Changing of the Guards: The meanings behind Bob Dylan’s song

By Tony Attwood

The original review was written in 2008, and then updated in 2013.  Coming back to it in 2018, I found myself very unhappy with what I had written, and thus decided to start again.

Changing of the Guards: first track on Street Legal, failed to make it as a single (presumably because Dylan fans buy albums), and yet turns up on Greatest Hits 3 and The Essential.   Someone who selects these things (Dylan himself?) either thought it was a great song or else thought, “hey, here’s one we haven’t done much to push.”

This song (and several others from 1977) seemed then and seem now to suggest a time when Dylan apparently wanted to write another epic song but didn’t quite see which epic issues he was writing about.   On the other hand he was clearly interested in the possibilities that arise from combining different and varied rhyming systems with images of great events that are never quite in focus.

In my original review I suggested that Bob did a cut and paste job with a load of lyrics that had something to do with the medieval period, and said to the audience, “make something of that.”   I think I was having a very bad day because in retrospect that is far too harsh, not least because there are some very interesting sets of images within the song, but hearing it again now does suggest that we are looking at a changing landscape with characters and events that not only never become clear but are in the future never going to become clear.   Rather like the remnants of a dream recalled in the morning.   We know there is something there, and recall some of the detail but can’t quite work out what it is all about.

Which perhaps is how we get to something so very unfitting by the third line: “Where the good shepherd grieves”.  OK he was about to go all Christian, but this doesn’t seem to be Christian, except in that it was a celebration of everything that was wrong about Christianity and the power of the priest at this time.

Unless (and this is just a guess from me) it is all about a reading of the tarot cards.  The clue to that comes at the very end, (“Between the King and the Queen of Swords”).

Heylin quotes Jacques Levy as noting Dylan’s fascination with all the possibilities of rhyme at this time, and that quite possibly is the heart of the matter – the song is about rhymes and how they can be manipulated in a five line poem.  The music is the same for each verse, but what happens in the lyrics changes, changes and changes again just like that half remembered dream.

In such a scenario, at the end the lyrics don’t really matter, what matters is the feel, and “feel” is what we get layered on with the sax and the chorus repeating certain words as we go along, for reasons that will never become clear.  Words picked out, just because they are there…

When I did my second attempt at making sense of this song in a review, in 2013, I noted that one couplet did catch my ear….

But Eden is burning, either brace yourself for elimination
Or else your hearts must have the courage for the changing of the guards

For me “Eden is Burning” is full of such potential that I suggested in that review I wanted to think it through, use it in one of my own songs (not to suggest that I am even on the same compositional planet as Dylan, but it just catches me that way) and then think, oh, what a dull way to use it.

But Heylin has a quote from Dylan apparently made just before he recorded the song, which I failed to comment upon in the original review, but which now a few years later seems rather interesting and helpful, in which Bob said, “I don’t know where these songs come from.  Sometimes I’m thinking to some other age that I live through.  I must have had the experience of all these songs because sometimes I don’t know what I’m writing about until years later it becomes clearer to me.”

It rather fits in with the dream notion – Dylan has had these images from somewhere, and they don’t quite fit together but mix in that notion that at the time he was playing around with rhyming schemes, and we get this piece: a mix of images and rhymes that suggest a set of events might be being played out on a TV screen, but sometimes they fade and quite often we seem to have slipped into another channel.

Heylin’s conclusion, “What had begun as a conversation between two lovers the morning after their tryst at the dawn of battle has changed into a prophetic pronouncement of the End Times,” may or may not be right in its detail, but as the broad representation of what is going on in this song I think it gets to the heart of the matter.  There is a magic out there, expressed in a game of rhymes which we glimpse and are even part of sometimes but can never quite fully step into.

Here is the version you will remember.

and below a live version which suggests to me that Bob himself was still struggling fully to come to terms with the ever swirling mist of images and rhymes he had created.

