Bob Dylan And Giacomo Leopardi

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.

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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.










  1. * But I’ve been to London, and I been to
    gay Paree
    I followed the river, then I got to the
    to the sea
    I’ve been down on the bottom of a world
    full of lies
    I ain’t lookin’ for nothin’ in anyone’s

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