Bob Dylan: The Idealization Of Woman (Part III)

by Larry Fyffe

Also in this series:

Through their mothers’ beliefs, Emanuel Swedenborg’s religious concept of the actual existence of a spiritual plain influences the poetry of Robert Frost and Hart Crane; the former poet takes a middle-of the-road approach. William Blake takes on Swedenborg and places the spiritual and physical aspects of humankind together in the real world of sensations, linking them together by the Imagination of the myth-making human mind.

Singer/songwriter Bob Dylan, with his Jewish background, is down-to-earth. Akin to poet Blake, he mixes up mythologies; seeks a Promised Land inhabited by human ‘angels’, mostly in the form of the female sex. Though the journey has its ups and downs, it’s a general theme that pervades many of his song lyrics.

Metaphorically depicted as an angel, the woman in the lyrics below flies betwixt heaven and earth:

You angel you
You got me under your wing
The way you walk, and the way you talk
I swear it makes me sing
(Bob Dylan: You Angel You)

She’s likened to the Midian woman -Zipporah- who marries and cares for Moses (who’s fled Egypt) because he helped her and her sisters draw water at the well.

In the manner of Samuel Coleridge -“A damsel with a dulcimer/In a vision once I saw” -, and in a voice filled with double-edged irony that shows there’s more to Dylan’s gospel songs than what first meets the ear:

Sister, let me tell ya 'bout a vision that I saw
You're drawin' water for your husband, sufferin' under the law
Tellin' anyone 'bout Buddha, and were hummin' in the same breath
Never mentioned one time the Man who came, and died a criminal's death ....
Shine your light, shine your light on me
Ya know, I just couldn't make it by myself
I'm a little to blind to see
(Bob Dylan: Precious Angel)

In reference to:

And the shepherds came
And drove them away
But Moses stood up, and helped them
And watered their flock
(Exodus 2:17)

Women are likened to Isis, the Egyptian Goddess of the Sun:

Isis, oh Isis, you're a mystical child
What drives me to you is what drives me insane
I  still can remember the way that you smiled
On the fifth day of May in the drizzling rain
(Bob Dylan: Isis ~ Dylan/Levy)

Likened to the Egyptian princess who protects Egyptian-born Moses:

She wears an Egyptian ring
It sparkles before she speaks
She's a hypnotist collector
You are a walking antique
(Bob Dylan: She Belongs To Me)

In reference to:

And the child grew
And she brought him unto Pharaoh's daughter
And he became her son
And she called his name 'Moses'
And she said, 'Because I drew him out of the water'
(Exodus 2:10)

Women are also likened to Mary, the Mother of Jesus:

And Madonna, she still has not showed
We see this empty cage now corrode
Where her cape of the stage once had flowed ....
The harmonicas play the skeleton keys in the rain
And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain
(Bob Dylan: Visions Of Johanna)

Water be a symbol associated with women from time out of mind.

What else is here?

You’ll find some notes about 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 all the 590 Dylan compositions and co-compositions that we have found on the A to Z page.

We also have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with over 2000 active members.  (Try imagining a place where it is always safe and warm).  Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

If you are interested in Dylan’s work from a particular year or era, your best place to start is Bob Dylan year by year.

On the other hand if you would like to write for this website, please do drop me a line with details of your idea, or if you prefer, a whole article.  Email Tony@schools.co.uk

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

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