In terms of the music there is (or was) a review on Wikipedia which suggests that the song ends on the dominant chord (that is the chord based on the fifth note of the scale the song is in.)  This is completely wrong – it is performed in A flat, and ends on the chord of A flat.  There is nothing odd about the chords used – A flat, F minor, D flat and E flat – exactly as you might expect.

In a very real sense the backing singers and the sax are there to help make sure that the relative normality of the music doesn’t take too much away from the lyrics.  But if you need the lyrics to mean something maybe take the medieval period (the poverty, persecution, disease, and belief that both the dead and living share the earth as everyone waits for Revelation to come to pass), and mix it all up amidst the shadows, and peer at it through half closed eyes, and then maybe you get the picture.  Or maybe not, but it’s still enjoyable.  Not a great Dylan moment, but still nice to hear it once in a while.

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  1. I have enjoyed reading some of your comments on Dylan’s songs. He is a master. They don’t come along very often. So we mortals may be presumptuous to do much more than listen and enjoy. However, I think you may have missed it on this song. I always assumed this song was about the breakup of his marriage to Sara.

  2. For me, the line prior is much more important. “Gentlemen he said, I do not need your orginization. I have shined your shoes, moved your mountains and marked your cards. But Eden is burning!…” That to me, profoundly whispers notions that this is about a rebellion. An uprising of the middle class against corporate greed and determination to conquer the natural world.

  3. I highly doubt this perplexing song is about Sara. It’s roughly four years after he wrote an entire album about her with ‘Blood on the Tracks’ …and then he put a bow on her when he wrote ‘Sara’ on the ‘Desire’ album. That’s enough , isn’t it ? How long do you want the poor guy to carrying around a torch for her ? The song obviously means what it means. What that is, I have no clue. He was undoubtedly reaching for the stars with this one…like he had done so many times in the past with songs like, Mr. Tambourine Man, Blowin’ in the Wind, and Idiot Wind. He may have fell a bit short with this one. Maybe. But can you fault a guy for trying to pull the sun back into the sky one last time ?

  4. Bob Dylan is Amazing and a Genius. I just love him and can’t stop singing or playing his stuff. Of course being almost 63 years I remember him from the 60’s.
    Changing of the Guards resounds in my head and drives me crazy and I don’t know why but I just love the Lyrics. Came on google thinking i would get some answers as to the meaning of this song but as we can all see our brains are being exercised. Also the Tune is amazing. I am taking up the Guitar……Thank you Mr Dylan…..may you always be blessed. xxx

  5. Like you guys I am perplexed by the meaning of the song. I love both the lyrics and the music as I do so many other Dylan songs. I guess I will be left to ponder its meaning but in the meantime just to enjoy listening to what I believe is a really fantastic song. I also like Patti Smith’s cover on her album “Twelve”. well worth a listen. Thanks for your comments everyone. They are interesting and thought provoking.

  6. I think the meaning of CotG became clear in retrospect when Dylan put out Slow Train Coming. In Street Legal he had already found God, but was not quite sure how to manifest the big change in his life. Thus CotG and New Pony.

    We should remember that the god Dylan found was not a friendly old fella smiling on us from the clouds. He was a furious, apocalyptic god, ready to rain fire on the creation that was not to his liking. Eden is burning and we all must be ready for Armageddon. There is a glimpse of hope, however, if we are brave enough to abandon our false idols and cherish – nay, fear – this god Dylan offers. In so many words, we must be ready to perform the changing of the guards. Old ones out, new ones in.

    With this in mind, I believe that if there is a reference to real persons and events in the song, the “she” in the song must be Mary Alice Artes, who introduced this pentecostal god to Dylan.

    Btw, it seems obvious that the body of the lyrics was originally written for a different kind of composition. The lyrics are full of perfect rhymes, most of which fall in wrong places within this melody. It doesn’t diminish the song in any way, it’s just that this melody has no real use for rhymes.

