Bob Dylan And Mythology (Part X) “Vulcan, the God of Fire”

by Larry Fyffe

The Beat writer quoted below walks in the footsteps of Villiers who writes the black-humoured, neoRomantic tale about “Tomorrow’s Eve”:

Nobody has to care anymore, 
    we can even leave the whole scene to itself
with Japanese fornicating machines 
    fornicating chemical dolls on and on
with Robot Hospitals and Calculator Machine Crematories, 
    and just go off,
and be free in the universe!

(Jack Kerouac: Desolation Angels, part I)

Singer/songwriter/musician Bob Dylan follows Kerouac’s footprints. In “Desolation Angels” appear such lines as “Cabinets with memories in them”, “Completely in a trance”, “The perfect image of a priest”:

Then they bring them to the factory
Where the heart-attack machine
Is strapped across their shoulders
And then the kerosene
Is bought down from the castle
By insurance men who go
Check to see that nobody is escaping
To Desolation Row

(Bob Dylan: Desolation Row)

In ancient Greek/Roman mythology, Vulcan is credited with creating the first robotic slave: from gold, the God of Fire forges handmaidens to assist him around the blacksmith shop. The female android in “Tomorrow’s Eve” is named “Hadaly”, rearranged letter play on “yaldah” which means “maiden” in Hebrew.

In the following postmodern allegorical song (akin to “Desolation Angels”), the whole scene is left to itself for the listener to interpret. Apparently, the Jack Of Hearts (JOH ~JehOvaH) sends an android with no eyelids down to earth to rid the Temple in Jerusalem (the cabaret) of the diamond-studded Devil (Big Jim); the android is programmed to disguise ‘himself’ as Mother Mary (Rosemary), and be sacrificed on the cross (gallows); now no longer responsible for caring about what happens to humanity, JOH is free to wander around heaven all day:

The next day was hanging day, the sky was overcast and black
Big Jim lay covered up, killed by a penknife in the back
And Rosemary on the gallows, she didn't even blink
The hanging judge was sober, he hadn't had a drink
The only person on the scene missing was the Jack Of Hearts

(Bob Dylan: Lily, Rosemary, And The Jack Of Hearts)

Futurism be an artistic movement that develops in the early twentieth century; technological inventions are gloried for their power and speed. Science reigns; the dynamo that transforms mechanical into electrical energy becomes an important literary symbol. Vorticism, an offshoot of Futurism, focuses on the image of the circular motion of fluids; violence is essential for change.

Below a vortex poem. Lethe is the Goddess of Oblivion; Actaon gets transformed into a deer by Apollo’s sister Diana, and torn to pieces  by his own dogs:

The image of Lethe
And the fields
Full of faint light
Both golden
Gray cliffs
And  beneath them
A sea
Harsher than granite
Unstill, never ceasing

(Ezra Pound: The Coming of War: Actaon

Orthodox Romantics, influenced by the writings of William Blake, depict the negative side of mass production technology; the environment becomes polluted, a wasteland; workers, slaves to their machines, become more and more like them, and machines more like thinking human beings; alienation and violence abound; the God of Love is missing from the scene:

Well, I'm moving after midnight
Down boulevards of broken cars
Don't know what I'd do without it
Without this love we call ours
Beyond here lies nothing
Nothing but the moon and stars

(Bob Dylan: Beyond Here Lies Nothing ~ Dylan/Hunter)

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 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.

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