Bob Dylan And Bayard Taylor

by Larry Fyffe

Poet and writer Bayard Taylor, if the overuse of the rhyme  ‘fire’/’desire’ be any indication, is at least aware of the poetry of pre-Romantic William Blake:

An example thereof:

Then to the savage race, who knew no world
Beyond the hunter's lodge, the council-fire
The clouds of grosser sense were sometimes furled
And spirits came to answer their desire
(Bayard Taylor: The Romance Of Maize)

An example of the same rhyme in the song lyrics below with regards to love between the sexes:

Baby, you can start a fire
I must be losing my mind
You're the object of my desire
(Bob Dylan: I Feel A Change Coming On)


Many of Bob Dylan’s songs show an avid interest in American history, literary and otherwise. The poet who pens the following lines comes out of the tradition born in the era of the American Romantic Transcendentalist writers that continues on by Walt Whitman.

Contends Bayard Taylor does with the discoveries by the science of evolutionary geology and biology during his day. ‘Social’ Darwinism arises to give support to the political agenda of jingoistic expansionism (perhaps a premonition of the invention of television, and with that technology comes the ‘Star Trek’ series):

Look up, look forth, and on
There's light in the dawning sky ....
To join and smite and cry
In the great task, for thee to die
And the greater task, for thee to live
(Bayard Taylor: The National Ode)

With end-rhyme ~ ‘cry’/’die’

Fom a Jungian perspective, Bayard Taylor’s influence is observed in the following song lyrics about art:

Tell old Bill when he comes home
Anything is worth a try
Tell him that I'm not alone
That the hour has come to do or die
(Bob Dylan: Tell Old Bill)

With end-rhyme  ~ ‘try’/’die’

Taylor’s poetry is  influenced by a well-known British Victorian:

Theirs not to make reply
Theirs not to reason why
Theirs but to do or die
(Alfred Tennyson: The Charge Of The Light Brigade)

With end-rhyme ~ ‘why’/’die’

The singer/songwriter often offers a darker view of American history, but the optimistic poetry of Bayard hangs in the background thereof:

Moan, ye wild winds around the pane
And fall, thou drear December rain
Fill with your gusts the sullen day
Tear the last clinging leaves away
Reckless as yonder naked tree
No blast of yours can trouble me
(Bayard Taylor: Moan Ye Wild Winds)

As in the following song lyrics:

The lights of my native land are glowing
I wonder if they'll know me next time 'round
I wonder if that old oak tree's still standing
The old oak tree, the one we used to climb
(Bob Dylan: Duquesne Whistle ~ Dylan/Hunter)


The symbol of a hardy oak spreading afar appears in the poetic lines beneath:

Till the bounty of coming hours
Shall plant, in thy fields apart
With the oak of Toil, and the rose of Art
Be watchful, and keep it so
(Bayard Taylor: The National Ode)

There’s an index to some of our more recent articles on the home page of the site, and more indexes below the picture of Bob, above.  If you are searching for a particular item the search box top right can also be helpful.  If you would like to contribute to this site please email


  1. I have to confess to being very puzzled by this recent series attempting to link Dylan to other writers. Is it an elaborate joke? Firstly it often seems to have been written in a foreign language and then google translated (eg ‘Contends Bayard Taylor does with the discoveries by the science of evolutionary geology and biology during his day.’) More importantly it continually makes links that could be made with the average shopping list. Dylan’s songs are interested in American history, so must be influenced by Bayard Taylor? Both poets use screamingly obvious rhymes (‘fire-desire’) so Dylan must be copying him? What’s next, an essay on the influence on Dylan of William McGonagall, famously the worst poet of all time? His poem ‘The Death and Burial of Lord Tennyson’ (see has clearly been continuously ransacked by Dylan. Visiting Tennyson’s home was famously the reason for Dylan playing the Isle of Wight, obviously inspired by this poem. McGonagall’s daring rhymes (‘tragedian/brougham’; ‘Gladstone/upon’) clearly acted as a challenge to Dylan. The poem refers to all sorts of famous people from Henry Irving to the Duke of Argyll. The impact of this on the songs of Rough and Rowdy Ways is startling. In addition the poem uses the word heaven (see ‘Trying to Get To Heaven’ et al). There’s ‘strewn with white roses’. Compare with ‘I don’t have a single rose’ in I Feel A Change Coming On’. Then there’s ‘especially the May Queen’ counterpointed with ‘I got a date with the fairy queen’ in ‘Soon After Midnight’. Most tellingly of all, McGonagall references Shakespeare and the Bible thus inspiring half of Dylan’s oevre. Of course, I’ve actually no idea whether Dylan has ever heard of William McGonagall. but the echoes seem undeniable to me.

  2. Thanks for replying….

    ‘foreign’? – as Neil Young would say, “hey man, that’s my style!”(lol)

    I’m not saying that Dylan is even aware of Bayard’s poetry (let alone copies it) – just that swims in the same (unconscious?) thematic Jungian Sea – “take what you have gathered from coincidence”.

    Johnny Cash also uses the “fire/ desire” rhyme , but then again he says that he read Elizabethan poetry – likely including Edmund Spencer who uses the rhyme in a famous poem, though William Blake use thereof is likely the most well- known, Mr. Jones.

    William Blake and Lord Tennyson certainly indirectly link Bayard and Dylan,

    Bayard was well-known in his day though his poetry was rightly criticized by better writers

  3. PS -Not quite convinced by your comparison of Dylan to the Scottish poet, but am looking forward to you expanding your comparison of Dylan and McGonagall in a longer article for Untold.

    I’ve already noted some of the comparisons you make at the end of your remarks – in other articles of mine that may or may be published yet, though not in regards to McGonagall per se.

  4. Anyway, Dylan does more than swim around in a Jungian Sea of poetry and song; sometimes, he picks up flotsam and jetsam therefrom –

    Aside from “Tell Old Bill” referencing Tennyson, there are indeed direct allusions to poets in other song lyrics – like in “Lily Rosemary, And The Jack of Hearts”:

    She said, “What’s the matter, darling?”
    He behaved if he hadn’t heard”
    (Victor: WH Auden)

  5. According to ancient mythology the young, innocent Aphrodite pricks her finger on a white rose; her drops of blood turn the flower red, and she becomes full of passion.

  6. Larry, thanks for being such a good sport in response to my post. I know it’s rather unfair for someone to try to shoot you down when you put yourself out there. I just get concerned that links between Dylan and other writers can become too tenuous. For example, there’s a guy who’s had several articles posted on Expecting Rain who is convinced that a book he wrote was the template for the whole of Rough and Rowdy Ways. And his links are even less convincing than my McGonagall comparison! Your stuff is a million times better than that guy – so keep them coming.

  7. I read him ,,,everybody knows that it’s actually my posts that Dylan sources from (lol)

    Your critique of my Taylor article is quite understandable …..but that’s why I call it ‘Jungian’ – to place it in the context of literature in general ….there’s more on Bayard by me in Tony vaults, I’m afraid to say(lol)

    Feel free to comment anytime

  8. PS
    I was mightly tempted to write a spoof on Dylan and McGonagall, but fortunately a a thunder bolt stopped me

  9. I’ve written well over a thousand ‘loose leaf’ pages that I’ve sent along to
    ” Untold Dylan ” -to that slave-driver (lol) Tony – so I sometimes (but not all
    the time) s-t-r-e-t-c-h matters a bit in order to come up with another article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *