by Larry Fyffe
There’s a big cryptic clue in the song “Red River Shore” that reveals the songwriter is indeed speaking therein about Jezebel – and a reformed lady she be:
Well the dream dried up long time ago (Bob Dylan: Red River Shore)
The key hidden under the alliterative mat above when decoded by detective Dupin reads:
"Well, the stream dried up a long time ago".
That is, the unlocked clue reveals the biblical story of the prophet Elijah, who, upset at Ahab and Jezebel’s Baalist ways, tells the inhabitants of Northern Israel that the Kishon River has been dry for some time now because the Hebrew God is angry at them for worshipping Baal.
It’s not Jezebel’s god, represented by the Golden Calf, who’s brought on the drought to punish the Northerners’ failure to follow edicts pertaining to agricultural practices.
Says so in the Holy Bible.
Even a brook beside which Elijah resides dries up:
And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning And bread and flesh in the evening, and he drank from the brook And it came to pass after a while that the brook dried up Because there had been no rain in the land (I Kings 17: 6,7)
Suddenly, there’s a black cloudburst of wind and rain, and the Baalist army gets swept away on the shores of the Kishon River.
History repeats itself in the time of Elijah; a similar event happens in days long, long before that prophet gets born.
There also God brings on the dark wind and the rain: The river of Kishon swept them away That ancient river, the river Kishon O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength (Judges 5:21)
In the song ‘”Red River Shore”, the narrator could be said saved by the advice given him by his beloved Jezebel, and, it might be added, by the food given him by the author of ‘The Raven’.
What becomes of her, we are not told – could be a ‘murder ballad’, maybe:
I've tried not to ever hurt anybody And to stay out of a life of crime (Bob Dylan; Red River Shore)
But did he or didn’t he?
Bob Dyln And Jezebel (Part VI)
In the song “Red River Shore”, the references to Elijah, Jezebel, and the worshippers of the Golden Calf may be oblique, but the clues, though partially hidden, be there.
In the Holy Bible, God speaks to the Hebrew prophet at the entrance to a cave:
And he came thither unto a cave And lodged there, and behold The word of the Lord came to him And He said unto him, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" And he said, "I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts For the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant Thrown down thine altars, and slain they prophets with the sword And I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life to take it away" (I Kings 19: 9,10)
As the above biblical verses indicate, poor old Elijah has all but given up in regards to his struggle against Queen Jezebel; God’s not happy with His prophet for being frightened, but later takes him up in a whirlwind.
So it might be said of Elijah in the song lyrics below. There’s a big difference, however. God’s angry because the updated prophet finds Jezebel sexually tempting, and the prophet doesn’t appear at all scared.
And it’s she, not God, who advises Elijah to get away from her door for the sake of his own well-being, and perhaps her own:
Well, the sun went down on me a long time ago I had to pull back from the door I wished I could have spent every hour of my life With the the girl from the Red River Shore (Bob Dylan: Red River Shore)
How well Elijah/Dylan of the song handles the advice is left for the reader/listener of the song lyrics to decide.
Does he throw the seemingly repentant Jezebel out the window, or maybe leave her there like some raven with broken wing?
Or does he just vanish in a whirlwind?:
Some of us scare ourselves to death in the dark To be where the angels fly (Bob Dylan: Red River Shore)