by Larry Fyffe
As noted, Bob Dylan nips bits and pieces from the ancient mythological tales of the Greeks and Romans; from Judeo-Christian ones too.The singer/songwriter inserts them into stories of his own making.
Tired of Zeus’ shenanigans, Hera tries to have the God of Thunder overthrown, but the rebellion fails. Her husband suspends Hera from the sky on a golden chain with anvils tied to her feet. Hanging there she cries and moans until Zeus releases her on the condition that she’ll never attempt that again.
In the following song lyrics, an angry husband seeks out his unfaithful wife in her lover’s abode:
He lowered himself on a golden chain His nerves were quaking in every vein His knuckles were bloody, he sucked in air He ran his fingers through his greasy hair (Bob Dylan: Tin Angel)
Hera’s promise does not stop her from heaping vengeance on Zeus’ lovers such as Lamia. The beautiful half-snake woman turns into a child-eating monster after Hera causes the death of Lamia’s children. In a version of the Old Testament story of Adam and Eve, Lamia appears as Adam’s first, and sexually-charged wife; she’s called Lilith. Wanting a more submissive mate, Adam convinces God to create Eve out of his rib. Vengeful Lilith, in the form of a snake, seduces Eve in the Garden of Eden. God throws Adam and his new wife out into the world of mortals. As Lilith’s punishment for disobedience, angels kill her children, and she in turn causes the death of human children.
The song below sums up the trials and tribulations wrought by God, Adam, Eve, Lamia, and Lilith as a result of mankind becoming mortal:
Tell me straight out if you will Why must you torture me within Why must you come down off of your high hill Throw my fate to the clouds and wind? (Bob Dylan: Tell Ol' Bill)
Nor does the role played by Jesus Christ, God’s son by a mortal (the New Testament), go unquestioned by the persona in the song lyrics below. That is, how come God shows up on earth in the form of Jesus at a particular time in the past when He’s needed now?:
In the hills of mystery In the foggy web of destiny You can have what's left of me Where we were born in time (Bob Dylan: Born In Time)
A female poet-friend of poet and bird-watcher John Whittier writes that God has severely tried her patience, and she therefore returns the favour; no hurry is she to die in order to join her kinfolk in Heaven:
Saying, "I will go with thee That thou be not lonely To yon hills of mystery I have waited only Until now, to climb with thee Yonder hills of mystery" (Lucy Larcom: Across The River)
Laments a Gothic Romantic poet, male mythology demonizes Lamia, but philosophy does worse – puts her out to death:
Philosophy will clip the angel's wings Conquer all mysteries by rule and line Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine Unweave the rainbow, as it erewhile made The tender-personed Lamia melt into shade (John Keats: Lamia)
So saith another poet about science – a Hamadryad is a tree spirit that dies when the tree does:
Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car And driven the Hamardyad from the wood To seek shelter in some happier star? (Edgar Allan Poe: To Science)
In mythology, the cypress is the sacred tree of sorrow to Artemis (Diana), Apollo’s sister:
I waited for you on the running boards Near the cypress trees, while the springtime turned Slowly into autumn (Bob Dylan: Idiot Wind)
According to poets Larcom and Whittier, time on earth is not there to be wasted:
They sat in silent watchfulness The sacred cypress tree about And, from beneath old wrinkled brows Their failing eyes looked out (John Whittier: The Cypress Tree Of Ceylon)
What else is on the site?
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You’ll find some notes about our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page of this site. 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 599 Dylan compositions and co-compositions that we have found on the A to Z page.
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.
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And please do note our friends at 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, plus links back to our reviews (which we do appreciate).