Bob Dylan And The Symbol Of The Flower (Part 1)

By Larry Fyffe

Too happy in her unhappiness is the singer of the lyrics below:

There is nothing that a flower can say
That your lips can prove with a kiss
Send me no flowers today
Got a lot of flowers, and what I miss
Is being in your arms again

(Doris Day: Send Me No More Flowers ~ Bacharach/David)

Not so, the singer of the following lyrics:

Everybody got all the money
Everybody got all the beautiful clothes
Everybody got all the flowers
I don't have one single rose
I feel a change coming on
And the fourth part of the day's already gone

The roots of songs from the lost-love tree sink deep into the soil of the past:

He taught me to love him
He called me his flower
That blossomed for him
All the brighter each hour
But I wroke from my dreaming
My idol was clay
My visions of love
Have all faded away

(Carter Family: Wildwood Flower ~ Webster,

The hope of everlasting love hangs around, but it too fades away:

Well, what's the use of dreaming?
You got better things to do
Dreams never did work out for me anyway
Even when they did come true

(Bob Dylan: I Feel A Change Coming On ~ Dylan/ Hunter)

As life itself fades away. In the poem quoted below, over-happy about the prospect of death is the poet’s persona – the flowers of the cypress tree symbolize sorrow, but to him they look like roses:

But the horror of Death is an ecstasy
And the sweetest song is an elegy
And the lovliest flowers in the world to me
Are the roses which bloom on the cypress tree

(Midnight: Charles Baudelaire)

The persona presented by the singer/songwriter in the following lyrics considers such a sentiment rather idiotic; in no hurry is he to greet the end of life, inevitable though it be; sorrow is just part of life that has to be put up with:

I waited for you on the running boards
Near the cypress tress, while the springtime turned
Slowly into autumn

(Bob Dylan: Idiot Wind)

To wait for happiness in another world, in an ‘afterlife’, be  the ‘morality of slaves’:

I am a forest, and a night of dark trees
But he who is not afraid of my darkess
Will find banks full of roses under my cypresses

(Frederick Nietzsche: Thus Spake Zarathustra)

Sardonically, so spake another poet:

Ah Sunflower! weary of time
Who countest the steps of the sun
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller's journey is done

(William Blake: Sunflower)

[Editor’s footnote: if you have played the Wildwood Flower video then do leave it running, the follow up video is a treat too].

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  1. The Carters’ lyrics have different variations:

    Oh he taught me to love him
    And call me his flower
    That was blooming to cheer him
    Through life’s dreary hour
    Oh, I long to see him
    And regret the dark hour
    He’s gone, and neglected
    His wildwood flower

  2. All wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers
    And all the flowers were mine
    (Edgar Poe: To One In Paradise)

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