By Larry Fyffe
You darlings of the gods! Happy enough If it be given you to draw one breath Without some grief; and blest If you are cured of every grief by death
(Giacomo Leopardi: The Calm After The Storm ~ translated)
Poet Delmore Schwartz, influenced a bit by Edgar Poe and a bunch by Ezra Pound, finds the Universe, unlike the Romantic Transcendentalist poets do, a dark place for mankind to exist in; moments of joy there may be; however, death ends an individual’s oft-troubled existence – in short, life’s journey is one full of sorrow that always has an unhappy ending.
But Schwartz, Pound, and Poe are crazy fun-loving guys when compared to poet
Giacomo Leopardi. To him, the story of life does indeed have a happy ending, and the reason that it does lies in the fact that everybody dies. No, the happiness is not because of the prospect of a heavenly afterlife (which Frederich Nietzsche calls the ‘morality of slaves’); it’s because death is an eternal holiday from the trials and tribulations of life
Be silent now. Despair for the last time To our race Fate gave only death Now scorn Nature, that brute force That secretly governs the common hurt And the infinite emptiness of all
(Giacomo Leopardi: To Himself)
So best enjoy life while you can; especially the days of your childhood:
Enjoy it then, my darling child Nor speed the flying hours! I say to thee no more: "Alas, in this sad world of ours How far exceeds the holiday The day that goes before"
(Giacomo Leopardi: The Village Saturday Night)
Leopardi’s sombre message echoes in the song lyrics below:
You trampled on me as you passed Left the coldest kiss upon my brow All my doubts and fears are gone at last I've nothing more to tell you now
(Bob Dylan: Tell Ol’ Bill)
According to Giacome Leopardi, a benevolent place the Universe is not; mankind’s existence is quite meaningless. Of frail health, the Italian poet sometimes finds solace in Nature, but he’s pessimistic, and unable (unlike the lonesome sparrow appears to do) to harmonize the prospect of death with the wonders of the seemingly eternal moon and endless stars; rather death is an escape from life’s sorrows.
Thou from the top of yonder antique O lonely sparrow, wandering, hast gone The song repeating till the day is done And through this valley strays with harmony
(Giacomo Leopardi: The Lonely Sparrow)
The song lyrics below express a similar sentiment:
Relationships of ownership They whisper in the wings To those condemned to act accordingly And wait for succeeding kings And I try to harmonize with songs The lonesome sparrow sings There are no kings inside the Gates of Eden
(Bob Dylan: The Gates Of Eden)
That is, be ye king or pauper, every human’s been cast into a world of servitude, hypocrisy, and destruction; the gates of Heaven are locked forever, but the lonesome sparrow thinks nought of it.
A sentiment that’s expressed in the following poem:
So little cause for carolings Of such ecstatic sound Was written on terrestrial things Afar or nigh around That I could think there trembled through His happy good-night air Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew And I was unaware
(Thomas Hardy: The Darkling Thrush)
Although he takes solace for a time in the Christian afterlife-dogma, Bob Dylan, or at least his persona, drops his bucket back into the dark vortex of the Schwartzian well:
Well I been to London, and I been to gay Paree
I followed the river and I got to the sea
I’ve been down on the bottom of a whirlpool of lies
I ain’t lookin’ for nothin’ in anyone’s eyes
What else is on the site
You’ll find 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.
The index to the 500+ Dylan compositions reviewed is now on a new page of its own. You will find it here. It contains reviews of every Dylan composition that we can find a recording of – if you know of anything we have missed please do write in.
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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.