Bob Dylan And Fearful Symmetry (Part VII)

By Larry Fyffe

Initially poet William Blake envisions America with its wide open frontier as a Promised Land that breaks away from Mother England and its Established Religion – a religion that dulls the energy of the human Imagination that bids Man go beyond where man has gone before:

A man's worst enemies are those
Of his own house and family
And he who makes his law a curse
By his own law shall surely die
(William Blake: Jerusalem)

As previously noted, the Calvinist Puritan settlers in America with their seemingly anti-Establishment fervour, but that’s filled with strict rules, cause an imaginative poet, a Puritan leader, to hide away his own decorative writings.

Rather Blakean are the questioning (though assuring) lines below … seemingly by mere coincidence:

Who blew the bellows of his furnace vast
Or held the mold wherein the world was cast ...
Who in this bowling alley bowled the sun
Who made it always when it rises set
(Edward Taylor:The Preface)

Sounding like (though somewhat skeptical as to the answer) the following lines:

What the hammer, what the chain
In what furnace was thy brain
What the anvil, what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp
(William Blake: The Tiger)

Akin to Blake and Taylor, singer/writer Bob Dylan envisions materialistic America as a modern Babylon that has strangled the potential energy of the human Imagination to create a better world on Earth. For the most part, he settles instead for the development of Art with the hope that it will shine some light on the right direction to take.

Not without humour:

"I think I'll call it America", I said as we hit land ....
When a bowling ball came down the road, and knocked me off my feet
A pay phone was ringing, and it just about blew my mind
When I picked it up, and said "hello", this foot came through the line
(Bob Dylan: One Hundred And Fifteenth Dream)

Perhaps the foregoing examples of lyrics be evidence as to what is meant by the following lines:

The Old and New Testaments are the Great Code of Art
Science is the Tree of Death
Art is the Tree of Life
God is Jesus
(William Blake: Laocoon)

Northrop Frye asserts that individuals and cultures  erect walls between themselves, and against the natural environment as well; considers them a threat; calls it the ‘garrison mentality’.

While other writers with a Romantic slant, who ponder Mother Nature, are more ambiguous about the matter:

Something there is that doesn't love a wall
That sends the frozen ground swell under it
And spills the upper boulders in the sun
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast
(Robert Frost: Mending Wall)

Quite like the sentiment expressed in the song lyrics below:

Now there's a wall between us, something has been lost
I took too much for granted, I got my signals crossed
Just to think that it all began on an uneventful morn
"Come in", she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm"
(Bob Dylan: Shelter From The Storm)

Untold Dylan

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