Dylan and Hardy XIV: Two on a Tower


by Larry Fyffe

Take what you have gathered from coincidence.  Seems Bob Dylan is aware at least somewhat of the works of the “Late Victorian” writer Thomas Hardy – keep in mind that most of Hardy’s novels are first published in a weekly or monthly serialized format.

In “Two On A Tower” by Thomas Hardy, the following passage is befitting of the emotional Lady Constantine’s love/lust for astronomer Swithin rather than for her Lord’s showy  false love:

Weren't aught to me I bore the canopy
With my extern the outward honouring
Or I laid great bases for eternity
Which prove more short than waste or ruin
(William Shakespeare: Sonnet CXXV)

In the song lyrics below, William Shakespeare and Charles Darwin are fighting in the Captain’s Tower – William in his pointed shoes and bells from the days when “love” and “move” rhyme:

She' everything I need and love
But I can't be swayed by that
It frightens me, the awful truth
Of how sweet life can be
But she ain't a-gonna make a move
I guess it must be up to me

(Bob Dylan: Up To Me)

In Hardy’s story, Lady Constantine, who married into her title, is left alone by her husband who’s off hunting lions. She becomes sexually attracted to a handsome young man who aspires to become a professional astronomer; he observes the stars from a tower on the Lord’s estate.

The Lady buys Swithin a new telescope, and thinking her husband dead in Africa, puts the moves on the young astronomer who’s interested more in science than in sex. They secretly wed, and after a while the Lady becomes pregnant.

Swithin inherits some money on condition that he remain single until he becomes a professional; he abandons Lady Constantine. Her Lord husband, two-timing in Africa, commits suicide; to save face, the Lady marries the local Bishop. Alas, the Bishop soon passes away.

Swithin returns, and out of duty asks the the Lady for her hand in marriage; she, prematurely ‘aging’, drops dead on the spot.

Things end up okay, however –  Swithin has got another gal lined up, and she’s younger than he is.

In “Two On A Tower”, when the Bishop, the Lady, and Swithin are together, the author describes the scene as follows:

(F)rom the repose of his stable figure it was like an evangelized
King of Spades come to have it out with the Knave of Hearts.

Reminds of the song lyrics beneath:

It was known all around that Lily had Big Jim's ring
And nothing would ever come between Lily and the King
No nothing ever would except maybe the Jack of Hearts

(Bob Dylan: Lily, Rosemary, And The Jack Of Hearts).


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