Renaldo and Clara II


by Larry Fyffe

Tossa’s Clorinda (like Virgil’s Camilla) is a literary archetype – a soul guided by the white-faced virgin Moon goddess Diana, a beautiful goddess who comes to be associated with Satan and ugly witches. Clorinda re-appears in Bob Dylan’s mixed-up movie ‘Renaldo And Clara’ as the Lady-In-White (Joan Baez), the red rose she carries symbolizes passion. Akin to golden-haired Apollo, Renaldo’s true love is song and music. Jealous-prone Clara lives with Renaldo (Dylan); her name happens to rhyme with Sara, and she’s played by Dylan’s wife.

The Lady-In-White is modelled after the Man-In-White, the mime who’s featured in the movie ‘The Children Of Paradise’ (he’s keeps a rose given to him by Garance, a courtesan). It’s Renaldo, the knight-in-rusty armour, who does not talk very much in the Dylan/Shepard movie. Instead, his French “armour” shines through his music and songs. Matters end rather sadly for the Lady and the Man-In-White, slaves they both be to their own passions – folksongs and pantomime, respectively, if you’re inclined to add biographical allegories to the two movies:

Oh, the ragman draws circles
Up and down the block
I'd ask him what the matter was
But I know he don't talk
(Bob Dylan: Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again)

There’s no doubt that Bob Dylan is quite familiar with ‘The Children Of Paradise’ picture show – the mime, who achieves great success in the theatre of his day, says to the courtesan  who’s fallen in love with him:

"You're right, Garance, love is simple"

In the song below, the line’s repeated:

'Love is simple', to quote a phrase
You've known it all the time
I'm learnin' it these days
Oh, I know where I can find you
Ohhh, in somebody's room
It's a price I have to pay
(Bob Dylan: You're A Big Girl Now)

The mime in ‘The Children Of Paradise’ suffers the same fate as silent movie stars – the ‘talkies’ are at the gate, and the mime disappears into the sheep-like crowd.  Bob Dylan’s aware of the fate of  television’s stars ‘Mr. Jinx’, the cartoon cat, and Lucy of the ‘I Love Lucy’ show; so, as far as Dylan is concerned, it’s a good thing that Garance the courtesan grabs a carriage to make her get-away at the end of the movie:

Mr. Jinx and Miss Lucy, they jumped in the lake
I'm not that eager to make a mistake
(Bob Dylan: Things Have Changed)

Poet Allen Ginsberg appears in the Dylan movie, and relates the biblical story about Simon from Africa (not the apostle) who helps Jesus carry the cross:

And as they led Him away they laid hold upon one Simon
A Cyrenian, coming out of the country
And on him they laid the cross that he might bear it for Jesus
And there followed Him a great company of people, and of women
Which also bewailed and lamented Him
(Luke 23:  26, 27)

Jesus turns to the crowd, and tells them not to pity Him, but to pity themselves; there arose the myth that it was not Jesus who gets crucified, but Simon by mistake.

Double-edged singer/songwriter Bob Dylan is not going to disappear into his own parade; the movie reveals that he sides with Romantic-inclined artists (like the poet Tossa) who are able to bring sad-eyed rebellious types like Camilla and Jesus back to life:

Now I heard of a man who lived a long time ago
A man of sorrow and strife
That if someone was around him had died, and was dead
He knew how to bring them on back to life
(Bob Dylan: Red River Shore)

Dylan’s going to pay in blood, but it’s not going to be his own. He’s a-gonna figuratively sacrifice Elvis Presley instead …. as it sadly turns out, it’s Elvis who literally doesn’t live here anymore:

When the whip that's keepin' you in line doesn't make him jump
Say he's hard of hearin', say that he's a chump
Say he's out of step with reality as you try to test his nerve
Because he doesn't pay tribute to the King that you serve
(Bob Dylan: Property Of Jesus)

Like the courtesan in ‘Children Of Paradise’, Bob Dylan’s rubber-masked persona has no intention of riding a one-trick pony who sacrifices him/her on the saddle of conformity.

In ‘Renaldo And Clara’, Allen Ginsberg sings:

No, no, let us play, for it's yet day
And we cannot go to sleep
Besides in the sky, the little birds fly
And the hills are all covered with sheep
(William Blake: The Nurse's Song)

As I’ve said before: the only thing we know for sure about Bob Dylan is that his name isn’t Bob Dylan.

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