Bob Dylan And His Mythology (Part V)

Previously in this series:


by Larry Fyffe

In the song lyrics below, often construed as strictly religious, singer/songwriter Bob Dylan explains his mythology of American history for dummies:

She lit a burner on the stove
Wearing a dress made out of stars and stripes ...
Then she opened up the Bible
And she stated quoting it to me
Jeremiah, Chapter 13, from Verses 21 and 33
And every one of them words rang true

(Bob Dylan: Tangled Up In Blue ~ version)


That is, in the song above, the United States, from an allegorical point of view, is the biblical Babylon:

It shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon
And he shall burn it with fire
(Jeremiah 21: 10)

In Dylan’s mythology, there is hope that the scar of disunity left by America Civil War between the North and South, analogous to the historical rift between Northern Israel and Southern Judea, will eventually be healed, and its fortunes restored as the Promised Land once was when united under the rule of King Solomon:

And I will cause the captivity of Judah
And The captivity of Israel to return
And will build them, as at first
(Jeremiah 33: 7)

Quite consistent the singer, songwriter has always been in his presentation of this mythology – unity won’t come easy:

Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
(Bob Dylan: The Times They Are A-Changing)

Seems love for one’s fellow man is on a slow train, and it’s not certain when it will arrive:

They say lose your inhibitions
Follow your own ambitions
They talk about a life of brotherly love
Show me someone who knows how to live it
There's a slow, slow train coming up around the bend
(Bob Dylan: Slow Train)


The lyrics above influenced by the gospel song below, but where the train that’s carries the worthy is leaving for is the hoped-for happy place up around the bend:

It's a slow, slow train
But it's moving on
Now everybody's got the ticket
You, you and me
It's up to you to catch a ride
That's how it's gotta be
Everyone, oh yeah
Has to prove that he's a man
(Staple Singers: Slow Train)

The song directly above also influences the lyrics below –  admitted it be that the Whore of Babylon has her attractive points:

Storm clouds raging all around my door
I think to myself, I might not take it anymore
Take a woman like your kind
To find the man in me
(Bob Dylan: The Man In Me)

Friedrich Nietzsche criticizes Christianity for hawking these train tickets even unto a mysterious far-off Gnostic outpost:

Oh, they tell me of a home far beyond the skies
And they tell me of a home far away
Oh, they tell me of a home where no storm clouds rise
Oh, they tell me of an unclouded day
(Willie Nelson: Unclouded Day ~ J. Alwood)

What else?

You can read about the writers who kindly contribute to Untold Dylan in our About the Authors page.   And you can keep an eye on our current series by checking the listings on the home page

You’ll also find, at the top of this page, and index to some of our series established over the years.  Series we are currently running include

  • The art work of Bob Dylan’s albums
  • The Never Ending Tour year by year with recordings
  • Beautiful Obscurity – the unexpected covers
  • All Directions at Once

You’ll find links to all of them on the home page of this site

If you have an article or an idea for an article which could be published on Untold Dylan, please do write to with the details – or indeed the article itself.

We also have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with getting on for 10,000 members. Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link    And because we don’t do political debates on our Facebook group there is a separate group for debating Bob Dylan’s politics – Icicles Hanging Down

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