Bob Dylan And Robert Herrick (Part III): Visions Of Juliana)

by Larry Fyffe

Only “Untold Dylan’ brings to its readers the possible link between the seventeenth century Baroque poet Robert Herrick (who combines Christian and  mythological imagery), and the song lyrics of Robert Zimmerman.

The mother of the Metaphysical-like poet is named Julian/Julie/Juliana; he’s infatuated with a gal by the same name in the lyrics below, and it is not always from an idealistic Platonic point of view. More Freudian perhaps, and certainly anti-Puritan.

With the rhymes: ~ ‘goes’/’flows’/’clothes’:

Whenas in silks my my Julia goes
Then, then methinks how sweetly flows
The liquefaction of her clothes
(Robert Herrick: Upon Julia's Clothes)

No, Johanna is not the name of Bob Dylan’s mother; it’s Beatrice, the same as Dante’s motherly guide to Paradise in “The Divine Comedy”.  But anyway …

With the rhymes:~ ‘showed’/’flowed’/’corrode’:

And Madonna, she still has not showed
We see this empty cage now corrode
Where her cape of the stage once had flowed
(Bob Dylan: Visions Of Johanna)

When it comes right down to it, the Cavalier poet of yore thinks Juliana’d be a nice piece of ass:

Then, Julia, let me woo thee
Thus, thus to come unto me
And when I shall meet thy silvery feet
My soul I'll pour into thee
(Robert Herrick: The Night Piece: To Julia)

The intended motive of the singer/songwriter’s narrator in the song beneath be not that spiritual for sure; in Greek/Roman mythology concerning the Underword, departed souls must cross the River Styx; beyond which lies angelic Elysium (Heaven), and snaky Tartarus (Hell).

A little irony is the narrow path:

Well, I’m preaching peace and harmony

The blessings of tranquillity
Yet I know the time to strike
I'll take you 'cross the river dear
You've no need to linger here
I know the kind of things you like
(Bob Dylan: Moonlight)

In a number of Herrick’s poems, exhibited is the flowery Rococo style, supposedly existing in Heaven:

Dew sat on Julia's hair
And spangled too
Like leaves that laden are
With trembling dew
Or glittered to my sight
As when beams
Have thy reflected light
Danced by the streams
(Robert Herrick: Upon Julia's Hair Filled With Dew

Rococo be the following song lyrics – in ancient methodology a coin was placed on the mouth of the corpse to pay the ferryman for taking it across the river:

The trailing moss, and mystic glow
Purple blossoms soft as snow
Step up, and drop the coin right in the slot
The fading light of sunset glowed
(Bob Dylan: Moonlight)

The Metaphysical-like poet fancies that his beloved (though she’s like an earlier version of Dr. Frankenstein, and doesn’t return love to her creation) will miss him when he’s sailing off to sea:

But yet for love's sake let thy lips
Give my dead picture one engendering kiss
Work that to life, and let me forever dwell
In thy rememberance, Julia. So farewell
(Robert Herrick: His Sailing From Julia)

Akin to the sentiment expressed in the verse beneath by what could-be the reincarnation of Robert Herrick himself:

Now, little boy lost, he takes himself so seriously
He brags of his misery, he likes to live dangerously
And when bringing her name up
He speaks of a farewell kiss to me
(Bob Dylan: Visions Of Johanna)

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