The Apocalytic Songwriter And The Crimson Drag On (Part VIII)

By Larry Fyffe

According to the New Testament, there’s no doubt of a final battle being fought between the forces of ‘good’ led by the three-fold Christian God, and the forces of ‘evil’ led by the Devil,  sometimes referred to as Beelzebub.

The Lord’s Judgement Day will follow as to who’s in and who’s out of luck in so far as the Edenic return to eternal life is concerned:

To execute judgment upon all
And to convince all that are ungodly among them
Of all their ungodly deeds
Which they have ungodly committed
And of all their hard speeches
Which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him
(Jude 1:15)

An apocalytic vision that’s supposedly repeated in the following song lyrics:

If the Bible is right, the world will explode
I've been trying to get as far away from myself as I can
Some things are too hot to touch
The human mind can only stand so much
(Bob Dylan: Things Have Changed)

It’s a dark vision and a true one, or so it’s claimed by Dylanologists such as Kees de Graaf. However, to claim so, avoided must be the biggest word in the song verse above – “If”. That is, should one suppose the Bible to be literally true.

Another problem – what exactly comprises ‘godly’ behaviour versus ‘ungodly’ behaviour is left up to particular religious organizations to figure out.

Examining the works of Bob Dylan as a whole demonstrates that the singer / songwriter / musician is not a fire-and- brimstone-breathing ‘final days’ apocalyptic – there’s hope, even though a small one, that such a religious prophecy will not come to fruition; instead, the song above is a warning that such a terrible event could indeed happen, especially now with the invention of the hydrogen bomb.

A warning that's given in the following song as well:
I'm going back out 'fore the rain starts a-falling
I'll walk to the depth of deepest black forest ....
And I'll tell it, and speak it, and think it, and breathe it
And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it
(Bob Dylan: A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall)

The elaborate biblical-like lyrics above inspired by the rather simplistic folk song quoted beneath, first sung by the blacklisted “Weavers”; the hammer and sickle symbolic of the then-idealized Communist Party; at the insistence of activist Libby Frank “and sisters” added to the lyrics:

If I had a hammer, I'd hammer in the morning
I'd hammer in the evening, all over this land
I'd hammer out danger, I'd hammer out a warning
I'd hammer out love between my brothers and sisters
All over this land
(Peter, Paul, And Mary: If I Had A Hammer ~ Seeger/Hays)

Certainly, the next quoted is not a dogmatic religious song; there’s that big word “if” again:

The confusion I'm feeling
Ain't no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
That if God's on our side
He'll stop the next war
(Bob Dylan: With God On Our Side)

One comment

  1. The blow of his hammer is justice
    The swing of his hammer mercy
    (William Blake: Jerusalem)

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