Previously in this series…
by Larry Fyffe
Mentioned previously be the following lyrics of a rather sardonic poem:
About suffering they were never wrong The Old Masters: how well they understood It's human position; how it takes place .... In Brueghel's "Icarus", for instance: how everything turns away Quite leisurely from the disaster..... and the delicate expensive ship that must have seen Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky Had somewhere to get to, and sailed calmly on (WH Auden: Musee Des Beaux Arts)
That human nature places one’s own interest first and foremost is a theme expressed below in the lyrics of a popular satirical song:
He takes me deep-sea fishing in a submarine We go to drive-in movies in a limousine He's got a whirly-bird, and a twelve-foot yacht (Dodie Stevens: Pink Shoe Laces ~ Grant)
All the gal gets out of the relationship is what she takes after her boyfriend dies – the stuff that Dooley wanted to be buried in:
He give me tan shoes with pink shoe laces And a big Panama with a purple hat band And a big Panama with a purple hat band (Dodie Stevens: Pink Shoe Laces ~ Grant)
The consequences even worse in the following song – an East Indian island sinks beneath the waves:
I was sitting at home alone one night in L.A. Watching old Cronkite on the seven o'clock news It seems that there was a earthquake that Left nothing but a Panama hat And a pair of old Greek shoes Didn't seem like much was happening So I turned it off, and went to grab another beer (Bob Dylan: Black Diamond Bay ~ Dylan/Levy)
“As the last ship sails, and the moon fades away”, nothing’s happening except, amidst other goings-on, there be gambling, a Greek hanging himself, a woman in a Panama hat preparing to leave a hotel, a volcano exploding, and an island sinking.
There’s a picture on the Dylan album cover of Joseph Conrad, author of “Victory, An Island Tale”, in which it is stated that ‘the slight indentation for a time was known officially as Black Diamond Bay’ (Part Four, chapter 5). Unlike the novel with tragedy lurking everywhere, the movie based on Conrad’s book (that stars Jack Hart who wears a white Panama hat with a black band) has a happy ending, a victory, after the detached protagonist Heyst discovers that compassion has taken a hold of him; in both the book and the silent movie, the volcano does no more than threaten the island.
Not so in the song below:
The tiny man bit the soldier's ear As the floor caved in, and the boiler in the basement blew While she's out on the balcony, where a stranger tells her "My darling, je vous aime beaucoup" She sheds a tear, and says a prayer As the fire burns on, and the smoke drifts away From Black Diamond Bay (Bob Dylan: Black Diamond Bay ~ Dylan/Levy)
WH Auden be influenced by Karl Marx and TS Eliot in content and style – two writers, caught between heaven and hell, whose differing views on alienation are not at all easy to reconcile:
Key West is the place to be If you're looking for immortality Key West is paradise divine Key West is fine and fair If you lost your mind, you'll find it there Key West is on the horizon line (Bob Dylan: Key West)
Seems everybody is stuck between dreams and reality:
When Ruthie says come see her In her honky-tonk lagoon Where I can watch her waltz for free 'Neath the Panamanian moon And I say, "Aw, come on now You know you know about my debutante" And she says,"Your debutante just knows want you need But I know what you want" (Bob Dylan: Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again)
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