The Golden Rules

by Larry Fyffe

In the song lyrics quoted just below, expressed is a dark cynicism concerning any possibility of progressive change happening for the good of all mankind:

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow to the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get down on my knees and pray
The new boss
Same as the old boss

(The Who: Won’t Be Fooled Again ~ Peter Townshend))

Those black thoughts on politics and religion in the song above are repeated in the lyrics below:

The cold-blooded moon
The captain waits above the celebration
Sending his thoughts to a beloved maid
Whose ebony face is beyond communication
The captain is down, but still believing his love will be repaid

(Bob Dylan: Changing Of The Guards)

There’s the Dylanesque rhyme twist: ~’constitution’/’revolution’ ~ ‘play’/’pray’;

~ ‘celebration’/’communication ~ ‘maid’/ ‘repaid’.

Though gender-reversed, there’s an  allusion to the faithful bride of cold-hearted King Solomon:

Look not upon me, because I am black
Because the sun hath looked upon me
My mother's children were angry with me
They made me the keeper of the vineyards
But my own vineyard have I not kept

(Song Of Solomon 1:6)

According to Bob Dylan, or his persona anyway, matters are not going to get any better:

I've been walkin' down forty miles of bad road
If the Bible is right, the world will explode
Ive been tryin' to get as far away from myself as I can

(Bob Dylan: Things Have Changed)

The singer/songwriter resorts to and revises the script of a film noir:

“And the only chance I got …. is by staying as far away as possible from you and the police because you only gum up the works”

(Private detective Sam Spade to the district attorney’s lawyer in ‘The Maltese Falcon’)

And whether it’s Jove and Apollo, or God and Christ, the sons come out looking like they’re chips off the old block:

They shaved her head
She was torn between Jupiter and Apollo
A messenger arrived with a black nightingale
I seen her on the stairs, and I couldn't help but follow
Follow her down past the fountain where they lifted her veil

(Bob Dylan: Changing Of The Guards)

It’s gnostic and nasty everywhere. You can’t win with a losing hand. Jesus, symbolized by the arrival of the messenger carrying on His shoulder a black nightingale is mad, bad, and dangerous:

I've moved your mountains, and marked your card
But Eden is burning
Either brace yourself for elimination
Or else your hearts must have the courage
For the changin' of the guards
Peace will come with tranquility and splendour
On the wheels of fire

(Bob Dylan: Changing Of The Guards)

Backed by the Holy Bible, Christ is depicted  as a fiery, ill-tempered God; He’s akin to a modern-day Mack the Knife:

Think not that I come to to send peace on earth
I come not to send peace, but a sword

(Matthew 1O: 34)

In a number of his songs that are similar to the writings of neoRomantics like William Yeats, John Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis, Bob Dylan mixes mythologies with Judeo-Christianity:

Surely some revelation is at hand
Surely the Second Coming is at hand ....
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stoney sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last
Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?

(Willian Yeats: The Second Coming)

However in Dylan’s rocknroll lyrics, dark-humoured burlesque keeps popping up its double-sided head:

Jesus said, "Be ready
For you know not the hour which I come"
He said, "He who is not with Me is against Me"
Just so you know where He's comin' from

(Bob Dylan: Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking)

Apparently, the new golden rule is the same as the old: He who has the gold rules!


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