Bob Dylan and Francisco Petrarch (Part III)

Dylan and Petrach Part 1

Dylan and Petrach Part 2


By Larry Fyffe

“Which side are you on?”, writes Bob Dylan in a song that foretells of a schism that develops, and threatens to tear apart forever scholars who analyze the art of Bob Dylan. The great debate centres on the distinction between the Italian (or Petrarchan) sonnet that has as its format an eight-line octave followed by a six-line sestet, and the English (or Shakespearean) sonnet that’s composed of three quatains and a concluding couplet.

The poem below is in the form of an English sonnet in that it ends in the rhyme ~ ‘you’/’new’:

When I consider every thing that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment
That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment

When I perceive that men as plants increase
Cheered and chequed even by the self-same sky
Vaunt in their youth sap, at height decrease
And wear the brave state out of memory

Then the conceits of this inconsistent stay
Sets you most rich in youth before my sight
Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay
To change youth to sullied night

And all in war with Time for love of you
As it takes from you, I engraft you new
(William Shakespeare: Sonnet XV)

A number of literary scholars claim that the following song is essentially an English sonnet, not an Italian one, because it can be set down in three quartrains, and an ending couplet ~ ‘grew”/’blue’:

I had a job in the great north woods
Workin’ as a cook for a spell
But I never did like it all that much
And one day the axe just fell

So I drifted down to New Orleans
Where I was lookin’ to be employed
Workin’ for a while on a fishin’ boat
Right outside of Delacroix

But all the while I was alone
The past was close behind
I see a lot of women
But she never escaped my mind

And I just grew
Tangled up in blue
(Bob Dylan: Tangked Up In Blue)

Indeed, the rift between the Dylan scholars gets so wide that many of the so-called ‘Petrachans’,
and of the the so-called ‘Shakespeareans’ refuse to talk with one another with the latter group insisting that its format is the one and only correct one.

As in:

So now I’m goin’ back again
I got to get to her somehow
All the people I used to know
They’re an illusion to me now

Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenters’ wives
But I don’t know how it all got started
I don’t know what they’e doin’ with their lives

But me, I’m still on the road
Headin’ for another joint
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point

Of view
Tangled up in blue
(Bob Dylan: Tangked Up In Blue)

The former group insist that the last six lines above comprise the sestet of a Petrarchan sonnet.

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