Bob Dylan Puts On Saturn’s Rings


by Larry Fyffe

Early in his career, the singer/songwriter/musician Bob Dylan visits Greece where he converts to Paganism. Not wanting any of his fans shouting out and accusing him of cutting off Saturn’s balls, he keeps it a secret.

In Greek/Roman mythology, Rhea is the “Great Mother”, a Titan goddess, wife of Cronus (Saturn), who is the “Father of Time”.  Rhea gives birth to such Olympian gods as Zeus(Jupiter), the God of Thunder; Hades (Pluto), the God of the Underworld; and Demeter (Ceres), the Goddess of Grain.

Cronus tries to stop time; he yearns to prevent his children from overthrowing him, and comes up with a great idea – he eats them. Rhea saves Zeus by hiding him in a cave on Mount Ida. He has sex with his sister Demeter; the union produces Persephone who carries on her mother’s agrarian duties, but abducted by Hades, she can do so for only half the year, Demeter and Hades having been saved by Zeus who forces his father Saturn to throw up, and, according to mythologist and poet Robert Graves, castrates him.

In the following song lyrics, Bob Dylan takes on the persona of Apollo, the son of Zeus. Like his Titan grandfather, Apollo tries to save Time for himself by taking it from others; he does this his way – he sings ‘hymns’ about his newfound ‘religion’:

You will search, babe, at any cost
But how long, babe, can you search for what is not lost
Everybody will help you
Some people are very kind
But if I can save you any time
Come on, give it to me
I'll keep it with mine
(Bob Dylan: I'll Keep It With Mine)

The double-edged language in the song decoded reveals that the narrator thereof is addressing Demeter who does not know that her daughter Persephone has been taken away by her uncle Hades to the dark Underworld. Demeter disguises herself as an old woman, and leaves Mount Olympus in search of her daughter. Refusing to eat or drink, she searches for Persephone everywhere to no avail; she meets four earth-bound sisters near a well; she gets invited to their house where she finds shelter and nourishment; she becomes more like her old self again, younger.

“They told her any house in the town would welcome her, but that they would like best to bring her to their own” (Edith Hamilton ~ Mythology: Timeless Tales Of Gods And Heroes).

Apollo, the Sun-God, retells the story in the song lyrics below:

I can't help it if you think that I am odd
If I say I'm not loving you not for what you are
But for what you're not
Everybody will help you
Discover what you set out to find
(Bob Dylan: I Keep It With Mine)

None of this digital crap for Apollo, it’s analogical time all the way down; albeit with irony, the singer/songwriter, imitating the voice of his father, explains in simple  terms what happened – time’s now tuned to the natural order of night and day, and four seasons (‘Irony’ stems from the Greek word ‘Eiron’ as in the traditional song performed by Dylan entitled ‘Belle Isle’):

The train leaves at half past ten
But it will be back in the old spot again
The conductor, he's still stuck on the line
And if I can save you any time
Come on, give it to me
I'll keep it with mine
(Bob Dylan: I'll Keep It With Mine)

That is, Demeter learns that Persephone is not lost: she’ll be back when spring comes. Her mother is still sad, but she’s happier; she realizes, given the circumstances, Zeus does the best that he can by getting her daughter back for part of the year; after all Hades is the brother of Zeus, and the God of Thunder does not want all Hell to break loose. And wouldn’t you know it, Albert, in the alleyway, is aware of the gravity of the situation – Einstein’s there with a jealous monk named Isaac.

In any event, the singer/songwriter, feeling that he’s being taken advantage of by the Pagan organization, writes a letter of resignation, addressed to “Father Zeus”:

There is a recording of Odds and Ends within this article from Rolling Stone

From now on you best get on someone else
While you're doing it, keep that juice to yourself
Odds and ends, odds and ends
Lost time is not found again
(Bob Dylan: Odds And Ends)

Now that wasn’t confusing at all, was it?!

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  1. A lot of the references in his songs are bout Doctor J Robert Oppenheimer. If you look him up, you’ll understand why you can’t exactly hit the nail on the head.

    He also references the Titanic and the Olympic ships being switched a lot. I think you’ll find a lot to review.

  2. The focus of the above article is on mythology, but other articles reference the McCarthy era as it affected Paul Robeson and others …even Dylan himself.

    Dylan never once mentions Oppenheimer by name in his song lyrics so I’m not sure what you’re exactly getting at though I’m already quite aware of Oppenheimer’s troubles.

    Any direct references to Oppenheimer (that certainly need not include the name of the physicist) by Dylan would be oblique at best unless you can show me some examples from his song lyrics of which I am not aware that obviously refer to the physicist.

    I’ d certainly appreciate them.

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