    We could do an exercise here. Let’s take the second verse and do some cutting:

    Fortune calls from the shadows
    Merchants and thieves, hungry for power
    She’s smelling sweet like the meadows
    On midsummer’s eve, near the tower

    And, say, the seventh:

    She wakes him up, the sun is breaking:
    Mountain laurels and rolling rocks
    What measures he now will be taking?
    She’s clutching onto his golden locks

    Now the rhymes make sense. It’s like he thought he would like to use these lyrics for the melody he had come up with, but they didn’t fit as such, so he filled them up with additional phrases. Now the lines are full but the meaning of the song much more obscure. Oh well, like THAT ever bothered Dylan…

    Of course, this is all my fantasy combined with some mechanical interpretation. It is not ingenious or important. The finished song, in its present form, is.

  7. It’s a kind of retelling of the Joan Of Arc story. The references throughout are clear and narrative in nature. Like all other Dylan songs their are many more dimensions. If anyone is interested I can walk you through the references when I’m at a computer and not my phone.

  8. I think we have to see glimpses of early Dylan’s “When The Ship Comes In” in parts of “Changing of the Guard”. The song contains several references to a Black woman (“a Black nightingale”) and an “ebony face”, and “she” (perhaps this Black woman) wants to know “what measures he (Dylan?) now will be taking (on her behalf?)”. She (and we) proceed to see: “Gentlemen, he said, I don’t need your organization, I’ve shined your shoes, I’ve moved your mountains and marked your cards, but Eden is burning, either get ready for elimination, or else your hearts must bear (I do not hear “have” in this space) the courage of the changing of the guards.” In the context, Dylan is indeed the righteous avenger, but no more so than he was in “When The Ship Comes In”, and the foe is not unbelievers, but the “gentlemen” (perhaps the “businessmen who drink my wine” of the Watchtower) whose “organization” (corporate America?) he was once a flunky for. Fully awakened, he now warns them that their “Eden is burning”…their days of ease are at an end, as “yonder stands their orphan with his gun.” At least that’s how I’ve always taken this song. And the feeling is vaguely reinforced by the reference to “socialism” in “No Time To Think”, which occurs immediately afterwards.

  9. You can guess how difficult it is for me, a non native english guy, to understand a bit of this song.
    However it sounds great. The melody is catching and the lyrics are intriguing.
    Your comments have helped me but not that much..

  10. After hearing that BD finally very rightfully received the Nobel Price I spent the following couple of days playing my favorite songs of his. Changing of the Guards is one of them, but – like most of you – I find it intriguing and elusive at the same time. Somewhere I read before that it was inspired by Joan of Arc (maybe in Patty Smith’s liner notes of her great album “12”), and that makes sense for some parts. However, the following changes of perspective remains a mystery. Sometimes the first person seems to be an observer of the events around the events, then again it could be the singer, and then there is the captain, which could also be a biblical allusion. John definitely makes some good observations here; there are definitely images that we can find throughout Dylan’s work. If you could provide some more precise references, Mick, I’d be glad to read them. On the other hand, the ambiguity of perspective and imagery is exactly what makes the song so great. Every time we listen to it we get carried away with different associations, and maybe we should just leave it at that.

  11. Yes, like the best Dylan songs (and much poetry) it can yield up multiple interpretations.
    Jez Lowe (English singer with Irish roots) heard it as being about the Irish 1916 Easter Uprising, and interprets it that way in his excellent version (the best track on the record) on the compilation of Dylan covers Younger Than That Now…
    I can see something else, in the figure of the Black Nightingale and her collusion with the avenging Captain. Dylan is on record as saying what an impact seeing a production of Brecht & Weill’s Threepenny Opera had on him, and in particular their song Pirate Jenny. The impact is there in When The Ship Comes In, (as John Shaw implies) and more explicitly in Black Diamond Bay. Those great and much-discussed lines:

    “Gentlemen, he said
    I don’t need your organization, I’ve shined your shoes
    I’ve moved your mountains and marked your cards
    But Eden is burning, either getting ready for elimination
    Or else your hearts must have the courage for the changing of the guards”

    can apply equally to various kinds of Apocalypse – Biblical, Environmental or, as eluded to in Brech’t lyrics, the overthrow of Capitalism.

