Bob Dylan And Thomas Hardy (Part IV)

by Larry Fyffe

‘The Hand Of Ethelberta’ by Thomas Hardy has a happy ending. From a poor background, young Ethelberta marries well, but her husband soon dies. She’s able to keep her low beginnings a secret by becoming known as a writer of poetry about sexual love and desire.

She has four suitors, including a struggling musician, but settles for an elderly womanizer who’s learned of her background; saving his estate from bankruptcy allows Ethelberta to look after her impovished family.

Without naming the author, Hardy pops befitting poetic quotes into the novel that focuses in on England’s class-based society.

From one of his favorite poets:

As long as skies are blue, and fields are green
Evening must usher night, night urge the morrow
Month follow month with woe, and year wake year to sorrow
(Percy Shelley: Adonais - 'The Hand Of Ethelberta': Hardy)

Likewise, the singer/songwriter/musician in the following song lyrics:

I'm looking up into the sapphire tinted skies 
I'm well dressed, waiting on the last train
(Bob Dylan: Things Have Changed)

From the same poet who’s quoted by Thomas Hardy:

Pointing with inconstant motion
From the altar of dark ocean
To sapphire-tinted skies
(Percy Shelley: Euganean Hills)

In the aforementioned “Far From The Madding Crowd”, Hardy distinguishes the lower from the high class characters by the songs that they choose to sing.

He gives the first two lines of the song below; a ‘draggle-tail’ being an untidy women, even a prostitute:

'Twas Moll and Bet and Doll and Kate
And Dororthy Draggle-Tail
And Tom and Dick, and Joe and Jack
And Humphrey with his flail
And Kitty she was the charming girl
To carry her milking pail
(Dame Durden~ traditional -'Far From The Madding Crowd': Hardy)

Tangled up are Kitty and Bathsheba in the following book report apparently written in regard to Hardy’s novel:

The cat's in the well, the wolf is looking down
He got a big bushy tail, dragging all the way to the ground
The cat's in the well, the  gentle lady is asleep ...
She can't hear a thing, the silence is a-sticking her deep
(Bob Dylan: Cat's In The Well)

ThomasHardy mentions a jig song “Jockey To The Fair” which goes like this:

My dad and mam are fast asleep
My brother's up, and with the sheep
(Jockey To The Fair ~ traditional)

Bob Dylan And Thomas Hardy draw buckets of  water from the same artistic well.

Another quote by Hardy in ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’:

Swollen with wind and the rank mist they draw
Which comes from poetry considered to be 'high art":
The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed
But swollen with wind , and the rank mist they draw

 (John Milton: Lycidas)

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.

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