Bob Dylan And Fearful Sympathy (Part V)

By Larry Fyffe

As the story goes so far ….

According to the analyses put forth by Post-Structuralist(Deconstruction) linguists, the words ‘Heaven’ and ‘Hell’ are defined relative to one another, and so to value one conceptualized place above the other as better is a strange cultural practice indeed.

So expressed in the song lyrics below.

Preacher was a-talking about a sermon he gave
He said every man's conscience is vile and depraved
You cannot depend on it to be your guide
When it is you who must keep it satisfied
It ain't easy to swallow, it sticks in the throat
She gave her heart to the man in the long black coat
(Bob Dylan: Man In The Long Black Coat)

The song’s narrator finds a way out of the conundrum for the anti-heroine. He follows Northrop Frye’s phases of language, fuzzy though these be. In the song lyrics above the metonymical/associative  style abounds – ‘heart’ is part of the woman, and ‘the long black coat’ part of the man, perhaps even of Dylan himself; they ‘float’ in between figurative Heaven and Hell; not enclosed be they in one or the other.

The Christian dogma of ‘original sin’ is busted in William Blake’s poem below; the poet associates it with graves and tombstones, with death rather than with life (Frederich Nietzsche does much the same thing in his writings):

So I turned to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore
And I saw it was filled with graves
And tombstones where flowers should be
And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds
And binding with briars my joys and desires
(William Blake: The Garden Of Love)

In the rather Gnostic-like verse below the words used are chosen carefully – not as some ‘Dylanologists’ might say because they simply happen to rhyme:

There are no mistakes in life some people say
It's true sometimes you can see it that way
But people don't live or die, people just float
She went with the man in the long black coat
(Bob Dylan: The Man In The Long Black Coat)

[An aside]

{At this point, the audience needs to be aware that Northrop Frye has been pulled up on the carpet by Mr. Jones who’s a spokesman for the ‘Big Guy’ upstairs …..The Executive orders Jones to inform Norrie that his script sucks. ‘How?”, you might ask. Well, it sucks because the two main characters get killed off – “God” by Nietzsche, and “Christ” by Blake; ratings are going down fast. So a singer/songwriter/musician has been brought in to all but  straighten things out. Bob Dylan’s

a-gonna rewrite the script …what’s a poor boy to do? ….no use kicking a dead horse …. he casts Clint Eastwood as a black-humoured Christ in “The Man InThe Long Black Coat”. It’s a big hit, and Dylan is awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. The befitting ominous music ain’t bad either.}

Dylan’s already honed his writing skills by employing the poetic metaphorical/comparative style of the Old Testament, and the New Testaments (the Holy Bible):

In the ironic song lyrics below, the groom has apparently been stood up:

West of the Jordan, east of the Rock of Gibraltar
See the turning of the page
Curtain rising on a new age
See the groom still waiting at the altar
(Bob Dylan: The Groom Is Still Waiting At The Altar)

Though  assuredly not in the biblical verse below:

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him
For the marriage of the Lamb is come
And His wife hath made herself ready

(Revelation 19:7)

Bob Dylan’s lyrics are far more clever than many analysts give credit for being; the Old and New Testaments are not depicted as congruous by a long shot – there are still three distinct Abrahamic religions.

12 years of Untold Dylan

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