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
By Larry Fyffe
Drawing from the literary well of the Judiac/Christian Bible and Greco/Roman mythologies, singer/songwriter Bob Dylan creates his own mythological world in song lyrics; he’s sick and tired of religion and myths being corrupted in order to glorify the New Babylon of materialistic America. In response, Dylan makes old myths new again.
In the following lyrics, Bob Dylan could well be addressing William Blake; he wonders where anti-establishment poets like him have been taken:
What are you trying to overpower me with, the doctrine of the gun My back is already to the wall, where can I run? The tuxedo that you're wearing, the flower in your lapel Ooh, I can't stand it You wanna take me down to hell Dead man, dead man When will you arise? Cobwebs in your mind Dust in your eyes (Bob Dylan: Dead Man, Dead Man)
In the following song lyrics, the listeners thereof hear about an outlaw biologist who’s been hunted down by the Establishment:
They got Charles Darwin Trapped out there on Highway Five Judge says to the High Sheriff "I want him dead or alive Either one, I don't care" (Bob Dylan: High Water)
Referencing the nuanced:
"I want him bought back here to me Alive or dead, don't matter Though I reckon dead would be easier" (Robert Mitchum: Dead Man movie)
Mitchum plays John Dickinson, an industrialist in a western town called ‘Machine’. Deconstructed, the following poem springs to mind:
And so, as kinsmen met a night We talked between the rooms Until the moss had reached our lips And covered up our names (Emily Dickinson: I Died For Beauty)
‘Dead Man’ is a western movie, inspired by Dylan’s mixing of mythologies. In the film, an American native ‘Indian’ who’s studied William Blake, calls himself ‘No Name’ in reference to Book IX of Homer’s “Odyssey”:
Odysseus: ‘No man’ do they call me, my mother and my father
All my comrades as well
Cyclopes: It is ‘No Man’ that is laying me by guile, and by force
Odysseus burns out the eye of the Cyclopes, but the giant’s plea for help is in vain.
An accountant in the movie ‘Dead Man’ whose name is William Blake is mistaken by the ‘Indian’ to be the reincarnation of the poet.The accountant visits a prostitute named Thel. William Blake’s Thel is a young, innocent virgin who is afraid to enter the adult world of experience; no help is the the Church because it speaks only of ‘rods’ and ‘bowls’, not of male and female sex organs:
Does the eagle know what is in the pit Or will you go ask the mole Can wisdom be put in a silver rod Or love in a golden bowl? (Blake: The Book Of Thel)
In ‘Hamlet”, no help is the sanctimonious Polonuis to his Thel-like daughter Ophelia, nor is the sententious maxims given as advice in the lyrics below:
May you grow up to be righteous May you grow up to be true May you always know the truth And see the light surrounding you May you always be courageous Stand upright and be strong May you stay forever young (Bob Dylan: Forever Young)
The only thing we know for sure about Bob Dylan is that his name isn’t Bob Dylan.
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