Bob Dylan And The Lusty Buck

by Larry Fyffe

In Greek mythology, the aforementioned Galatea is a sea nymph adored by the Cyclops whose one eye is burned out by Odysseus. After the giant reforms, and stops eating people, the nymph softens her attitude towards him, and they get married. Prior to the Trojan War, Jason sets out in search of the Golden Fleece. Members of his crew include Orpheus who marries Eurydice, and Theseus who marries Phaedra. Already pointed out is that Bob Dylan makes fleeting references to these mythological stories in his song lyrics.

Another member of Jason’s crew is Peleus who marries Thetis, the leader of the female sea nymphs. Zeus, is forewarned that Thetis will bear a son more powerful than his father Saturn. To ward off that possibility, Zeus tells the mortal Peleus he’s able to capture the shape-shifting nymph by binding her, and holding on to her tightly. This he does, they marry, and she gives birth to Achilles. Noted is that Bob Dylan references this Greek hero of the Trojan War, a war sparked by Eris, the Goddess of Discord, who is insulted she’s not invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis.

Apparently, Bob Dylan knows a number of the nymphs well:

Charotte’s a harlot
Dresses in scarlet
Mary dresses in green
It’s soon after midnight
And I’ve got a date with the fairy queen
(Bob Dylan: Soon After Midnight)

Poet Robert Graves makes the case that all the negative portrayals of women, including that of Eve, are put forth to undermine the Pagan respect for, and worship of, The White Goddess, the Mother of Birth, Love, And Death – Earth itself.

A Roman poet, in support of selfish masculine love, glories the kidnapping of Thetis:

Then Peleus, it is said, for Thetis burned with love
Then Thetis did not scorn human hymeneals
Jove himself felt Peleus should yoke with Thetis
O born in a time of all the ages too much missed
Hail, heroes, breed of God! O noble progeny
Of mothers beautiful, I hail you once again!
(Gaius Catullus: Catullus, no. 64 ~ translated)

An Elizabethan poet is not so kind; he blames women for the lack of harmonious relationship between the sexes notwithstanding that in mythology the daughter of the Goddess of Grain, Persephone, is held by Hades in the cold underworld for half of each year:

My Love is like ice, and I to fire
How comes it then this her cold so great
Is not dissolved by my so hot desire
But harder grows the more I her entreat?
(Edmund Spenser: My Love Is Like Ice, And I To Fire)

Christian Gnostic Emanuel Swedenborg places women in a subordinate position to men, Eve having been taken from the side of Adam. A modernist Romantic poet, whose mother be a Swedenborger, gives little thought to the on-and-off frigid behaviour of Thetis and Persephone, symbolized below by the frozen lake; he simply accepts things the way things are – or so it seems:

My little horse must think in it queer
To stop without a farm house near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year
(Robert Frost: Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening)

It’s a viewpoint expressed by the singer/songwriter in the lyrics below – using the same symbolism:

Twilight on the frozen lake
North wind about to break
On footprints in the snow
Silence below
(Bob Dylan: Never Say Goodbye)

For both Frost and Dylan, an artificial wall now separates, not only the two human sexes from one another, but both sexes from the natural world as viewed by the Pagans. In these modern times, contact with the White Goddess is lost. In the poem below, a doe and then a lusty buck stares through a barb-wired, tumbling wall at a man and a woman; then it’s gone:

He viewed them quizzically with jerks of head
As if to ask, “Why don’t you make some motion
Or give me some sign of life? Because you can’t
I doubt if you’re as living as you look”
Thus till he had them almost feeling dared
To stretch a proffering hand  ~ and a spell-breaking
(Robert Frost: Two Look At Two)

The singer/songwriter envisions himself as that lusty buck; he’s staring from the other side of the wall, not from the wild side of it:

This place ain’t doing me any good
I’m in the wrong town, I should be in Hollywood
Just for a second I thought I saw something move
(Bob Dylan: Things Have Changed)


  1. * Rather ‘Gatlatea’ is mentioned in the forthcoming article on Dylan and Pigmalion.

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