by Larry Fyffe
Seems, according to Bob Dylan, that Miles Standish is Captain Arab of the good ship “Mayflower”:
Hanging in shining array along the walls of the chamber Cutlass and coselet of steel, and his trusty sword of Damascus Curved at the point, and inscribed with its mystical Arabic sentence
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: The Courtship Of Miles Standish)
In his 115th Dream, singer/songwriter Bob Dylan burlesques the arrival of the Pilgrims in America at Plymouth Rock aboard the “Mayflower” that had intended to sail to the Virginia settlement of Jamestown; ruthless Miles Standish is their military leader. In the parody, the ship’s captain of the modern day Pilgrims is named Arab; on shore, strange things happen to the crew – the narrator thereof bumps into an undertaker:
I shook his hand, and said 'goodbye', and went back out on the street When a bowling ball came down the road, and knocked me off my feet
Edward Taylor, a true-to-life latter-day Puritan preacher at the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, pens the following lyrics:
Who in this bowling alley bowled the sun? Who made it always when it rises set? To go at once both down, and up to get?
(Edward Taylor: The Preface)
The Puritan separatists from the Church of England head off to America, inspired by a biblical verse about, no – not Arab, but about the Jewish religious leader Abram:
By faith, he sojourned in the land of promise As in a strange country Dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob The heirs with him of the same promise
(Hebrews 11: 9)
The American singer, from a Jewish family, takes the dark history of the United States quite seriously at times:
.....can you feel the weight of oblivion And the songs of redemption on you your backside We surface along side Miles Standish And take the rock
(Liners notes: ‘Desire’ album)
Paradise for the native American ‘Indian’ is lost, gone forever; the Pilgrim colonizers considered heroes in verse and song:
I came to a place where the lone pilgrim lay And patiently stood by his tomb When in a low whisper, I heard someone say "How sweetly I sleep here alone"
(Bob Dylan:The Lone Pilgrim ~ White/Pace*)
Below an African-American electric bluesman in his tomb is depicted as though a lone pilgrim who’d been searching for the Promised Land – in vain:
God be with you, brother dear If you don't mind me asking, what brings you here? Oh, nothing much, I'm just looking for the man Need to see where he is laying in this lost land
(Bob Dylan: Goodbye Jimmy Reed)
Pocahontas, a native ‘Indian’ princess is kidnapped, and Christianized at the King James I settlement in Virginia – a more diverse group of adventurers than at Plymouth; the princess is celebrated by the settlers there as though a trophy.
Worthy of a black-humoured comment indeed:
I got a house on the hill, I got hogs out in the mud Got a long-haired woman, she got royal Indian blood Everybody get ready to lift up his glass, and sing Everybody get ready to lift up his glass, and sing Well, I'm standing on the table, I'm proposing a toast to the King
(Bob Dylan: Summer Days)
So there you have it. All’s well that end’s well, and there is no need to keep on a-worrying.
Paradise waits for everyone -it will be regained in the grave
*There is no recording of Bob Dylan performing The Lone Pilgrim on the internet, so I’ve added a particularly beautiful non-Dylan version for readers who are not familiar with the piece. Tony.
Untold Dylan: who we are what we do
Untold Dylan is written by people who want to write for Untold Dylan. It is simply a forum for those interested in the work of the most famous, influential and recognised popular musician and poet of our era, to read about, listen to and express their thoughts on, his lyrics and music.
We welcome articles, contributions and ideas from all our readers. Sadly no one gets paid, but if you are published here, your work will be read by a fairly large number of people across the world, ranging from fans to academics. If you have an idea, or a finished piece send it as a Word file to Tony@schools.co.uk with a note saying that it is for publication on Untold Dylan.
We also have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with around 7000 active members. Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link
You’ll find some notes about our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page of this site. You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture. Not every index is complete but I do my best. Tony Attwood