  12. After completing a re reading of Stephen Hawkings biography I’m determined to get a grasp on ‘ general relativity’ Wish me luck I have more chance with that than I would in unravelling this Dylan Masterclass in lyrical obscurity
    Did he have a genuine theme or is this a cobbled-together effort at creating another Dylan modern-day Classic?
    I have no idea I’m clueless to its meaning but I’m quite sure the man himself will never grace us with a plainspeak explanation
    The song still grabs my attention enough to never let the remote out of my sight lest I lose control of the ‘ repeat ‘key or someone takes charge of the CD player
    Who cares what it means, it’s a brilliant effort at a classic, a quasi ” positively 4th street ” attempt at conjuring the spirit of the 60s and for that effort alone I salute the great man
    Long may you live Dylan, like yr poetic forborn namesake, maybe a genius, maybe not but I suspect your legacy will still be relevant in centuries to come and it should be thus!

  13. I can’t leave comment on this song alone
    It’s as though he’s throw everything against the wall and picked up the pieces, some kind of fractured canvas, much the same as Bowie did when his creative instincts hit a roadblock
    Bowie threw out clever but independently meaningless lyrics then cut and pasted them
    I thing Dylan had several genuine ideas, themes happening concurrently but couldn’t coalesce them into a strong central theme
    He references capitalism, the bible, a lost love and who knows what else?
    This was a confused period in his life and anyone- no matter his/her talent or perceived brilliance looking for redemption in religion-is Destined to a state of confusion While considering my opinion please bear in mind I’m usually wrong.
    Ergo, Dylan probably knew precisely what he meant! It’s just a small shame that none of us will ever have the vaguest idea of it!

  14. Thank you all for your thoughts on this great song. I think that lyrics like these are impossible to “understand” logically, it´s about communicating on a completely different level, where images invoke associations and emotions (think of the surreal lyrics of Desolation Row). It´s like walking through a gallery with all sorts of paintings.

  15. I initially thought this song had something to do about Joan of Arc.
    But – what makes this song special is that it can have several meanings depending on who is listening and the circumstances the listener is under.

  16. To understand Dylan, among other things, it helps to know biblical stories, traditional folk songs, and the poetry of the Romantics: “The captain is down but still believing that his love will be repaid” alludes both to the traditional ‘Maid of Fife’ and John Keats’ ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci”. But most of all it alludes to the Book of Samuel I.

    The ghosts of Eli’s city howl in the lyrics of Dylan’s
    tunes. The wickedness of the sons of the old high priest Eli leads to the loss of the Ark of God with its Seat of Mercy, but with the changing of the
    guards, Hannah’s son Samuel, with God’s intervention, defeats the Philistines who had returned the Ark along with gold. See: The Wicked Messenger.

    The theme even howls in “Romona:

    “Everything passses/
    Everything changes/
    Just do what you think you should do/
    And someday maybe/
    Who knows baby/
    I’ll come cryin’ to you”.

    Often missed is the fact that Dylan is amazingly
    consistent in his lyrical outllook.

  17. The “Ark of God” is stationed in Shiloh where young Samuel is under the stewartship of Eli; Eli’s wayward sons look after it but it was removed and lost in battle with the Philistines. Dylan, of course, has a Jewish upbringing,

  18. The Second Coming (New Testament) and awaiting of the Messiah (Old Testament) are difficult to reconcile; less so when taken in the context of pure literature with all of its symbols and metaphors.

  19. Love this song. For me, every time he uses I or me in the lyrics, then it’s an autobiographical reference, while the other lines are a history of the world, especially the civil rights movement. I think the veiled woman was Joan Baez. The shoe shiner was an ordinary black man. The last deal gone down was an acknowledgement that he had been commercially aware, at least at times. Great song and a great enigma.

