Bob Dylan And Faith (Part VIII): Nietzsche

Bob Dylan and Faith


Bob Dylan And Faith (Part VII): Nietzsche

by Larry Fyffe

Some examiners of the song lyrics of Bob Dylan claim that in the song ‘Cry A While’ , the line “A nasty, dirty, double-crossing, back-stabbing phony” refers to Anglo/Irish writer Oliver Goldsmith, who in his scramble to keep out of debt, pens ‘hack’ works that appeal to the religious outlook of the Anglican Establishment, ie, ‘The Ballad Of Edwin And Angelina’), akin to the sentiments expressed in the writings of Robert Southey (who comes along later in history); tales in which  the good and bad get their just deserts as God preordains they will – all’s well that end’s well.

However, the ‘light-tragedy’ of William Blake is a personal mythology with no happy ending; therein, the time is out of joint – rational science sees to it that objectively-driven material production triumphs over that which is lovingly produced. According to the symbolic poet, the industrial Tiger eats the caring Lamb; in the Land of Diestic Enlightenment, the imagination of the creative artist is chained up; sexual energy is driven underground; there is no escape from a ‘dark’ life of drudgery.

Christ is crucified; Satan wins:

The virgin started from her seat with a shriek
Fled back unhindered till she came into the vales of Har
(William Blake: Book of Thel)

Deconstructed, Blakean mythology’s still rather paternalistic – much like the viewpoint of orthodox religion (and those of the NeoChristianity of Emanuel Swedenborg) that Blake supposedly rebels against; he wants to have his cake, and  eat it too.

An irony not lost in the song lyrics below; time is short, baby; forget St. Paul, ask the Rose of Sharon – she knows that experiencing sexual relationships after the innocence of youth is what makes a gal wise to the ways of the world.

To wit:

Counterfeit philosophies have polluted all of your thoughts
Karl Marx has got you by the throat, 
       Henry Kissinger's still got you wrapped up in knots ....
Well, the Man on a cross, and He's been crucified
You know who He is, and you know why He died
When you gonna wake up, when you gonna wake up
When you gonna wake up, strengthen the things that remain?
(Bob Dylan: When You Gonna Wake Up)

Seems that the new boss is quite like the old boss – Eve gets the blame for the human alienation in the New Babylon as she does for the troubles in the Old Babylon of the Holy Bible.

What happened to the lusty Abel? Where is the demon lover Lilith when you need her?

Poetic philosopher Frederick Nietzsche dreams that he was amongst the ones who put the earthy Dionysian god to death – the  ‘god’  who needs not to wait for a  heavenly ‘afterlife’ to find spiritual happiness.

Nietzsche is not altogether dead:

Preacher was talking, there's a sermon he gave
He said every man's conscience is vile and depraved
You can not depend on it to be your guide
When it is you who must be satisfied
It ain't easy to swallow, it sticks in your throat
She went with the man in the long black coat
(Bob Dylan: The Man In The Long Black Coat)

In the song lyrics below, the narrator thereof dreams that he kills St. Augustine, a convert to Christianity, who turns away from the Persian religious founder Mani, the prophet of forces ‘dark’ and ‘light’; the saint develops the concepts of ‘original sin’ and of the timeless Jesus:

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine
Alive with fiery breath
And I dreamed I was amongst the ones
That put him out to death
(Bob Dylan: I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine)

Concludes the orderly Apollonian songwriter, and  musician:

I'm just like Anne Frank, like Indiana Jones
And them British bad boys, the Rolling Stones
I go right to the edge, I go right to the end
I go where where all things lost are made good again
I sing the songs of experience like William Blake
I have no apologies to make
(Bob Dylan: I Contain Multitudes)

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  1. Somebody saw you at the break of day
    Dining and dancing in the cabaret
    He was long and tall, he had plenty of cash
    He had a red Cadillac, and a black moustache
    He held your hand, and he sang you a song
    Who you been loving since I’ve been gone?
    (Warren Smith: Red Cadillac And Black Moustache ~ May/Thompson)

  2. Red Cadillac and black moustache
    Rings on my fingers that sparkle and flash
    Tell me what’s next, what shall we do?
    (Bob Dylan: I Contain Mulitudes)

  3. * a-talking about a sermon he gave

    **When it is you who must keep it satisfied….
    She gave her heart to the man in the long black coat

  4. Friedrich Nietzsche focus on the power principle; Rowland Barthes on the pleasure principle.

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