Bound in Irons

by Larry Fyffe

In ancient Mesopotamian mythology, Inanna/Ishtar persuades her father, the Sky God, by threatening to do bad things, to unleash the Bull of Heaven to attack well-dressed Gilamesh, a city king, because he refuses her sexual advances.

With the help of the king’s country companion, who pulls its tail, the Bull is slain. For his participation, the poor country fellow is punished by the gods – sent to the Underworld.

The Gilamesh narrative somewhat akin to that of biblical Jacob’s son who’s sold into Egyptian slavery by brothers envious of his many-coloured coat.

And it came to pass after these things
That his master's wife cast her eye upon Joseph
And she said, "Lie with me"
But he refused ...
(Genesis 39: 7, 8)

The master’s wife tells a different story about the episode whereby Joseph ends up in prison due to another coat of his being stolen. Just as his envious brothers had done with Joseph’s many-coloured one, dipped it in blood in order to falsely show Jacob that his son was killed and dragged away off by a beast:

(H)e came in unto me to lie with me
And I cried with a loud voice ...
That he left his garment with me, and fled
And got him out
(Genesis 39: 14, 15)

Narratives that could be said to be burlesqued by the following song lyrics about Rita, a farmer’s daughter:

I said, "Oh, no, no, I've been through this movie before"
I knew I had to split, but I did not know how
When she said, " Would you like to take that shower now?"
Well I couldn't leave unless the old man chased me out
'Cause I'd already promised that I'd milk his cows
I had to say something to strike him really weird
So I yelled, "I like Fidel Castro and his beard"
(Bob Dylan: Motorpsycho Nightmare)

And then there’s the song lyrics below:

I tried to love and protect you because I cared
I'm gonna remember forever the joy we shared
Looking at you, I'm on my bended knee
You have no idea what you do to me
I'm twenty miles out of town, cold irons bound
(Bob Dylan: Cold Irons Bound)


The narrator in the song above is rather jubilant given that he’s shackled, and supposedly on his way to prison.

After all, imprisoned Joseph ends up becoming a favourite of the Egyptian court because he interprets the Pharaoh’s dreams.

A Dylan spoof perhaps on the Puritan creed that God has already chosen who’s going to be saved and who’s not.

Akin to the Gilamesh mythology, in the Puritan allegory quoted beneath, the main character Christian has a companion who gets burned at the stake due to false testimony. Not so Christian; from Prince Beelzebub’s town that’s full of jugglers and clowns, Christian escapes alive; his friend lifted up to Heaven.

Says he ~ should you wish to accompany a Puritan you must:

... stand by him, too, when bound in irons
as well as when he walketh the streets with applause
(John Bunyan: Pilgrim's Progress, Section VII)

A motif that is observed in the following song:

But I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colours
Momma made for me
Made just for me
(Dolly Parton: Coat Of Many Colours)

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