  20. I discovered this song through my love of the work of Frank Black (aka Black Francis of Pixies fame) . When I finally heard the Dylan version, I too though the arrangement detracted from the power of the lyrics and chords. I believe that Frank’s version, with his excellent backing band The Catholics, nails the emotion and power of this great song. Give it a listen sometime, it’s real rock and roll. Interestingly, unlike his Pixies work, all Frank Black and The Catholics recordings are live to 2-track, no overdubs.

  21. Interesting posts. When the album first came out, the pundits claimed it was mainly about Dylan’s (then) 16 years in the music industry and his difficult relationship with Grossman – his manager: ‘I have signed your shoes… Moved mountains…..etc

  22. It’s strange that after so many years following Dylan (starting about 1975 when I was 16 and I discovered the Greatest Hits vol. I) that from time to time I still find something new with his songs. Perhaps it is the advantage of not being an English lenguage speaker and having to dedicate some time to the lyrics to know what he says. It happened to me with Positively 4th street some months ago (I had heard the song many times but I had not paid attention to all the words until I wished “that for just one time” someone “could stand inside my shoes”) and it’s happening to me now with Changing of the Guards.
    Perhaps the reason now is that now I’m trying to change the guards again. And this is the meaning of the song for me. I guess that Dylan words are much closer to his emotions than to any other thing. And after “16 years” in the highway walking some parts of the road with Suze, Joan, Sara,…, being hurt and parted from Sara and at the same time Elvis died, but something new and a new hope with “ebony face” was coming (“Whose ebony face is beyond communication. The captain is down but still believing that his love will be repaid”. I don’t know who she was (Mary Alice?, Helena?, …). But he was lucky at that time because something new really came (ebony women, Christianity, …). Well, just one more interpretation. But the important thing is that this lyrics are meaning something for me just now. I would like not to be disappointed in my turn and that my time for the “changing of the guards” could really come. (And excuse me for my English, just in case there are many mistakes!)

  23. Ive loved dylan songs most of my life.I have anilise his songs, and read what i like in them , I feel this is what they are for.A few years after street legal came out. I had a big struggle with drug and alchol abuse, I read it like how changing of the guards helped me was the lyrics for eden is burning, meaning.My past life up to then had been.Very good Enjoying,Drinking Drugs and women.But over time my life had steadily become worse And i needed to really take myself in hand and lead a more resposible better life,As i knew my old way of life was going to kill me.then the lyric get ready for elimination of your hearts must have the courage for the changing of the guards.Helped me make those changes A very classic Dylan song most of his songs if you listen to the lyrics they are about change. most people are a bit afraid of change i think that his main message

  24. I’ve always felt this song is about Dylan’s first contacts with the religious people he was shortly to join. It is full of initiation imagery.

  25. The Changing of the Guard is one of my favourites. This piece is not so nonsensical as Sad Lady of the Lowlands though they are two of my favourites. The tunes are both addictive. I enjoy the latter piece for its imagery which targets the evil and corruption in the world. The call/response lyrics and female backing creates a both pleasing and unusual effect. The music and instrumentation have their own appeal and is undeniably Dylan. I believe this one of Dylan’s favourites which reflects differently in accord with his moods and experiences.

  26. Sometimes you have to stop wondering what a song is about and just enjoy. I don’t actually think Dylan knows what a lot of his songs are “about”. He just writes them. So I’ll just enjoy “she’s smelling sweet like the meadows where she was born on midsummer’s eve”. Like hundreds of his other couplets, it’s just beautifully evocative. So I think you are being a little harsh on this one Tony.

    What is great about Dylan though is how you come back to old songs and discover anew. I’ve always loved this one but it was not until my sixteenth wedding anniversary yesterday when a played the song to my wife due to its opening line. Cue a morning actually looking at the lyrics properly, enjoying them and hearing patti smith’s great version for the first time.

  27. I agree with Richard F.

    Dylan’s lyrics have always been over analysed. To me the Changing of the Guard is pure poetry, creating a cornucopia of tumbling images in my head as I listen … the meadow where she was born on midsummer’s eve near the tower, the black nightingale who he’s seen on the stairs, Jupiter and Apollo, the King and Queen of Swords … such wonderful poetic images.

