Bob Dylan And The Heart Of Darkness (Part III)

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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