The mythologies that inspire Bob Dylan: Take your pick and Poss the Boss


By Larry Fyffe


Take Your Pick

With the benefit of a hindsight twist, and already noted, the alligator/allegory works just as well with Walt Kelly’s Albert Alligator construed as Albert Grossman (instead of Allen Ginsberg).

Grossman, the real-life business manger of  the young singer/songwriter Bob Dylan, links himself figuratively by a golden chain to naive ‘Possum Bobby, the latter holding onto the short end of the chain.

Pogo’s advised to escape into the isolated Okefenokee Swamp to get away from the greed of capitalist whoremongers:

....(D)on't go mistaking Paradise
For that home across the road
(Frankie Lee And Judas Priest)

In Walt Kelly’s newspaper cartoon, the “Deacon” invites  Simple J. Malarkey to join with him in order to protect guillible swampers from the intrusion of outsiders, from the bad influence of nonbelievers, from those terrible Commie trouble-makers.

Describes Simple as:

...(A) good wing shot, and a keen eye
Already I feel more secure
(Walt Kelly: 'Possum Pogo)

In the song lyrics beneath, gun-carrying right-winger Senator J. McCarthy-types are lampooned:

Me, I romp and stomping
Thankful as I romp
Without freedom of speech
I might be in the swamp
(Bob Dylan: Motoropsycho Nightmare)

Albert Grossman burlesqued as a materialistic capitalist – he’s Albert Alligator, the biblical 666 Beast with its tail in the sea.

Pogo meets the enemy at the gates, and he is him.

Poss The Boss

The song lyrics below indicate that the biblical ‘end-times’ of the Earth could be at hand …or maybe not:

Crash on the levee, mama
Water's gonna overflow
Swamp's gonna rise
No boats gonna row
(Bob Dylan: Crash On the Levee)

Betwixt and between the Heaven and Hell of Homer, of Shakespeare, of Milton, of Blake, and of Poe, lies the never-ending stretch of swampland depicted by newspaper cartoonist Walt Kelly.

Moving right along.

In a vision early one evening, I saw “Pogo” wading through the Okefenokee Swamp with swagman Al the alligator.

There in the muddy water, the fussy opossum spies a heap of broken plastic cups floating under a kookaburra tree.

Pogo turns to Allen, and says: “The enemy is at the gate.”

Al smiles, says  back to him: “Yes, Bob, he is us!”

There are a lot of damp and warmy stories dawn by singer/songewriter Bob Dylan, from swampland like the Okefenokee, that feature two of Kelly’s dozen or so heroes.

Famous as the cartoon characters that they appear to be, the two spend quite a bit of time tilting at Dutch windmills:

Mr Jinx and Miss Lucy, they jumped in the lake
I'm not that eager to make a mistake
(Bob Dylan: Things Have Changed)

However, wide awake and serious be Pogo Opossum, his pals too, at other times:

I lay awake at night with troubled dreams
The enemy is at the gate
(Bob Dylan: Tell Old Bill)

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