Bob Dylan And The Jungonauts

by Larry Fyffe

Singer/songwriter/musician Bob Dylan often messes around with motifs presented in ‘high’ and ‘low’ Literature and Musichology.

As with the rather joyous song lyrics below:

She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes
She'll be driving six white horses when she comes ....
Oh, we'll all have chicken and dumplings when she comes
(Traditional: She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain)

A similar theme expressed, though quite urgently, in the following song lyrics:

Seven days, seven days, she'll be coming
I'll be waiting at the station for her to arrive
Seven more days, all I gotta do is survive
(Bob Dylan: Seven Days)

Because artists are immersed to one degree or another in the Jungian Sea of culture in which they exist, connections to other texts, composed by poets, prophets, playwrights, songwriters, and novelists, can still be sought notwithstanding that their original work be not overtly alluded to; for example, there are no near or definite quotes to indicate a reference thereto. However, the above well-known traditional song contains the phrase “She’ll be coming”, and so does ‘Seven Days” which indicates there’s a link between the two.

Especially because of the music, in another Dylan song there is surely a link to the following rhythm and blues song about lost love:

'Cause if loving is believing
Tell me why don't you believe in me
I gave you everything that money could buy
I haven't been the best, Heaven knows how hard I tried
(William Emerson: If Loving Is Believing)

The song below messes with the original message presented in the above lyrics; instead, it’s about the trials and tribulations wrought by the fame that comes with being a celebrity:

Another day that don't end
Another ship going out
Another day of anger, bitterness, and doubt
I know how it happened, I saw it begin
I opened my heart to the world, and the world came in
(Bob Dylan: False Prophet)

In the following song lyrics, it can be conjectured, analogous to one story about Jesus, that the narrator in the song, escapes from the consequences of his being a celebrity; that is, at least  for a while he gets away from the critics who try to crucify him:

Just then a bolt of lightning
Struck the courthouse out of shape
And while everybody knelt to pray
The drifter did escape
(Bob Dylan: Drifter's Escape)

A legend has it that the Jesus Himself escapes execution when a Libyan is forced to take His place carrying the cross:

And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian
Who passed by, coming from out of the country
The father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear His cross
(St. Mark 15: 21)

So grow legends – the famous outlaw John Wesley Hardin gets shot and killed in real history, but the song lyrics below suggest otherwise:

But no charge against him could they prove
And there was no man around
Who could track ot chain him down
He was never known to make a foolish move
(Bob Dylan: John Wesley Harding)

The allusion in the following variation of the song lyrcs is not that difficult to ascertain:

It was either written by Charles Baudelaire
Or some Italian poem from the the thirteenth century
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burning coal
(Bob Dylan: Tangled Up In Blue)

As in:

We often said imperishable things
The evenings lighted by burning coal
(Charles Baudelaire: The Balcony ~ translated)

Nor is the allusion in the lyrics below hard to find:

So brave, so true, so gentle is he
I'll weep for him as he'd weep for me
Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn
In Scarlet Town where I was born
(Bob Dylan: Scarlet Town)

Which, of course, be:

Sleepest or wakest thou, jolly shepherd
Thy sheep be in the corn
And for one blast of thy minikin mouth
Thy sheep shall take no harm
(William Shakespeare: King Lear, Act III, sc. vi)

More seriously, it’s from the nursery rhyme, “Little Boy Blue”!

What else?

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One comment

  1. Yes, I think that’s the way it works. Similarly, the listener makes his or her connections.

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