Bob Dylan’s  Seventh Dream

by Larry Fyffe

Singer/musician Bob Dylan writes the following humourous, albeit rather dark, song lyrics:

What I want to know, Mr. Football Man, is
What do you do about Willie Mays and Yul Brynner
Charles De Gaulle and Robert Louis Stevenson?
(Bob Dylan: I Shall Be Free)

But he records:

What I want to know, Mr. Football Man, is
What do you do about Willie Mays
Martin Luther King, Olatunji?

(Bob Dylan: I Shall Be Free)

Why the lyrics are changed is not known. Perhaps the western movie that Brynner acts in a bit earlier ends on a slightly too pessimistic note. Yul Brynner stars in the film “The Magnificent Seven” in which seven hired gunslingers protect farmers from a bunch of marauding bandits; in the gun battle that follows, the bandits are either killed or flee; all but three of the Magnificent Seven die:

At the end of the movie, Brynner says, in a rather unRomantic tone:

“We lost….we’ll always lose”.

Not happily Romantic is the following poem; the French writer thereof seeks refuge in the irony-filled poem from the boring routine of life, from love lost, and from thoughts of death:

Ah, then it is no longer autumn
Or exile, but the sweetness
Of legends, once more the age of gold
Legends about Antigones

A sweetness that makes me wonder

"Now when did that take place?"

(Jules Laforgue: Legends ~ translated)

In the mythological legend ‘Seven Against Thebes”, Antigone faces death that is decreed by the new king; she takes it on herself to bury her brother who leads an army with six other chieftains against the Greek city in a failed attempt to gain the throne from his younger brother; both the male siblings die when they fight one another – the deceased king is given a decent burial; all but one of the invading chieftains are killed; they are left on the battlefield to rot.

Says Antigone (in ancient play based on the legend):

Behold me, what I suffer
Because I have upheld that which is high

On this dark side of the human condition dwell many of the narrators in Bob Dylan’s song lyrics:

I've stepped in the middle of seven sad forests ....
And it's a hard, and it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a- gonna fall
(Bob Dylan: A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall)

In the mythology of moon-goddess Diana and the sun-god Apollo, the cypress tree be a symbol of death and the underworld:

The priest wore black on the seventh day
And sat stone-faced while the building burned
I waited for you on the running boards
Near the cypress trees, while the spring turned
Slowly into autumn

(Bob Dylan: Idiot Wind)

The sorrowful sentiments of Jules Laforgue’s symbolic poetry again expressed in the song lyrics below:

Seven days, seven more days, she'll be coming
I'll be waiting at the station for her to arrive
Seven more days, all I gotta do is survive
She been gone ever since I been a child
Ever since I seen her smile, I ain't forgotten her eyes
She had a face that could outshine the sky

(Bob Dylan: Seven Days)

And to cap it all off, there’s this tragic song:

These be seven curses on a judge so cruel
That one doctor cannot save him
That two eyes cannot see him
And that three healers cannot heal him
That four ears cannot hear him
That five walls cannot hide him
That six diggers cannot bury him
That seven deaths shall never kill him

(Bob Dylan: Seven Curses)

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One comment

  1. *Legends about Antigones
    A sweetness that makes one wonder
    “Now when did that take place?”

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