Bob Dylan: Do You Think Of The Snake In The Valley? 

By Larry Fyffe

Artists often present a valley as symbol of peace and harmony – supposedly, a heavenly place to live, a paradise where one ought to remain.

For others, the simple life is dull; isn’t exciting enough; lacks both economic opportunity and sexual adventure.

They leave, causing sorrow for those who choose to stay:

Do you think of the valley you're leaving
Oh, how lonely and dreary it will be
(Gene Autry: Red River Valley ~ Calhoun, et al)


The bright lights of city beckon:

Leave the valley, and across the ridge
Write a note that I need your head
(Bob Dylan: The Price Of Love)

Alas, city life has its own pitfalls:

Come down baby, I'm bark to wood
Found a snake in the neighbourhood
(Bob Dylan: The Price Of Love)

The snake, an archetypical representation of evil; something to be feared:

But never met this fellow
Attended or alone
Without a tighter breathing
And zero to the bone
(Emily Dickinson: A Narrow Fellow In The Grass)

Associated with Satan of the Holy Bible:

Slithering his way through the grass
He saw him disappear by a tree near the lake
Ah, I think I call it a (snake)
(Bob Dylan:  Man Gave Names To All The Animals)

And with people who “pull the wool” over your eyes:

Might a-been old master Wool
Met him on my way to school
(Bob Dylan: The Price Of Love)

Opportunistic politicians so considered:

Politician got on his jogging shoes
He must be running for office
Got no time to lose
(Bob Dylan: Summer Days)

As in the following song lyrics:

Well, I gotta run to serve
Wave on by me in the neighbourhood
(Bob Dylan: The Price Of Love)

Supposedly, everyone has a ‘free will’, a choice to be naughty or nice.

Or maybe it’s just the luck of the circumstance:

Well, it may be the Devil, or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody
(Bob Dylan: Gotta Serve Somebody)

When all is said and done, it’s Mr. Moloch, the lover of money, symbolized by the Golden Calf of Babylon, who rules:

How much you got with you today
Two dollar, one dollar, two dollar bill
If you don't, somebody else will
Ohh, the price of love, going up
(Bob Dylan: The Price Of Love)

Likewise expressed in the song beneath:

Fifty dollar, fifty dollar
Give me a hollar, fifty dollar
Who will bid it at a fifty dollar bill
(LeRoy Van Dyke: The Autioneer ~ Van Dyke/Black)

Light as a symbol of the unselfish spiritual life fades:

The evening sun is sinking low
The woods are dark, the town is too
(Bob Dylan: Summer Days)

The motif of Mankind caught between the light of goodness and the darkness of evil:

The evening sun is low ....
I stood between heaven and earth
(Bob Dylan: Crossing The Rubicon ~ variation)

And so it goes – whose side are you on?:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
(Robert Frost: Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening)


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