Bob Dylan: The Last Train’s A-Coming Round The Bend

By Larry Fyffe

Themes expressed in prose, plays, poetry, and song-and-music deal with the trials and tribulations of human existence.

From the Bard, hopes of happiness found in a life so brief:

If he thrives, and I be cast away
The worst was this: my love was my decay
(William Shakespeare: Sonnet LXXX)

From  Romantic poets, hopes of eternal fame achieved through one’s works:

Keeps his pale court in beauty and decay
He came; and bought, with price of purest breath
A grave among the eternal. - Come away
(Percy Shelley: Adonais)

Hopes smashed by the sand:

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away
(Percy Shelley: Ozymandias)

From Gospel, a promise of eternal life in a paradisal hereafter:

Beautiful flowers that will never decay
Gathered by angels and carried away
(Kitty Wells: Gathering Flowers For 
     The Master's Bouquet ~ Baumgardner)

From blues, sadness of life in the micro-sphere:

It's such a sad thing to see beauty decay
It's sadder still to feel your heart torn away
(Bob Dylan: Cold Irons Bound)

And sadness in the macro-sphere:

I said the soul of a nation is torn away
And it's beginning to go into a slow decay
(Bob Dylan: Murder Most Foul)

That is to say that those who seek to make a clear distinction between literature and song search in vain.

The works of Shelley haunt the song lyrics beneath:

Businessmen, they drink my wine
Ploughmen, they dig my earth
None of them along the line
No what any of it is worth
(Bob Dylan: All Along The Watchtower)

Nature’s free-wheeling, regenerative beauty can be felt, even broken at times, but not replicated:

And the sunlight clasps the earth
And the moonbeams kiss the sea
What is all this sweet work worth
If thou kiss not me
(Percy Shelley: Love's Philosophy)

An everlasting Universe beyond the understanding of mortal human beings:

Column, tower, and dome, and spire
Shine like obelisks of fire
Pointed with inconstant motion
From the altar of dark ocean
To the sapphire-tinted skies
(Percy Shelley: Euganean Hills)

Quite alien she can be:

There's a woman on my lap, and she's drinking champagne
Got white skin, got assassin's eyes
I'm looking up into sapphire-tinted skies
I'm well dressed, waiting on the last train
(Bob Dylan: Things Have Changed)

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