Bob Dylan And Thomas Hardy (Part XV)

By Larry Fyffe

Thomas Hardy sprinkles his novels with quotes from songs and poems; Bob Dylan sprinkles his musical song lyrics with quotes from songs and poems.

Whether from his direct reading thereof, or it’s through the cultural milieu surrounding him (Carl Jung would say through the ‘collective unconscious’), the singer/songwriter reveals, in his song lyrics beneath, the influence of the “Late Victorian” writer Thomas Hardy:

Your daddy walks in wearing
A Napoleon Bonaparte mask
Then you ask me why I don't live here
Honey, do you have to ask
(Bob Dylan: On The Road Again)

Thomas Hardy’s writings often have a ‘social’ Darwinist twist to them. In the poem below, depicted be that the development of mankind’s socio-economic environment becomes more and more industrialized; there’s some hope –  symbolized by the singing of the thrush – that the urbanized environment will not destroy the human ‘soul’:

An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small
ln blast-beruffled plume
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom
(Thomas Hardy: The Darkling Thrush)

“Darkling” too be Tom’s blues below:

Sweet Melinda
The peasants call her the goddess of gloom
She speaks good English
And she invites you up into her room
(Bob Dylan: Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues)

Pessimism strikes deep into Hardy’s heart:

Yet is it that, though whiling
The time somehow
In walking, talking, smiling
I live not now
(Tom Hardy: The Dead Man Walking)

Very much like the dark sentiment expressed in the following song lyrics:

Ain't talking, just a-walking
Though this weary world of woe
Heart burning, still yearning
No one on earth will ever know
(Bob Dylan: Ain't Talking)

Poet WH Auden be very much under the influence of Thomas Hardy’s referencing ballads of yore, and of the Victorian’s social ‘Darwinist’ slant in his novels and poems. Hallmarks revealed in the works of both writers.

Taken it can be that wife-killer Victor, a religious bank clerk (in the poem below) is unable to adapt to the values of the bourgeois social environment; thinks Anna, his flirty wife, is cheating on him:

It wasn't the Jack of Diamonds
Nor the Joker she drew first
It wasn't the King or Queen of Hearts
But the Ace of Spades reversed
Victor stood in the doorway
He didn't utter a word
She said "What's the matter, darling?"
He behaved as if he hadn't heard
(WH Auden: Victor)

In the song lyrics beneath, it’s the two-timing, aristocratic-acting ‘nouveau riche’ Big Jim who doesn’t survive the repainting of the times:

She fluttered her false eyelashes, and whispered in his ear
"Sorry, darling, that I'm late", but he didn't seem to hear
He was staring into space over at the Jack of Hearts
(Bob Dylan: Lily, Rosemary, And The Jack Of Hearts)


In case you missed it: The Bob Dylan album artwork.  The art work that has appeared on around 35 Dylan albums – how it was created, where it came from.  A unique series.

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