    I’ve been a Dylan fan since my school days, discovering him at the time of Another Side of Bob Dylan and I remember an early interview when asked where his Inspiration for his songs came from, and he replied along the lines that they were already there and ” I just wrote them down”. Also I remember Joan Baez recounting how Dylan wrote ‘When the ship comes in’ in anger after being refused a room at an hotel. To me Changing of the Guard is a song that was already there, which Dylan the poet was able to grasp from the ether and write down, like Shakespeare or Keats before him.

  28. Changing of the Guards is top of all my life time favorite artist’s vast library of songs.

    Thankyou for your comment

  29. The hints were certainly right there, all over Street Legal, like fingerprints on a Bible. Never saw it coming, never felt the change.

  30. Apollo is usually considered the son of the Greek God of Thunder -Zeus- while Jupiter is associated with the Roman Empire.

    Trust that clears up the meaning of the song for one and all.

  31. this song is about initiation into an occult based ancient secret society that gathers the best and brightest for their project of control…the initiation was spurned…Dylan understands who is in charge…and the guard is changing…”the magician is quicker and his game is much thicker than blood and blacker than ink”…”madmen oppose them”…i.e. “there is no sense in trying”

    he declined the initiation and became a Christian. It was one or the other.

  32. Dylan wrote this prior to the New Millenium, but in my opinion, it is relevant to the present times. Consider his talent and ability to tap into a cosmic conduit of “word pictures”. Many writers and poets refer to this as “the zone”. Getting there is difficult to explain, but once there the thoughts and ideas flow freely. As an amateur writer myself, I’ve had experience writing from “the zone”. After a couple of weeks when I read and analyze what I’ve written I do not completely recognize much of the material as my own. Sometimes, ideas come from elsewhere and there is a disconnect with the writer. I don’t claim to have a monopoly on this ability. Dylan is light-years ahead of the contemporaries. What we don’t understand about certain phrases today, could become interpreted with more clarity in the future.

  33. Dylan likes to say that it’s all just poetry, and a lot of it is… and I’m sure there are a lot of purely personal references in many of the songs on Street-Legal (“Where are You Tonight” especially). But for me, this song, though murky and inscrutable, is almost certainly Christian. The final verse is God threatening apocalypse. The evocative verse about the “palace of mirrors” is about Heaven. It’s not as didactic as some songs on Slow Train Coming, but of a piece with them.

  34. The song is about slavery , the slave who shined the shoes and moved the mountain yet still got lashed and the marks are still on his back.
    Then the men in charge have the cheeks to change the guards on them everyday!

  35. Changing of the guards is surely about Christianity becoming the dominant religion through Jesus and branching off from Judaism. Jesus doesn’t need the old organisation and is going to start a new religion which will shape the world forever.

    For the other parts I see a lot of Roman references with the Dog Soldiers / Palace of Mirrors / Apollo etc. But can’t work out more than that so maybe Dylan was reading a bit of Pliny and was inspired!

  36. When I listen to the song. I hear a story not just specific words and lyrics.

    I picture a scene during the America civil war and fighting for the abolishment of slavery. A soldier rides into town and finds a black lady who he tries to run away with but gets caught in the process.

    He then quits the army and talks about the abolishment of slavery and how the ultimate outcome will be peace if everyone accepts that changes are coming.

    There are so many war references in the song and also Can it be coincidence that he refers to “who’s ebony face ” and “broken chains”

    That’s my theory any way…

    I tried to not so much look at the words and poetry of it but look at it as a story and this is what came to me and the more I listen to it now the more it makes sense.

  37. I believe this song is about the civil rights movement, at its peak in 1961–the year Dylan recorded civil rights songs. This was 16 years before the song was written, and the song does describe the stinted progress . .. (“beloved maid beyond communication” . . .”I’ve shined your shoes . .. ” and don’t need your organization” that will only betray the movement. I don’t believe it’s possible to analyze the song without race, and I appreciate Gregg Howard’s attention to slavery, which is indeed pertinent.
    Also, if this is written from the perspective of Jesus (leave it to Dylan . . .) the fragments describe the destruction of the temple, the healing miracles, and that the person was woken up “48 hours later” . . .the she being Magdalene.

