Tarantula: 20: Your Harmless Fate and 21: Thelonius

20: Your Harmless Fate 

by Larry Fyffe

Some of the pilgrims on their way discuss art and philosophy:

One says to the other that James Whistler creates “art for art’s sake”, and it doesn’t matter one iota that a portrait he paints is of his mother; the arrangement is what counts, not the expression of any sentimentality or morality.

The other, a follower of Carl Jung, tells the tale below that illustrates that you have to gather what you can from coincidence:

(T)he little old man is planning revenge
just as the same old time train
shakes his whistler's mother painting off the wall
& it gooses him too
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

Lilith-reversed Debbie Reynolds of “How the West was Lost” divorces her two-timing husband Eddie Fisher; her second husband Harry Karl is a wealthy shoe salesman, and a gambler to boot.

Harry, he gets himself into the portrait:

Harie Carl & the Cruel Mother teasing at your
harmless fate
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

Meanwhile back at a ranch in Angola, the Portuguese military attacks rebels – Africans therein who want to rid themselves of their European masters.

Not to worry, says a traveller to his gal: existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre in his book “Nausea” agrees with Friedrich Nietzsche that God is dead; but that just gives individuals more freedom to think for themselves.

To make his point, the Sartrized guy decides to exercise his new-found freedom.

And it’s not to protest the colonial war:

Angola being bombed this morning
i right now am happy with nausea ....
i am leaving my kid on your doorstep
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

There are three motley, and saucy, groups in the parade:

1) The Existentialists, led by Albert Camus’ author of “The Myth Of Sisyphus”.

Monk says he has made an important decision for him:

(H)e's with the angels now
& he says "all's useless - useless"
(Bob Dylan: Tranantula)

2) The Instinctualists, led by H.D. Lawrence, author of “The Rocking-Horse Winner”:

& instinct, poet of the antique zenith
putting on his hoofs
& whinnying "all's not useless
all is very signifying"
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

3) The Pied Pipers, led by Bob Dylan; he takes the middle path:

& the insane pied piper
stealing the Queen's Pawn
& the conquering war cry
"neither - neither"
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)


Without your love
I'd be nowhere at all
Oh, what would I do
If not for you
(Bob Dylan: If Not For You)


21: Thelonius

Besides ‘Miss Lucy’ from the ” Sweet Bird Of Youth”, there’s ‘Lucy Brown’, and ‘Pirate Jenny’ from the “Threepenny Opera”. Its theme ~ capitalist “morality” promotes self-interest even among the poor; the wealthy exploit everyone; the poor, a few.

Suky Tawdry, Jenny Diver
Lotte Lenya,  sweet Lucy Brown
Yes, the line forms on the right, dear
Now that Macheath's back in town
(Louis Armstrong: Mack The Knife ~ Weill/Brecht/Blitzstein)

A theme repeated in the song lyrics below:

Steal a little, and they throw you in jail
Steal a lot, and they make you king
(Bob Dylan: Sweetheart Like You)

In the “Threepenny Opera”, Jenny Diver, akin to the story of Judas and the donkey-riding Jesus, betrays her lover and pimp Macheath for a promised reward.

Goes a tale told to the pilgrims on their way to New York City:

"(I) still aint gonna tell you nothing about jenny"
he calls me an idiot & I say "here take my donkey
if it'll make you feel any better"
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

Jenny apparently gets around:

Jenny's a-wet, poor body
Jenny's seldom dry
She dirtied her petticoat
Coming through the rye
(Robert Burns: Coming Through The Rye)

In the make-believe world of the ‘Threepenny Opera’, Macheath escapes death from hanging.

Likewise, the Christi-like figure in the song lyrics below:

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

In the opera, the Bible’s interpreted so as to coincide with one’s own self-interest.

Reminds of the following lines:

Only you, who believe what suits you
Could speak so badly of thelonius baker
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

Thelonius Monk’s a piano-playing jazz musician that Dylan likes listening to, and  meets in New York City.

Though few songs by Dylan can properly be described as jazz:

To each his own
It's all unknown
If dogs run free
(Bob Dylan: If Dog's Run Free)

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2 Responses to Tarantula: 20: Your Harmless Fate and 21: Thelonius

  1. Larry Fyffe says:

    Thelonious Sphere Monk

    as in:

    Wrigley’s Spear Mint

  2. Larry Fyffe says:

    (sp) *Christ- like

    ** Thelonious Monk

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