By Larry Fyffe
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)
The Rococo Angel Glides
Having riden across the dusty desert sands with the likes of religious rebels William Blake and John Milton, the Jewish cowboy Bob Dylan takes not long to release the reins of Christian fundamentalism, and gallop off on his pale horse into the crimson sunset.
Guns no longer a-blazing, but both uplifting and sorrowful tunes croon concerning the limited ability to change the world for the better through individual endeavour:
Then onward in my journey I come to understand That every hair is numbered Like every grain of sand (Bob Dylan: Every Grain Of Sand)
Damned the narrator above be with faint praise; he’s greater than a bunch of small birds!:
But even the very hairs of your head are numbered Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows (Luke 12: 7)
Could it be that an extra sparrow thrown in by Satan somewhere down the line just might tip the scales?
The Devil’s not gonna serve anyone – he’s gonna be bigger than Jehovah.
No more praise for Jah as so ordered beneath:
Sing unto God, sing praises to His name Extolling Him that rideth upon the heavens by His name JAH And rejoice before Him (Psalm 68:4)
So it goes – lyrics below, self-parody perhaps, but still a masterpiece, with a quite a change of words by a latter day Trojan Aeneas, and also in the tone therein expressed:
Oh the streets of Rome are filled with rubble Ancient footprints are everywhere You can almost think that you're seeing double On a cold dark night by the Spanish stairs Got to hurry on back to my hotel room Gonna wash my clothes, scrape off all the weed I'm gonna lock my doors, turn my back on the world for a while I'll stay right there til I paint my masterpiece
Not always Shondellian times, there’s not:
Sailing around the world Full of crimson and clover Sometime I feel just like my coffee's running over I left Rome, and I pulled into Brussels On a plane ride so bumpy that it made me ill (Bob Dylan: When I Paint My Masterpiece ~ revised)
Nonetheless, Rococo’s little robin redbreast hangs around somewhere to chirp out all over:
The clouds are turning crimson The leaves fall from the limbs, and The branches cast their shadows over stone Meet me in the moonlight alone (Bob Dylan: Moonlight)