Bob Dylan And Poena

By Larry Fyffe

Singer/songwriter/musician Bob Dylan sprinkles his song lyrics with reworked Greek and Roman mythology, oft thread through the Gothic/Gnostic poetry of John Keats.

A  long poem by John Keats, messes with the mythology of Poena; therein, she’s the sister of Endymion as well as assistant to the remorseless Goddess Of Divine Retribution. Poena, in Latin, means “Pain”.

Keats has Poena do her best to reconcile shepherd Endymion with any painful fate that awaits:

Dear brother mine
Endymion, weep not so
(John Keats: Endymion, book iv)

Met her before we have, under another name:

Red mouth like a venomous flower
When these are gone by with their glories
What shall rest of thee then, what remain
O mystic and sombre Dolores
Our Lady of Pain
(Charles Swinburne: Dolores)

In the song lyrics following too:

With your mercury mouth in the missionary times
And your eyes like smoke and your prayers like rhyme
And your silver cross, and your voice like chimes
Oh, who do they think could bury you
(Bob Dylan: Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands)

Apparently, the many female offspring of Poena’s mistress, as the great White Mother, be immortal, and therefore more immune to pain than men.

Men, alas, are mere mortals:

You'll never know the hurt I suffered
Nor the pain I rise above
And I'll never know the same about you
Your holiness or your kind of love
And it makes me feel so sorry
(Bob Dylan: Idiot Wind)

In ancient Greek/Roman mythology, winged Nemesis, the Goddess of Retribution,  leads the non-empathizing  Narcissus to a pool in which he sees his own reflection; he falls in love with it; dies alone there on its banks; turns into a flower.

In the song lyrics beneath, Poena herself pours out her own special torment to punish the regretful narrator therein for the way he treats Echo (Helstrom?), a mountain nymph:

I can't see my reflection in the waters
I can't speak the sounds that show no pain
I can't hear the echo of my footsteps
Or remember the sound of my own name
(Bob Dylan: Tomorrow Is A Long Time)

One comment

  1. Correction:

    *, as the great White Mother be immortal, are therefore more immune to pain than men.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *