By Larry Fyffe
“I wish I didn’t love you so much” ~ Casablanca
As Will Shakespeare reigns in the First Elizabethan Era, Bob Dylan reigns in the Second.
To the point ~
The Jungian template for a number of masterful songs by Bob Dylan is “Endymion” by John Keats; the poem based on ancient Greek/Roman mythology.
The three-folded Moon Goddess – represented, for instance, by virgin Diana, by mother Isis, and by crone Kali – falls in love with the beautiful mortal shepherd named Endymion.
He, in turn, desires to become immortal like she.
As expressed by the Bogart-like narrator in the following song lyrics:
Go over to London Maybe gay Paree Follow the river, you get to the sea I was hoping we could drink from life's clear stream I was hoping we could dream life's pleasant dream (Bob Dylan: Marching To The City)
The mortal shepherd tries to change; endeavours to cease chasing after his concept of the ideal woman, represented by the great white moon. But he cannot resist doing so.
To escape one of the predicaments in which Endymion finds himself (while down in Pluto’s watery Underworld), the shepherd is required to help re-unite lovers who are floating around all alone:
The visions of the earth were gone and fled He saw the giant sea above his head (John Keats: Endymion, book ii)
Initially, singer/songwriter/musician Dylan (as narrator in the song below) doesn’t envision that problem difficult to solve; the sea is but a stream; the stream is but a dream:
The light in this place is really bad Like being at the bottom of a stream Any minute now I'm expecting to wake up from a dream (Bob Dylan: Dreaming Of You)
Easy does not turn out to be the case – instead, all Hell breaks loose:
The ghost of our old love has not gone away Don't look like it, like it will anytime soon You left me standing in the doorway crying Under the midnight moon (Bob Dylan: Standing In The Doorway)
Bringing to mind the Gothic poet of gloom standing by the moonlit doorway of doom:
For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams Of the beautiful Annabel Lee And the stars never rise, but I see the bright eyes Of the beautiful Annabel Lee (Edgar Allan Poe: Annabel Lee)
A thing of beauty gone can bring sorrow forever; leave a person stranded on the night’s dark Plutonian shore:
Last night I danced with a stranger But she just reminded me you were the one You left me standing in the doorway crying In the dark land of the sun (Bob Dylan: Standing In The Doorway)
And so it goes, the Gnostic-like poems of Keats and Poe cast their ghostly shadows over a number of songs by Bob Dylan.
Bob Dylan As Endymion (Part II)
John Keats reworks the mythology of Endymion; has the shepherd decide to settle down to an earthly existence after having tasted hellish death beyond the River Acheron, and heavenly immortality up on Mount Olympus.
In the Gothic-tinged poem “Endymion”, the three-spirited Moon Goddess, who accompanies the shepherd for a while as an Indian Maiden, transfigures herself into a caring Crone.
As such, Diana bears him painful news; despaired, he sees her body fading gaunt and spare; she tells mortal Endymion she’s sorry, but being immortal and divine, she can never be like he is – return youthful yet again she always will.
The White Goddess, coined so by Robert Graves, nevertheless says she will eternally adore the earth-bound shepherd, he being the creative artist that he is.
Come then, Sorrow Sweet Sorrow .... There is not one No, no, not one But thee to comfort a poor lonely maid (John Keats: Endymion, book iv)
To endure sorrow in order to appreciate bliss is supposedly a wise message garnered from Nature, and expressed through the mercury-coloured lips of the poet of Autumn.
An Existentialist melancholic message that irks mightily the tough-minded narrator of the song lyrics below:
Sorrow and pity Rule the earth and the skies Looking for nothing In anyone's eyes (Bob Dylan: Marching To The City)
Accordingly, the moody Moon can keep right on rolling along:
I would be crazy to take you back It would go up against every rule You left me standing in the doorway crying Suffering like a fool (Bob Dylan: Standing In The Doorway)
For Bob Dylan, or at least for the writer as narrator, John Keats is just too unhappy in his unhappiness while the sunshine Romantic Transcendentalist boys (like Ralph Emerson) tends be a bit too optimisitc given some of the harsher aspects of human existence.
Oh, oh, oh, lo and behold; the story does not end here. You see, Endymion has a sister, and her name is Poena.
She’s the Goddess of Divine Retribution and does not tolerate mistreatment without it being returned in kind.
So don’t go blaming the Moon in June:
The peaches they were sweet, and the milk and honey flowed I was only following instructions when the judge sent me down the road With your subpoena (Bob Dylan: Angelina)