Bob Dylan: Looking Back At Rhyme

by Larry Fyffe

As illustrated previously, Bob Dylan travels back in time in order to stimulate his creative juices; drops hints of what poems and songs he sources by employing the same rhymes or twisting them a bit.

One version of a song:
The evening sun is sinking low
The woods are dark, the town is too
They'll drag you down, they run the show
Ain't no telling what they'll do
(Bob Dylan: Tell Old Bill)

The rhymes above ~ ‘low’/’show’; the rhymes below ~’know’/ ‘snow’

Whose these woods are I think I know
His house is in the village though
He'll not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow ....
He only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake
The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep

(Robert Frost: Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening)

Another example, and with ~ ‘too’/’do’ again:

Today and tomorrow and yesterday too
The flowers are dying like all things do
Follow me close, I'm going to Ballinalee
I'll lose my mind if you don't come with me
I'll fuss up my hair, and I'll fight bood feuds
I contain multitudes
(Bob Dylan: I Contain Multitudes)

Note the Dylanesque “rhyme twist” ~ ‘Ballinalee’/’me’ – from the above song;

~ ‘Bally-na-Lee’/’Raferty’/’me’ – from the following Irish ballad:

On my way to Mass to say a prayer
The wind was high, sowing rain
I met a maid with wind-wild hair
And madly fell in love again ....
A table was set with glasses, and drink was set
And then says the lassie, turning to me
"You are welcome, Raferty, so drink the wet
To love's demands in Bally-na-Lee"
(Anthony Raferty: The Lass From Bally-na-Lee ~ translation)

The following song lyrics also go back in time:

And you who philosophize disgrace
And criticize all fear
Take the rag away from your face
Now ain't the time for your tear ...

And he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished
And handed out strongly for penalty and repentance
William Zanzinger with a six month sentence
Ah, but you who philosophize disgrace
And criticize all fear
Bury the rag deep in your face
Now is the time for your tear

(Bob Dylan: The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll)

There’s the rhyme ~ ‘disgrace’/’face’in the above song; ‘disgrace’/’face’/’erase’/’place’ – from the dramatic monologue below:

Take the cloak from off his face, and at first
Let the corpse do its worst!
How he lies in his rights of man!
Death has done all death can ...
Ha, what avails death to erase
His offence, my disgrace? ....
I stand here now, he lies in his place
Cover the face!

(Robert Browning: After)

Looking back at another example:

With your silhouette when the night dims
Into your eyes were the moonlight swims
And your matchbook songs, and your gypsy hymns
Who among them would try to impress you?

(Bob Dylan: Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands)

Above ~ ‘dims’/’swims’/’hymns’; below ~ ‘dim’/’within’/’swim’ – from a Baroque poem:

You want clear spectacles: your eyes are dim
Turn inside out, and turn your eyes within
Your sins like motes in the sun do swim: nay, see
Your mites are molehills, molehills mountain be

(Edward Taylor: The Accusation Of The Inward Man)

Now a Dylan song that makes reference to a bluegrass tune:

While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked

(Bob Dylan: It's Alright Ma)

Thusly ~ ‘fates’/’waits’/’plates’/’gates’/’states’; and ~ ‘fate’/’wait’/’late’:

Why meet a terrible fate
Mercies abundantly wait
Turn back before it's too late
You're drifting too far from the shore
(Monroe Brothers: Drifting Too Far From The Shore ~ C. Moody)

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