Bob Dylan: Cooking Up More  Mythologies (Part VI)

by Larry Fyffe

The archetype of the shape-shifting serpentine female Lilith figure resurfaces again and again in the Jungian Sea of English literature; therein, men become obsessed with her image.

In  the poetry of Britisher John Keats:
Love, jealous grown of so complete a pair
Hovered and buzzed his wings, with fearful roar
Above the lintel of their chamber door
And down the passage cast a glow upon the floor
(John Keats : Lamia)

Followed up in the  poetry of American Edgar Allan Poe (wise Athena, whose sacred bird is the owl, accidentally spears Pallas, daughter of a sea-god):

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming
And the lamp-light over him streaming throws a shadow on the floor
(Edgar Poe: The Raven)

And in the song lyrics of Bob Dylan:

Listen to that Duquesne whistle blowing
Blowing like she never blowed before
Blue light blinking, red light glowing
Blowing like she's at my chamber door ....
I wake up with that woman in my bed
Everybody telling me she's gone to my head
(Bob Dylan: Desquesne Whistle ~ Dylan/Hunter)

Of such poetry, Bob Dylan is well aware:

Gotta tell-tale heart, like Mr. Poe
Got skeletons in the walls of people you know
(Bob Dylan: I Contain Multitudes)

“Desquesne Whistle” borrows from the following song:

I thought I heard the steamboat whistle blowing
And she blowed like she never blowed before
I'm afraid my little lover's on that boat
(Shirkey and Harper: Steamboat Man)

In the song lyrics quoted beneath, Dylan presents Poe’s demonic Lithith-like figure as a  raven, but this time she’s cast in a sympathetic light; the country doctors rambles – perhaps she’s pregnant:

The wind howls like a hamner
The night blows cold and rainy
My love she's like some raven
 At my window with a broken wing
(Bob Dylan: Love Minus Zero)

The times they are changing, and Lady Lilith gets a do-over. In the song following she’s sad-eyed, not blamed for fleeing from working in Adam’s garden at all; it’s his fault that Eden is burning, nor hers.

He expects Lilith to scrub the kitchen floor – he’s the hoodlum in this tale. Before God of Order, of ‘the great chain of being’, has a chance to throw Lilith out the farm’s gate, she’s off to Babylon:

They wished you'd accepted the blame for the farm
But with the sea at your feet, and the phony false alarm
And with the child of the hoodlum wrapped up in your arms
How could they ever have persuaded you
(Bob Dylan: Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands)

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