Bob Dylan: Symbolism Of The Weeping Willow Tree

by Larry Fyffe

Keeping to his lusty character, Zeus, the Olympian God of Thunder (who’s overthrown the gigantic Titan Saturn) falls in love with a tree dryad; in a fit of jealousy Hera, the wife of Zeus, transforms the dryad temporarily into a tree; Zeus, who’s in human form, decides to impress the dryad – the Thunder God reveals to her that he’s now the big god. Not to be outdone Hera makes the dryad’s change permanent. The tree spirit cries, her limbs droop. Venus, the Goddess of Love, sees to it that the Weeping Willow spreads far and wide across the land. The willow tree becomes a symbol of sadness, but also of flexibility and regeneration.

Symbolism that’s depicted in the song below:

Oh, bury me under the weeping willow
Yes, under the weeping willow tree
So he may know where I am sleeping
And perhaps he will remember me

(Carter Family: Weeping Willow Tree ~ traditional)

The narrator in the following song lyrics takes a tough view in regards to life’s sorrows:

I say to the willow tree, "Don't weep for me"
I'm saying to hell with all the things I used to be
Well, I get into trouble, then I hit the wall
No place to turn, no place at all

(Bob Dylan: My Own Version Of You)

As the listener is made aware in the lyrics below, the God of Thunder has human emotions, and cries hyperbolic conceits of teardrops, even though, of course, a god cannot die:

Now, I taught the weeping willow how to cry, cry, cry
And I showed the clouds how to cover up a clear blue sky
And the tears that I cried for that woman are gonna flood you Big River
And I'm gonna sit right here until I die

(Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash: Big River ~ Johnny Cash)

The willow used as an objective correlative in the song lyics below:

Well, that weeping willow, mourning like a dove
Weeping like a mourning dove
There's a gal in the country that I sure do love

(Bob Dylan: Weeping Willow ~ Fuller/Doherty)

As such in the following song, the sad-eyed willow fails to regenerate:

Once upon a hill
We sat beneath a willow tree
Counting all the stars, and waiting for the dawn
But that was once upon a time
And now the tree is gone

(Bob Dylan: Once Upon A Time ~ Strouse/Adams)

Below, no longer is the tree flexible:

Well, I just reached  place
Where the willow don't bend
There's no more to be said
It's the top of the end
I'm going, I'm going, I'm gone

Bob Dylan: I’m Going, I’m Going, I’m Gone

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