by Larry Fyffe
Bob Dylan, singer/songwriter/musician, as previously noted, draws inspiration from the poetry of John Keats, Edgar Allan Poe, and Robert Frost for his song “Key West”; he also mixes in the poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer with lyrics from a a blues singer:
"Love you daddy, real good daddy Soothe me baby, move me baby" Yes, I heard it all Another mule is kicking in my stall (Dave Bartholomew: Another Mule)
In the song verse below, there’s the ‘Dylanesque rhyme twist” ~ ‘all’/’stall’; ~’wall’/’all’:
McKinley hollered, McKinley squalled Doctor said, "McKinley, death is on the wall Say it to me, if you got something to confess" I heard it all - the wireless radio (Bob Dylan: Key West)
And from the famous ‘Canterbury Tales’:
But show me your complete confession "No", said the sick man, "By St. Simon I have been shivered today by my curate I have told him of my condition There is no further need to confess again" (Geoffrey Chaucer: The Summoner's Tale ~ modernized)
But most noticeably, mixed in is the tale of the Aeneas heading off to found Rome, a story told by the Roman poet Virgil. Therein, the Trojan hero descends into the Underworld with his buddy, and a Sibyl prophetess as their guide, to visit Aeneas’ father to ask him for advice; Aphrodite sends doves to guide her son to the ‘golden bough’ that he breaks off to serve as a pass to Hades:
At last they reached the spot where the road divided. From the left came horrid sounds and the clanking of chains. Aeneas halted in terror. The Sibyl, however, bade him to have no fear, but fasten boldly the golden bough on the wall that faced the crossroads. The regions to the left … punished the wicked for their misdeeds. But the the road to the right led to the Elysian Fields where Aeneas would find his father (Edith Hamilton: Mythology:Timeless Tales Of Gods And Heroes).
In the song lyrics below, the island of Key West, at the bottom of Florida, is figuratively transformed into the Underworld of Greek/Roman mythology, and the singer/songwriter takes on the persona of Virgil’s Aeneas:
Key West is under the sun, under the radar, under the gun You stay to the left, and then you lean to the right Feel the sun on your skin, and the healing virtues of the wind Key West, Key West, is the land of light (Bob Dylan: Key West)
So interpreted, the road to the Elysian Fields lies there in Key West:
There when they arrived everything was delightful, soft green meadows, lovely groves, a delicious life-giving air, sunlight that glowed softly purple, an abode of peace and blessedness. Here dwelt the great and the good dead, heroes, poets, priests, and all who had made men remember them by helping others (Edith Hamilton: Mythology).
In the following lyrics, the Elysian Fields of the Floridian island are depicted as real, as supposed to be by the Ancients; it’s no imaginary Land of Oz:
People tell me that I'm truly blessed Bougainvillea blooming everywhere in the spring, in the summer Winter here is an unknown thing Down in the flat lands, way down in Key West (Bob Dylan: Key West)
As goes Virgil’s mythological tale, in order to leave Hades to re-enter the Upper World, Aeneas and his companions must drink the Waters Of Oblivion from the River of Forgetfulness.
So apparently it be in the underworld of Key West:
Fly away, my pretty little Miss I don't love nobody, give me a kiss Down in the bottom, way down in Key West (Bob Dylan: Key West)
Dylan reworks another song of his:
Well, I went back to see about her once Went back to straighten it out Everybody that I talked to had seen us there Said they didn't know who I was talking about Well, the sun went down on me a long time ago I've had to pull back from the door I wish I could have spent every hour of my life With the girl from the Red River Shore (Bob Dylan: Red River Shore)
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