Bob Dylan And Faith: Dead Men (Part V)

Bob Dylan and Faith

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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