Bob Dylan And Thomas Hardy (Part XII)

Bob Dylan and Thomas Hardy

Both novelist Thomas Hardy and singer/songwriter/musician Bob Dylan go a-roving on the deep Jungian Sea.

Saint Jude is the patron saint of the hopeless and despaired.

“Jude The Obscure” by Thomas Hardy tells a tragic ‘gothic’ tale concerning a stone mason who wants to go to university but can’t afford it. Jude’s his name, and he weds the local flirt Arabella; she gives birth to Jude, Jr. after their unhappy marriage breaks up.

Jude meets Sue; they fall in love, but she’s against the institution of marriage. She opts for a sexless marriage with Richard, a schoolmaster who’s older than she is; they too break up.

Sue and Jude live together, unmarried, and after a while Sue decides to have sex – two children, and an expected third is the result.

Things go from bad to worse for the now shunned couple. Jude’s troubled son by Arabella kills his two half-siblings, and then hangs himself; Sue miscarriages. Believing that she’s being punished for her ‘sins’ by the Almighty Christian God, Sue becomes religious. Sue remarries her former husband Richard; Jude, plied by alcohol, remarries his former wife Arabella.

Alas, Jude dies after travelling to talk one more time with his beloved Sue – in a freezing storm.

Below, Thomas Hardy cites a ‘decadent’ poet who pens a lament regretting the displacement of pagan mythology by the Christian religion:

O ghastly glories of saints, dead limbs of gibbeted Gods
Though all men abase them before you in spirit, and all knees bend... 
For there is no God found stronger than death; and death is a sleep
(Charles Swinburne: Hymn To Proserpine)

In Greek/Roman mythology, Proserpine, wife of Pluto/Hades, represents the cycle of life and death; in a deck of playing cards, the Ace of Diamonds represents life; the Ace of Spades, death – the strongest card:

I got two cards looking
Lord, they seem to be handmade
One looks like the Ace of Diamonds
The other looks like it's the Ace of Spades
(Bob Dylan: Standing On The Highway)

In “Jude The Obscure”, Hardy quotes the following lines:

Ghastly grim, and ancient raven
Wandering from the nightly shore
Tell me what thy lordly name is
On the night's Plutonian shore
(Edgar Allan Poe: The Raven)

Sorrowfully sings the songwriter the lyrics beneath:

The wind howls like a hammer
The night blows cold and rainy
My love she's like some raven
At my window with a broken wing
(Bob Dylan: Love Minus Zero)

In the novel, Thomas Hardy quotes from a Christian hymn:

Teach me to live, that I may dread
The grave as little as my bed
Teach me to die, that so I may 
Rise glorious at the judgement day 
(All Praise To Thee My God This Night - Ken/Tallis)

In the song lyrics below, the singer/songwriter regrets that organized religion won’t even let a person die in peace:

The foreign sun, it squints upon
A bed that is never mine
As friends and other strangers
From their fates try to resign
Leaving them wholly, totally free
To do anything they wish to do but die
(Bob Dylan: Gates Of Eden)

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One comment

  1. Corrections:

    * looks like the Eight of Diamonds

    ** the Eight of Diamonds represents life

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