by Larry Fyffe
Bob Dylan And The Rastas
Singer/songwriter Bob Dylan takes on the persona of Odysseus more than once.
Thus speaks the Greek hero to Polyphemus:
Would to God that I could strip you of life and breath And ship you down to the house of death As surely as no one will ever heal your eye Not even the earthquake god himself (Homer: The Odyssey, Book IX, translation)
Poseidon (Neptune), maker of earthquakes, is the father of the one-eyed Cyclops; it’s Poseidon’s son, Polyphemus, whom Odysseus blinds.
Quite understandable that Poseidon’s son, an eater-of-human-flesh, is angry at the Greek warrior Odysseus for shoving a burning stick in his eye which causes loss of sight; not surprising either that the father of Polyphemus is unhappy about that too.
Sorrowful Trojan Aeneas(according to poet Virgil) heads off to Rome, Italy, after the Greek victory over his beloved Troy.
Aeneas, so the story goes, splashes a royal blood line on the Italian boot.
In the song lyrics below, dark humour – again rhyming ~ ‘death’ with ~ ‘breath’:
I'll strip you of life, strip you of breath Ship you down to the house of death One day you will ask for me There'll be no one else that you'll want to see (Bob Dylan: Early Roman Kings)
That is, readers thereof have to be aware of ancient Greek/Roman mythology to ‘get’ the joke.
Furthermore note that Greek/Roman mythology and the Hebrew/Christian religion (ie, King Solomon and Queen of Sheba) both tend to paint the dark-skinned peoples of Ethiopia into a Romantc dream-like, earth-bound, paradisal picture:
.... I wandered, and Egypt And I came to the Ethiopians (Homer: The Odyssey, Book IV)
Princes shall come out of Egypt Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God (Psalm 68: 31)
And in the epic poem of rebellion against etablished authority beneath (see also Samuel Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan”):
Nor where Abassin kings their issue guard Mount Amara, though this by some supposed True paradise under the Ethiop line (John Milton: Paradise Lost, Book IV)
Little wonder that Mr. Skeptic puts his bleeding foot in the salted song bath below:
So let so not be enticed On the way out of Egypt through Ethiopia To the judgement hall of Christ (Bob Dylan: Precious Angel)
Apparently, after Jah (Jehovah), the black God, finishes the battle between good and evil, Africans sold as slaves (to America – the New Babylon, giant Polyphemus personified) will be delivered back to their blissful home in Ethiopia.
The Stabber Of Polyphemus
In vain do some analysts of his song lyrics downplay the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to singer/songwriter/musician Bob Dylan.
For Dylan, mythological Polyphemus, the one-eyed Cyclopes, man-eater, son of earth-shaker Neptune (like the biblical Whore Of Babylon, like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein monster – even Mattel’s plastic blonde Barbie doll) represents America.
Apparently, Polyphemus has a number of Jungian friends:
He looks so truthful, is this how he feels When he tries to peel the moon and expose it With his businesslike anger, and his bloodhounds that kneel If he needs a third eye, he just grows it (Bob Dylan: Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window)
According to the English Gothic Romantic poet beneath, dark dragons and demons inhabit what initially seems a sunny Eden:
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover A savage place! as holly and enchanted As ever beneath a waning moon was haunted By woman wailing for her demon-lover (Samuel Coleridge: Kubla Khan)
So beware, beware, one needs to be of symbolic Satan ~ no server intends he to be though all Hell breaks loose beneath:
And in the lowest deep, a lower deep Still threatening to devour me opens wide To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heaven (John Milton: Paradise Lost, Part IV)
In the song lyrics beneath, the demon-narrator takes on the role of a cold-hearted lover:
The wind howls like a hammer The night blows cold and raining My love she's like some raven At my window with a broken wing (Bob Dylan: Love Minus Zero)
But the poetic lyrics below assert that it’s better to be like Trojan Aeneas ~ to show compassion, and avoid hubris:
Roman, remember by your strength to rule Earth people's - for your arts to be these To pacify, to impose the rule of law To spare the conquered, battle down the proud (Virgil: The Aeneid, Book VI ~ translated)
Expressed in the following song lyrics:
I'm going to spare the defeated I'm going to speak to the crowd I'm going to spare the defeated 'Cause I'm going to speak to the crowd I'm going to teach peace to the conquered I'm going to tame the proud (Bob Dylan: Lonesome Day Blues)
Virtues learned from the blowing wind when down in the now-modernized Underworld of Ancient Greece:
Key West, under the sun, under the radar, under the gun You stay to the left, and then you lean to the right Feel the sun on your skin, and the healing virtues of the wind (Bob Dylan: Key West)