Bob Dylan: Paradise Regained (Part II)

by Larry Fyffe

Paradise Part 1 is here.

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.

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