Bob Dylan Pawns His Watch (Parts I and II)

by Larry Fyffe

As sure as “Roll on John” by Bob Dylan is about the biblical apostle St. John, more clear it could not be that the narrator in “Crossing The Rubicon” is out to get The Evangelist.

In the song, a time-shifted “Caesar” realizes that the apostle is in fact Beelzebub, the Lord of the Flies, in disguise.

Saint Jermone claims John survives being thrown in a vat of boiling oil, but the narrator in the song paints his wagon, crosses the brook-like Pyramus River (the Rubicon’s merely a symbolic stand-in), and assures one and all that the so-called “Evangelist” won’t escape death this time.

Indeed, the song is in the format of a murder ballad:

I'll cut you up with a crooked life, Lord 
And I'll miss you when you're gone
I stood between Heaven and Earth
And I crossed the Rubicon

After declaring that the Jews kill Jesus, St. John envisions that he’s saddled up a white horse, thrown off his cloak; revealing himself to be Beelzebub; now he is going after his arch-enemy the Almighty.

In short, Satan takes on an image akin to Napoleon Bonaparte:

And I saw, and behold a white horse
And he that sat on him had a bow
And a crown was given unto him
And he went forth conquering
And to conquer
(Revelation 6:2)

It’s up to the narrator, a golden-haired, lyre-playing Apollo character, to put an end to this disguised evil-doer, the Great Deceiver:

Show me one good man in sight
That the sun shines down upon
I pawned my watch, I paid my debts
And I crossed the Rubicon

Like a Robin Hood, the song’s narrator is a rebel, an enemy of King John:

How much longer can it last
How much longer can it go on
I embrace my love, put down my hair
And I crossed the Rubicon

It’s also clear that as the sun-god Apollo, the narrator is accompanied, at least in spirit, by his twin sister, the moon-goddess Mona (also known as Diana and Artemis):

Mona, baby, are you still in my mind
I truly believe that you are
Couldn't be anybody else but you
Who's come with me this far

The give-away of course is that apostle John is portrayed in the Bible as celibate.

However, the narrator declares:

I feel the bones beneath my skin
And they're trembling with rage
I'll make your wife a widow
You'll never see old age

Beelzebub has many ‘wives’ in fact:

Well, you have defiled the most lovely flowers
In all of womanhood

Knows that Beezelbub, a harbinger of death, having shape-shifted from a big fly into a big snake (in the Holy Bible, represented as the Morning Star known as “Lucifer”) in order to seduce Eve.

Says the serpent, bigger is better:

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds
I will be like the most High
(Isaiah 14:14)

Just goes to show that some people are too loose with the facts.


Bob Dylan Pawns His Watch (Part II)

The singer/songwriter/musician likes to mix mythologies and short stories.

Patmos is a Greek Island close to the shore of Turkey; its former name is Letois, Leto being the mother of the Sun God Apollo and Moon Goddess Artemis, fathered by Zeus in Olympian mythology. The twins lift the island from the bottom of the Aegean Sea.

One interpretation of the New Testament has Roman Emperor Domitian exile “Apostle” John there where he writes the “Book of Revelation”.

More than once the narrator in Dylan songs is depicted as Apollo.

For instance:

Blood drying in my yellow hair
As I go from shore to shore
(Bob Dylan: Angelina)

And this:

He's pulling her down
And she's clutching on to his long golden locks
(Bob Dylan: Changing Of The Guards)

Throw a bit of clever Caesar salad into the mix, and you have “Crossing The Rubicon”.

All it takes is a little stir to mix Apollo, Artemis, and John together; add some Satire, and what do you get?

Apollo tracing down Apostle John who reveals himself to be the Antichrist  in Revelations 6:2.

Apollo’s there too:

And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven
Clothed with a cloud
And a rainbow was upon his head
And his face was as it were the sun
And his feet as pillars of fire
(Revelation 10: 1)

Accompanied the ‘angel’ is by Diana, the Moon:

Mona, baby, are you still in my mind
I truly believe that you are
Couldn't be anybody else but you
Who's come with me this far
(Bob Dylan: Crossing The Rubicon)

However, without the help of Edgar Allan Poe’s detective who among us would have realized what the following lyrics mean?:

Go back to the gutter, try your luck
Find yourself a nice pretty boy
Tell me how many men I need
And who can I count upon
(Bob Dylan: Crossing The Ribicon)

Poe’s poet/detective Dupin explains that the eight-year-old boy is supposedly “lucky” because he wins at “guessing” whether marbles hidden in players’ hands are odd or even by taking into account “the reasoner’s intellect with that of his opponent”; therefore, the suspected ‘D’ decides to leave an object searched for by police ‘hidden’ in plain sight (The Purloined Letter).


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