Bob Dylan And His Mythology (Part III): Emily Dickinson And The Door 

Previously in this series:


by Larry Fyffe

The Puritan creed predestines individuals to be members of God’s Elect; Saint Peter holds the keys to the pearly gates of Heaven, and they are closed to everyone else:

But the two-handed engine at the door
Stands ready to smite once, and smite no more
(John Milton: Lycidas)

Richard Thomas notes that “In  ‘Bob Dylan: Aeneas Visits Key West’ …., Larry Fyffe suggests the song is figuratively transformed into the Underworld of Greek/Roman mythology … the regions to the left … punished the wicked for their misdeeds. But the road to the right led to the Elysian Field”

(An Open Access Journal).

In one story of the Greek/Roman mythology, pursued Philomela turns into a nightingale in order to escape  – as if to say that a talented artist is able to live on forever through her works of art.

Patty below (perhaps a reference to American punk poet Patti Smith) manages not to cry:

Patty's gone to Laredo
But she'll be back soon ....
The doorway, the door is locked
But the key's inside
(Bob Dylan: Patty's Gone To Laredo)

The key being in one’s own head  – the ability to keep on trucking whilst suffering through the trials, the tribulations, the despair, and the chaos of human existence. In other words, it’s up to each individual to stoically find the strength to carry on –  so expresses the following anaphoric poem by a female artist from a dark Puritan background; the poem concerns the trouble females face becoming accepted outside their assigned sex roles:

As if my life were shaven
And fitted to a frame
And could not breathe without a key
And 'twas like midnight some
(Emily Dickinson: It Was Not Death For I Stood Up)

The following song could be taken as addressed specifically to Emily Dickinson herself:

They shaved her head
She was torn between Jupiter and Apollo
A messenger arrived with a black nightingale
I seen her on the stairs, and I couldn't help but follow
(Bob Dylan: Changing Of The Guards)

In the poem below, there’s a vision of a female writer transformed into a nightingale who has flown to the other side of death’s door:

But differed in returning
Since Yorkshire hills are green
Yet not in all the nests I meet
Can Nightingale be seen
(Emily Dickinson: Nightingale)

Note the Dylanesque ‘rhyme twist’ in the song lyrics below ~ ‘before’/’door’:

Now I'll cry tonight
Like I cried the night before
And 'leased on the highway
But I dream about the door
(Bob Dylan: I'm Not There)

Coincidental with ~ ‘door’/’before’ in the following poem:

I laughed a crumbling laugh
That I could fear a door
Who consternation compassed
And never winced before
(Emily Dickinson:“I Years had been from Home”)

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
  • Bob Dylan and Stephen Crane
  • 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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