Bob Dylan And Fitz-Greene Halleck

by Larry Fyffe

Along with Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper, Fitz-Greene Halleck be a member of the Knickerbocker writers’ group.

Halleck’s poetry demonstrates that the author is an admirer of the English poet Lord Byron:

For thou art Woman - with that word
Life's dearest hopes and memories come
Truth, beauty, love - in her adored
And earth's lost paradise restored
In the green bower of home
(Fitz-Greene Halleck: Woman)

Similar sentiments regarding a beautiful woman are expressed in the following verse:

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies ....
Where thoughts sincerely sweet express
How pure, how dear, their dwelling-place
(George Byron: She Walks In Beauty)

The Knickerbocker poet in the lines below envisions Eve as personification of a new hoped-for America, an idealized woman in Paradise Regained:

'Tis she that listens while he sings
With blended smiles and tears
(Fitz-Greene Halleck: Woman)

And if George Byron’s here, can Mary Shelley be far behind – perhaps it’s by coincidence, but Fitz gets jolted forward to modern times through the lines of a song:

Gonna jumpstart my creation to life 
I wanna bring someone to life, turn back the years
Do it with laughter, and do it with tears
(Bob Dylan: My Own Version Of You)

The vision of America presented above, and in the song lyrics beneath is one of Adam in a puritanical Paradise Lost:

As I went out one morning
To breathe the air around Tom Paine's
I spied the fairest damsel
That ever did walk in chains
I offered her my hand
She took me by the arm
I knew that very instant
She meant to do me harm
(Bob Dylan: As I Went Out One Morning)

At times it seems that, other than death, poetry and music are the only means to escape this world of woe:

Music bid thy minstrels play
No tunes of grief or sorrow
Let them cheer the living brave today
They may wail the dead tomorrow
(Fitz-Greene Halleck: Young America)

Fitz gets no argument from the modern day Byron:

Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky ....
Let me forget about today until tomorrow
Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
(Bob Dylan: Mr. Tambourine Man)

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