Bob Dylan: The Black Rider


by Larry Fyffe

Much like the writings of the GrecoRoman mythologists, and of the Abrahamics, Zoroastra says the Almighty is a good force that some individuals choose to ignore. Mani instead says black and dark forces struggle for dominance over individuals. Swedenborg says the white forces have won, but most individuals on earth haven’t received the news yet. In his poetry, William Blake says at this particular time the black forces of society dominate most individual’s earthly existence. In his, Percy Shelley says it’s time that individuals side with the good forces. In his poems, John Keats says all of  this makes him a sad individual. In his, Robert Frost says, as an individualist, he’s rather hesitant as to which path to take.

Into the song pot below, Bob Dylan throws pieces of the aforementioned writers to see what comes out after it’s all boiled up.

From the Holy Bible, Bob tosses in a balance-carrier who rides the back of a black horse:

And when he had opened the third seal ....
And I beheld, and lo a black horse
And he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand
(Revelations 7:5)

Black forces, at least for the time being, carry more weight:

Black Rider,  black rider, you've been living too hard
Been up all night, have to be on your guard
(Bob Dylan: Black Rider)

Doth taste a lot like Blake:

And priests in black gowns, were making their rounds
And binding with briars, my joys and desires
(William Blake: The Garden Of Love)

The cook puts a bit more Bible into the broth:

Because strait is the gate
And narrow is the way
Which leadeth unto life
And few there be that find it
(St. Matthew 7:14)

Seasons the soup:

The path that you're taking, too narrow to walk
Every step of the way, another stumbling block
(Bob Dylan: Black Rider)

Dylan drops in a cube of poetry to cool things down:

The road that you're on, same road that you know
Just not the same as it was a minute ago
(Bob Dylan: Black Rider)

Plops in Frost:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in the woods, and I
I took the one less travelled by
And that has made all the difference
(Robert Frost: The Road Not Taken)

Adds in Priapus who’s pinched from a bag of black-humoured Greco-Roman mythology.
Aphrodite’s son Priapus is cursed by Hera, the wife of Zeus, to bear a big permanent erection except when needed; like the time that he loses hardness because of the braying of a donkey. Hera is angry at the foamy sex goddess because Paris judged her more beautiful than she:

The size of your cock will get you know where
I'll suffer in silence, hold it right there

At such times, it’s convenient to claim that one’s high moral principles be the cause of the deflation:

Maybe I'll take the high moral ground
Some enchanted evening, I'll sing you a song
Black Rider,  black rider, you've been on the job too long
(Bob Dylan: Black Rider)

Like this song for instance:

Some enchanted evening, someone may be laughing
You may here her laughing across a crowded room
And night after night, as strange as it seems
The sound of her laughter will sing in your dreams
(Frank Sinatra: Some Enchanted Evening ~ Rogers/Hammerstein)

In the Bible, Alohlah and Aholibah are depicted as whores who ‘sleep’ with Assyrians and Babylonians  –  or at least the guys there who have penises as large as those on donkeys:

For she doted upon their paramours whose flesh is the flesh of asses...
(Ezekiel 23: 20)

So it is said of Sinatra’s appendage. Likewise, Christian lore has it that Satan (who charms Eve) has a large snake-like phallus.

‘Black Rider, Black Rider’ is a real boner.

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9 Responses to Bob Dylan: The Black Rider

  1. Larry fyffe says:

    *Mani instead says light and dark forces ….

  2. Marsh says:

    “The size of your cock will get you know where.”

    I like the humour and ambiguity of “you know where” but the official lyric does read “nowhere”.

  3. Larry fyffe says:

    I no that!…
    Thanks for the correction…I don’t no how that snuck in!

  4. Charles Heckscher says:

    You fell into the fire and you’re eating the flame: A Buddhist trope, putting out the fires of suffering.

  5. Tim Roach says:

    Black Rider / Black Rider / Go home to your wife / Stop visiting mine . This tale is as ageless as the Cave. Who hasn’t had to ward off someone comming in to town and trying to steal your lover. Lead Belly sang about that drifter thief “Shorty George”. So did Woody Guthrie about “Gypsy Dave”. No wonder Bob could comes up with lyrics like ” I”ll take a sword and hack off your arm”. Reminds me of anther earlier thought “and i’ll stand over your grave / till im sure that your dead”. So the last line accepts this as ” You been on the job too long”.

  6. Harry Needleman says:

    My read is this is about not being ready for death. Not ready for that black rider at least not yet.

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  8. Larry fyffe says:

    “Black rider, black rider, you’ve been on the job too long”

    alludes to the tradtional murder ballad “Been On The Job Too Long”

  9. Larry fyffe says:


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