Bob Dylan And The Return Of Dante

By Larry Fyffe

Dante Alighieri pops up here and there in songs written or co-written by Bob Dylan.; there be a world of light, a world of darkness, and a world betwixt the two.

Often humorously, but not always, real places get substituted for other-worldly sites like Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory.

Heaven according to the song lyrics below:

I say Champaign, Champaign, Illinois
I certainly do enjoy Champaign, Illinois
(Carl Perkins: Champaign Illinois ~ Perkins/Dylan)

Purgatory, akin to Desolation Row, in the lyrics beneath:

Oh, if you die fearing God
Painfully employed
No, you will not go to heaven
You'll go to Champaign, Illinois
(Old Ninety-Sevens: Champaign Illinois ~ Miller/Dylan)

The following gnostic-like lyrics present the material world as one of darkness, either it’s full of ignorance, or full of sin, or both, from which only a few wise or lucky individuals escape:

Just then a bolt of lightning
Struck the courthouse out of shape
And while everybody knelt to pray
The drifter did escape
(Bob Dylan: Drifter's Escape)

Blaming the darkness on someone or something else be a flawed means of escape:

I used to sit by my fire place
And dream about you
But now that won't do
There's a flaw in my flue
(Bob Dylan: There's A Flaw In My Flue ~ Van Heusen/Burke)

False conclusions wrought by religious prejudice:

Nobody spoke so they shouted all the louder
It's an Irish trick that's true
I can lick the Mick that threw
The overalls in Mrs. Murphy's chowder
(Bing Crosby: Who Threw The Overalls In Mrs Murphy's Chowder; Geifen)

Yes, indeed, give me that old time religion; that’s what we need:

Where the Jews, and Catholics, and Muslims all pray
I can tell they're Proddie from a mile away
(Bob Dylan: Goodbye Jimmy Reed)


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