by Larry Fyffe
‘Gates Of Eden’, a song by Bob Dylan, is open to differing levels of interpretation though of course these levels must be based on evidence reasonably drawn from the lyrics, and on the mood of the music, plus on outside literary and music sources that are referenced:
Of war and peace the truth just twists Its curfew gull just glides (Bob Dylan: Gates Of Eden)
‘War and Peace’ is a novel by Leo Tolstoy that takes a “bird’s eye” perspective of history, and the image of ‘The swan on the river goes gliding by’ from “The Ballad Of The Gliding Swan” suggests events occur that do not connect with the best laid plans of human beings – happenings that are beyond their control.
In the following song, the narrator makes it farther than Moses does in his quest for the biblical, and supposedly Edenic, Promised Land; Moses dies and does not make it across the River Jordan, but the narrator in the recent song below makes it across the Rio Grande – only to find that a modern Babylon awaits:
And when you reach the broken-promised land And all your dreams flow through your hands You'll know that it's too late to change your mind Because you paid the price to come so far Just to wind up where you are And you're still just across that borderline (Bob Dylan: Across The Borderline ~ Ry Cooder, et.al.)
Seems that the person in the song above has been misinformed just like the one in the lyrics beneath:
Aladdin and his lamp Sits with Utopian hermit monks Sidesaddle on the Golden Calf And on their promises of paradise You will not hear a laugh All except inside the Gates of Eden (Bob Dylan: The Gates Of Eden)
The collapse of an ideal situation be a theme the above singer/songwriter often expresses as he does in the lyrics below:
People call, say, "Beware doll, you're bound to fall" You thought they were all kidding you You used to laugh about Everybody that was hanging out Now you don't talk so loud Now you don't seem so proud About having to be scrounging your next meal (Bob Dylan: Like A Rolling Stone)
Frequently accompanied by the theme that having money is better than not having it, but still it won’t buy spiritual happiness – as in the following song:
How many times have you heard someone say If I had his money, I could do that my way But little they know That it's so hard to find One rich man in ten with a satisfied mind (Bob Dylan: A Satisfied Mind ~ Rhodes/Hayes)
In “Letters From The Earth”, Mark Twain sarcastically notes how religious authorities do not allow persons to rest in peace even after they die, but follow them beyond the grave to judge them in a supposed afterlife.
In “The Prince and The Pauper” by Mark Twain, look-alike boys change places, and the prince experiences what it’s like to live in poverty, and the pauper experiences what’s it’s like to be rich and powerful in a palace that is Edenic by comparison.
Perspective depends on which side of the gates you are on:
The kingdoms of experience In the precious wind they rot While paupers change possessions Each one wishing for what the other has got And the princess and the prince Discuss what's real, and what is not It doesn't matter inside the Gates of Eden (Bob Dylan: Gates Of Eden)