Bob Dylan And More Mythology (Part VI)

This article follows from

By Larry Fyffe

As times change, renewed mythologies emerge, and collide with the old.

Christianity unites the Roman Empire, but clashes with Greek and Roman mythology.  For example, it is claimed that Philomela turns into a nightingale to escape from Tereus who raped her:

Over Philomela's pity-pleading strains
My friend, and thou, our sister! We have learnt
A different lore. We may not thus profane
Nature's sweet voices, always full of love
And joyance! 'Tis the merry nightingale
(Samuel Coleridge: The Nightingale)

The Romantic Transcendental literary movement arises to save the tenets of Christianity from the Deism of the Enlightenment, but clashes with religious orthodoxy:

'Tis Easter eve; the day is fading
O Thou, with whom there is no death
While twilight every path is shading
Breathe through us they sweet Spirit's breath!
(Lucy Larcom: Sunrise And Sunset)

Poet Samuel Coleridge appears to violate his own dictum in order not to stray too far from away from established religion – death is supposed to be a punishment inflicted on humans for listening to the Devil:

The substance, that still casts the shadow, Death
The dragon foul and fell!
The unrevealable
And hidden one, whose breath
Gives wind and fuel to the fires of Hell
(Samuel Coleridge: Ne Plus Ultra)

In the following lyrics, a Gothic poet mocks how poetic language imposes figurative order on the mysterious external world of Nature:

For, alas! alas! with me
The light of life is over!
No more - no more - no more ....
Shall bloom the thunder-blasted tree
Or the stricken eagle soar!
(Edgar Allan Poe: To One In Paradise)

In the song lyrics below, a singer/songwriter joins the choir:

Beneath the thunder-blasted trees
The words are ringing off your tongue
The ground is hard at times like these
Stars are cold, the night is young
(Bob Dylan: Tell Ol' Bill)

The more time passes, the more messed with are these mythologies. Below, Romantic Transcendentalism gets a harsh Gnostic make-over:

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer
(Dylan Thomas: The Force That Through The Green 
            Fuse Drives The Flower)

Saved the Romantic aspect is in the following song lyrics – Nature not profaned with the help of a female Muse:

If not for you
Winter would have no spring
Couldn't hear the robin sing
I just wouldn't have a clue
If not go for you
(Bob Dylan: If Not For You)

Nevertheless, the statue of a benevolent Absolute God shows signs that it’s wearing away:

I ponder over the sacred word
I read the record of our Lord
And, weak and troubled, envy them
Who touched His seamless garment's hem
(John Whittier: Chapel Of The Hermits)

In the following song lyrics, the mythological/religious story above gets ripped apart, becomes Postmodern:

By the marbled slabs, and fields of stone
You make your humble wishes known
I touched the garment, but the hem was torn
In Scarlet Town where I was born
(Bob Dylan: Scarlet Town)

What else is on the site?

We have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with around 4000 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 

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 602 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.

On the other hand if you would like to write for this website, or indeed have an idea for a series of articles that the regular writers might want to have a go at, please do drop a line with details of your idea, or if you prefer, a whole article to Tony@schools.co.uk

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).

 

 

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