  38. He wrote this song 16 years after he met Suze. I think this song is about their break-up en how it could end.

  39. Patti Smith does a lovely version of this most enigmatic song — arguably better than Dylan’s own.

  40. I couldn’t disagree more with your conclusion that this is not a great Dylan moment.

    ‘Nice’? Seriously? Wow.

    Listen with your heart and soul and forget about trying to analyse what each specific part of the lyric means.

    This has been my pick from Street Legal along with Where are you Tonight? (Journey through Dark Heat) ever since it was released, and it’s one of his most covered songs from that period, for good reason.

    This is classic Dylan; poetic imagery evoking conflict, oppression, pain and redemption within a mythical landscape that nevertheless challenges us to be stronger and truer, to make the changes we need to make. The key line is where he refers to the broken chimes, echoing an earlier classic, Chimes of Freedom, in which he surveys oppression in all its forms and summons up the spirit of humanity to overthrow it.

    The mistake is in thinking that these songs are ‘about’ something. In Chimes of Freedom, Hard Rain, All Along the Watchtower, and many more, Including this one, Dylan’s voice is not of a chronicler of events, or even, as some suggest, a prophet. His art speaks for itself. His songs are what free us. The poetry is not about anything. It is something. Just listen, read, listen, read, and listen again. Don’t think. Sooner or later you will be moved to tears with the sheer beauty of it, and you will be free.

  41. That is a lovely version, although I miss the call and response backing vocals. She said she was moved to tears by the song when she first heard it. I’m with her on that.

  42. ‘lifted her veil’ appears in a poem by Arthur Rimbaud, one of Dylan’s favorite poets.

    I have kissed the summer dawn. Before the palaces, nothing moved. The water lay dead. Battalions of shadows still kept the forest road.

    I walked, walking warm and vital breath, While stones watched, and wings rose soundlessly.

    My first adventure, in a path already gleaming With a clear pale light, Was a flower who told me its name.

    I laughted at the blond Wasserfall That threw its hair across the pines: On the silvered summit, I came upon the goddess.

    Then one by one, I lifted her veils. In the long walk, waving my arms.

    Across the meadow, where I betrayed her to the cock. In the heart of town she fled among the steeples and domes, And I hunted her, scrambling like a beggar on marble wharves.

    Above the road, near a thicket of laurel, I caught her in her gathered veils, And smelled the scent of her immense body. Dawn and the child fell together at the bottom of the wood.

    When I awoke, it was noon.

  43. I love this song, and have always thought of it as “The Times They Are a-Changin’ ” revisited.

    But Eden is burning, either brace yourself for elimination
    Or else your hearts must have the courage for the changing of the guards

    Your old road is rapidly agin’

    Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand

    For the times they are a-changin’

  44. I’ve always loved this song, and Street Legal is one of my favorite Dylan albums. I’m not sure what the lyrics mean but I love their rhythm and musical qualities.
    I’ve listened to this album more often than Blonde On Blonde or Highway 61, and that’s alot of listening.

  45. Thanks for this post and the wealth of material here! I love “Changing of the Guards”, there is something magical about it. To me, it describes the path of a fallen soul towards re-establishing her true potential. All the places and characters may be aspects within one seeker. In the beginning, everything is in disorder (desparate men, desparate women). In the end, harmony has been found: king AND queen, like the unity of head and heart. At one stage, the seeker needs to make a conscious decision to unite with the soul and help her: “she wakes him up”, “He’s pulling her down and she’s clutching on to his long golden locks”.

  46. Theirs is a hollow victory. They are deceived
    But you my brother and my ghost, if you can go
    Knowing that there is no reward, no certain use
    In all your sacrifice, then honour is reprieved
    (Herbert Read: To A Conscript)

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