Bob Dylan and the Fighting Irish (parts III and IV)

by Larry Fyffe

There’s a fatalistic motif in ancient Irish oral-based pagan narratives that imaginatively compares human life to plants, trees, hills, and the recurring change in the seasons.

A conflict arises with the written-down stories of the Christian religion when it arrives in Ireland; it’s a religion that foresees better times ahead in a spiritual After Life; the responsibility lies with the behaviour of earth-bound humans as to whether they get there or not.

Observed through the lens of Christian scribes, the pre-Christian Druid priests create, along with many subordinate gods and goddesses, a main female goddess who represents regenerative, cyclical nature, and a main male god who fools around with a river goddess; his illicit son Aengus dreams of a beautiful partner whom he recognizes when she for a time turns into a swan; he transforms himself into a swan, and they fly off together.

Could be that Christian authorities ‘discover’ Druid writings and rework them into poems that fit the dogma of the One God (of a Trinity).

Much later the “Druid poem” is translated into modern English:

I am the salmon in the water
I am the lake in the plain
I am the word of wisdom
I am the head of the spear in battle 
I am the God that puts fire in the head
And spreads light in the mounds of the hills

Below, a modern Irish poet bent on sourcing out actual Druid thought takes the above poem as authentic; ancient Ireland for him takes off her cloak to reveal an other-worldly land filled with magicians, fairies, fortune-tellers; and a pot of gold at the end of every endless rainbow.

The narrator in the poem catches a trout that turns into a beautiful girl who then vanishes:

I went out the the hazel wood
Because a fire was in my head ....
I will find out where she has gone
And kiss her lips and take her hands
And walk among long dappled grass
(WB Yeats: Song Of The Wandering Aengus)

In any event, the following song lyrics are drawn, to one degree or another, from the deep and ancient well of the Irish imagination:

You're  gonna have to leave me now, I know
But I'll see you in the sky above
In the tall grass, in the ones I love
(Bob Dylan: You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go)

That is to say – If human history, in both the macro- or minor-realms, does not repeat itself in fact, it does in the filtered-out, pattern-seeking memory of the human mind.

It could be said in the song lyrics beneath that the  material-oriented Druids of yore are resurrected back to life as spiritualistic neo romantic (the Jungian collective unconscious, if you like):

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


Bob Dylan And The Fighting Irish (Part IV)

And I'm reading James Joyce
Some people they tell me
I got the blood of the land in my voice
(I Feel  A Change Coming On ~ Dylan/Hunter)

Good chance that Joyce himself would have written:

“I got the blood of Ireland in my Vico”

Vico, an Italian writer, deposited that history follows recurring cycles with transitional periods – divine/theocratic with its language marked by metaphor – heroic/aristocratic marked by metonymy – human/democratic marked by irony.

Said it could that the members of the Sound School of Dylanology find a mean-tour
in Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake” where English words are so jungled up that their sound-dew over-elm any cents; the reader is pun-ished by puns, and joyous portmanteaux.

Its title can be taken as metonymy to mean “Irishmen Wake Up” or a sound-pun on “end (fin) again”.

Accordion-ly, it seems best to forget a-tempting any meaning therein, and instead con-cent-rate on the sound of words as if they were no more than emotion-evoking musical notes.

Rob Dylan, the little welsh, is the order of the day in the song lyrics below ~ his poe-ticks are picked:

The goat-and-daisy dingles
(Dylan Thomas: Under Milk Wood)

Bequeathed in the line of the song beneath:

The cloak and dagger dangles
(Bob Dylan: Love Minus Zero)

Singer/songwriter/muician Bob Dylan sometimes walks quite quietly down the James tract, carrying a big sack in witch the listeners’ Ear-train gets lost.

Innuedo, “fuck” is not in the double-edged song lyrics below:

And she's all the time in my neighbourhood
She cries both day and night
I know it because it was there
It's a mile stone, but she's down on her luck
She's daily salooning about to make it hard to buck
(Bob Dylan: I'm Not There)

In the end though, Irishman James Joyce might have penned:

Let's go for a walk in the garden
So far and so wide
We can shite in the shade by the mountain-side

Rather than the puritanical:

We can sit in the shade by the fountain-side
(Bob Dylan: False Prophet)

Joyce does like to play around with word sounds:

My sweet little whorish Nora – you had an arse full of farts that night, darling ….
Goodnight, my little farting Nora, my dirty little fuckbird
(James Joyce: Letter To Nora)

Turned-down lots in the following song lyrics:

You are as whorish as ever
Baby you could start a fire
I must be losing my mind
You're the object of my desire
(Bob Dylan: I Feel A Change Coming On ~ Dylan/Hunter)

Nevertheless, bobbing Dylan seldom meets a penish pun that he doesn’t like –
like ‘male’/’mail’ … if he can get it up:

Well, I ride on a mail train, babe
Can't buy a thrill
Well, I've been up all night
Leaning on my window sill
(Bob Dylan: It's Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry)

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