want to believe, but I keep believing it
Shadows dance upon the wall
Shadows that seem to know it all
(Bob Dylan: This Dream Of You)
And another that completes the song’s lyrics:
Am I too blind to see, is my heart playing tricks on me
I'm lost in the crowd, and my tears are gone
All I have, and all I know
Is this dream of you which keeps me livin' on
Everything I touch just seems to disappear
Everywhere I am, you are always here
I'll run this race until my earthly death
I'll defend this place with my dying breath
From a curtained gloom 
In a cheerless room
I saw a star from heaven fall
I turned and looked again, but it was gone
All I have, and all I know
Is this dream of you that keeps me living on
(Bob Dylan: This Dream Of You)


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