By Larry Fyffe
Bob Dylan And Jezebel (Part III)
In the Old Testament, prophet Ezekiel has to contend with double-dealing Abolah and Aholibah; then, prophet Elijah with Ahab and Baal-worshipper Jezebel.
So spins the roulette wheel of history, and prophets of Jesus, in the New Testament, have once again to deal with an apparently re-incarnated Jezebel.
In the Old Testament, Jezebel sends a fraudulent letter to the appropriate authorities, under the seal of King Ahab, ordering the death of a “blasphemous” vineyard-owner so that his property can be taken.
Not to be outdone, the death of the now resurrected Jezebel, and of her children too, is ordered by a New Testament prophet, in the name of Jesus, if they do not repent:
Behold I will cast her into a bed And them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation Except they repent of their deeds (Revelations 2: 22)
The crucified, now-resurrected, Christ gets transformed into a chip off the old block, at least by some of His most ardent followers.
In the song lyrics quoted below, could be said that Jezebel takes heed of the stern biblical warning – only to leave the narrator thereof, as in the dramatic monologue to the Mona Lisa portrait in the “Visions Of Johanna”, with a fixed smile upon his face.
He’s been jilted by Jezebel:
Now I'm wearing the cloak of misery And I've tasted jilted love And the frozen smile upon my face Fits me like glove (Bob Dylan: Red River Shore)
There are those among us who claim that Bob Dylan writes a number of lyrics just because they sound good, but biblical roots they often have that entwine with word images to render the song a meaningful unity:
Oh, jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule But these visions of Johanna, they make it all seem so cruel (Bob Dylan: Visions Of Johanna)
In the Old Testament, a prophet is promised silver by a king if has a meeting with him and curses the Hebrews escaping from Egypt. The mule can see an angel up ahead, and balks at taking the pathway to the king’s residence; after suffering a bad beating, the mule talks, and the prophet then is able to see the angel too.
The false prophet changes his mind, and instead has the Hebrew men distracted by sexually-seductive, Baal-worshipping women:
And the Lord said unto Moses Take all the leaders of the people And hang them up before the Lord against the sun That the fierce anger of the Lord may not be turned away from Israel (Numbers 25:4)
Now that’s tough love.
No wonder that the narrator in “Red River Shore” be thankful that he was sent home by Jezebel, or whomever it was, to live a quiet life.
If dog-eaten Queen Jezebel be an actual, a literal, historical figure who’s able to travel forward in time to the days when a Jewish rabbi known as Christ is crucified, then magically comes back to life, I find no stated reason in the Holy Bible why musician/singer/songwriter Bob Dylan can’t fly around in space and time though still alive.
Below, crucified Jesus is said to speak through a prophet to members of a “church”, not to wayward Hebrews of days long gone, but rather to those claiming to be Christians:
[T]hou sufferest that woman Jezebel Which calleth herself a prophetess To teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication And eat things sacrificed unto idols (Revelations 2 :22)
So it is not that far-fetched of a stretch to imagine a reformed Jezebel be the gal brought back to life in the song “Red River Shore” with the ‘river of blood’ located in the Jezreel Valley of the Northern Kingdom of Israel … a Lilith-like archetype, but one who mends her wicked ways; or a Mary Magdalene from whom demons have been cast out:
She gave me her best advice And said, "Go home, and lead a quiet life" (Bob Dylan: Red River Shore)
One analyst of the song above asserts that Dylan is a prisoner of time and rhyme when the songwriter chooses to pen “… she should always be with me” – in order to create a rhyme with “free”. Apparently, the analyst is quite sure that “… I should always be with her” was initially intended to be the line in the song, but then, of course, the rhyme doesn’t work.
But ” …. I should always be with thee” would more than serve the purpose of a rhyme for ‘free’ were not the songwriter, as he often does, switching the polarity of the relationship between the guy and gal, whether she be a Jezebel or not.
Interestingly, the same analyst has a bird in another song portrayed as a demon haunting that song when it’s the bird that is injured, quite likely symbolic of a female lover who has been abandoned by the narrator of the song – Poe’s “Raven” in reverse, it might be claimed:
My love she's like some raven at my window With a broken wing (Bob Dylan: Love Minus Zero)
That is, Poe’s melancholy motif in lot of his poetry be followed, but this time the shoe is on the other claw, so to speak.
At other times, Poe’s sorrowful theme is less messed with:
I haven’t got a single rose
(Bob Dylan: I Feel A Change Coming On ~ Dylan/Hunter)
Drear path, alas, where grows
Not even one lonely rose
(Edgar Allan Poe: To F …)