Bob Dylan And More William Blake

See also: Bob Dylan And Faith: William Blake

by Larry Fyffe

Singer/songwriter/musician Bob Dylan drinks water from the historical wells of traditional folk songs, and from works of literature.

As previously pointed out, themes drawn from the poetry of preRomantic William Blake have a big influence on Bob Dylan:

I wander through each chartered street
Near where the chartered Thames does flow
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe
(William Blake: London)

As evident in the song lyrics below:

Oh, time is short, and the days are sweet
For all intended purposes
And passion rules the arrow that flies
A million faces at my feet
But all I see are dark eyes
(Bob Dylan: Dark Eyes)

Here’s a poem that counterbalances mankind’s scientific reasoning with visions from the artistic imagination:

Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau
Mock on, mock on, 'tis all in vain
You throw the sand against the wind
And the wind blows it back again

That is, scientific rationalism left to itself produces the dark “Satanic” mills of industrial capitalism that dismisses the human potential to establish a naturally balanced, everlasting light in Eden – for the benevolence of all earthly inhabitants:

To see the world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour
(William Blake: Auguries Of Innocence)
Motifs reflected in the song lyrics beneath:
I have gone from rags to riches 
In the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer's dream
In the chill of a wintry light
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face
(Bob Dylan: Every Grain Of Sand)

Below, lyrics by a British songster who takes his stage name from Blind Willie McTell:

So how can you tell me you're lonely
And say for you the sun don't shine
Let me take you by the hand
And lead you through the streets of London
Show you something to make you change your mind
Have you seen the old girl
Who walks the streets of London
Dirt in her hair
And her clothes in rags
(Ralph McTell: Streets Of London)

The song above echoes the sentiment expressed in the one following:

Oxford town, Oxford town
Everybody's got their heads bowed down
Sun don't shine above the ground
Ain't a-going down to Oxford town
He went down to Oxford town
Guns and clubs followed him down
All because his face is brown
(Bob Dylan: Oxford Town)

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