Bob Dylan And Dante and Bill Heagney

By Larry Fyffe

(Part I)

A humourous cowgirl Dante rides on the foam of the Jungian sea:

Now we're on our cowboy honeymoon
I'll find a shack over back 
In the valley
(Patsy Montana: A Cowboy Honeymoon)

Waiting for her is hairy:

Pacing round the room
Hoping maybe she'd come back
Well, I praying for salvation
Laying round in a one-room country shack
(Bob Dylan: Dirt Road Blues)

While listening to a tune about the fickle moon:

Where are you old moon of Kentucky
There's somebody lonesome and blue
There's nothing it seems
But memories and dreams
Waiting to whisper to you
Day is done, and here am I
All alone and you know why
Roll along, roll along, Kentucky moon
(Montana Slim: Roll Along Kentucky Moon)

A moon that can apparently speak:

Whatever you want to say to me
Won't come as any shock
I must be guilty of something
Just whisper it into my ear
(Bob Dylan: Tight Connection To My Heart)

In the meantime, the blacksmith forges a tune of his own:

The seasons they are turning
And my sad heart is yearning
To hear the songbird's sweet melodious tone
Won't you meet me in the moonlight all alone
Bob Dylan: Moonlight)

While he’s listening to another song that makes a reference to the constant ‘tiny’ stars afar; ‘Elena’ like ‘Selene’ means “moon”.

In Greek/Roman mythology, she is the sister of Apollo, the Sun and Music god:

Maria Elena, you're the idol of my heart
Maria Elena, why are we so far apart
I linger here inside a reverie tonight
Where tiny stars remind me of your eyes so bright
Maria Elena, tell me, will we meet again
Maria Elena, must I hope in vain
You're all I long to call my very own
'Til dreams come true, I'll wait for you alone
(Jimmy Wakely: Maria Elena)

Zeus, the god of Thunder is their father:

Oh sister, am I not a brother to you
And one deserving of affection
And is our purpose not the same on this earth
To love and follow his direction
(Bob Dylan: Oh Sister)

Part II

Play Nat King Cole. Play Nature Boy
(Bob Dylan: Murder Most Foul)

Dante Alighieri saddle up, not in the afterlife, but alive in the Old West.

In the song lyrics below, infernal hell is reduced to a campfire around which a boy plays a game of ‘Cowboys and Indians’:

Brush that little tear away, old timer
You know a cowboy never cries
Something must have spoiled your day, old timer
Did campfire smoke get in your eyes
(Jimmie Davis: Old Timer)

The lyrics beneath express a romantic heavenly vision of country life in contrast to the hellish aspects of big city life, a song made famous by country singer Jimmie Rodgers:

Memories are bringing happy days of yore
Miss the Mississippi and you
Mocking birds are singing around the cabin door
(Bob Dylan: Miss The Mississippi And You)

The sentimental motif expressed above akin to that in the song lyrics quoted beneath:

Pretty maids all in a row lined up
Outside my cabin door
I've never wanted any of them wanting me
Except the girl from the Red River Shore
(Bob Dylan: Red River Shore)

In the following song lyrics, the advice of temperance offered in Dante’s “Divine Comedy” heeded:

Sycamore tree, sycamore tree
Tell the folks, tell the shack, that my heart is dragging me back
Sycamore tree, tell'em for me
I know I'm going to find my Paradise Lost
In the hills of Tennessee
I know I'm going to find my Seventh Heaven
It's just a cabin, my Seventh Heaven
(Jimmie Rodgers: The Hills Of Tennessee)

With some luck the moderate path between extremes just might be found:

Well, I'm a stranger in a strange land
But I know this is where I belong
I'll ramble and gamble for the one I love
And the hills will bring me a song
(Bob Dylan: Red River Shore)

The inconstancy of the lunar sphere addressed below (the song also recorded by
Wilf Carter/Montana Slim, and by Hank Snow:

Where are you old moon of Kentucky
There's somebody lonesome and blue
With nothing it seems, but memories and dreams
Waiting to whisper to you
(Jimmie Rodgers: Roll Along Kentucky Moon)

Sad things happen beyond the control of mere mortals:

Let the bird sing
Let the bird fly
One day the man in the moon went home
And the river went dry
(Bob Dylan: Under The Red Sky)

An obverse vision of the above Kentucky moon song follows (sung together by
Bob Dylan and Paul Simon); it be the sphere of fixed and far-off stars that speaks this time:

Blue moon of Kentucky, keep on shining
Shine on the one that's gone and left me blue
It was on a moonlight night, the stars were shining bright
And they whispered from on high, your love has said goodbye
(Bill Monroe: Blue Moon Of Kentucky)

A star closer by, that wise old Sun, sends sounder advice:

This he said to me
The greatest thing you'll ever learn
Is just to love, and be loved in return
(Nat King Cole: Nature Boy)


  1. No problem…
    As the record labels indicate, Bill Heagney had a hand in writing music and/or lyrics for a number of songs in the article…so I added his name to the title at the last minute.

  2. That is, Bill Heagney ~ Old Timer, Miss Mississippi, Roll Along Kentucky Moon,
    Cowboy Honey Moon, Maria Elena
    Oh Sister~ Dylan/Levy
    The Hills Of Tennessee ~ Schuster/Lewis

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