Bob Dylan And Fitz-Greene Halleck (Part II)

Bob Dylan And Fitz-Greene Halleck

By Larry Fyffe

Like Bayard Taylor, Fitz-Greene Halleck be a member of the American  “Knickerbock” writers’ group; Fitz leaves his mark in the Jungian culture of American literary history to this day though he’s not that well known anymore.

A Byron enthusiast, Fitz pokes fun at what he considers to be human foibles on display during the tenure of his stay:

... he excelled them all
In the most noble of the sciences
The art of making money ....
Flashed like the midnight lightning on the eyes
Of all who knew him; brilliant traits of mind
And genius, clear and countless as the dies
Upon the peacocks plumage; taste refined
Wisdom and wit, were his - perhaps much more
'Tis strange they had not found it out before
(Fitz-Greene Halleck: Fanny)

Halleck’s not the only lyricist sometimes called the “American Byron”.

As evidenced in the song lyrics below:

Handy Dandy, he got a stick in his hand, and a pocket full 
of money
He says, "Darling, tell me the truth, how much time I got?"
She says, "You got all the time in the world, honey"
(Bob Dylan: Handy Dandy)

Which brings us, dear readers, to the possible source of another song. In a long satiric epic by Byron, Don Juan is bought as a slave by a Sultan’s wife; she has him dressed up as “Juanna”, and put to bed in the Oda with one of her help-maidens. Later on in the night, the girl screams; wakes others. The young virgin ‘explains’ what happened – it was a dream (note: a rather Blakean vision) “and in the midst a golden apple grew”.

Beneath are more lines about the story that the maiden tells about why she screams, her ‘Visions of Juanna’ so to speak –

it’s clear that the author thereof is not at all amused by the neoPlatonic visions of the Romantic Transcendentalist poets):

Just as her lips began to ope
Upon the golden fruit the vision bore
A bee flew out, and stung her to the heart
(George Byron: Don Juan, Canto VI)

Albeit not so humorous as those above, take what you can from the following song lyrics – take what you can gather from coincidence:

He writes everything's been returned that was owed
On the back of a fish truck that loads
While my conscience explodes
The harmonics play the skeleton keys and the rain
And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain
(Bob Dylan: Visions Of Johanna)

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  1. Louis “the King” Renza does not mention Fitz Halleck’s poem ‘Fanny’ but he does note that Bob Dylan’s “autobiographical” song ‘Positively Fourth Street” contains the same theme therein.

  2. See: “Dylan’s Autobiography Of A Vocation” by Louis A. Renza
    (Expecting Rain)

  3. What could be more Byronic than the song lyrics below:

    There’s beauty in the silver, singing river
    There’s beauty in the sunrise in the sky
    But none of these, and nothing else can touch the beauty
    That I remember in my true love’s eyes
    (Bob Dylan; Tomorrow Is A Long Time)

  4. Note the rhyme twist ~ ‘sky’/’eyes’, and ‘skies’/’eyes’:

    She walks in beauty like the night
    Of cloudless climes and starry skies
    And all that’s best of dark and bright
    Meet in her aspect, and her eyes
    (George Byron: She Walks In Beauty)

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