Bob Dylan and Faith
- Bob Dylan On Faith (Part 1)
- Bob Dylan And Faith (Part II)
- Bob Dylan And Faith: William Blake (Part III)
- Bob Dylan And Faith (Part IV): Swedenborg
- Bob Dylan And Faith: Dead Men (Part V)
- Bob And Faith: Religion (Part VI)
- Bob Dylan And Faith (Part VII): Calliope
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.
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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