It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry: Figurative Language In ‘Blood On The Tracks’

It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry:

Figurative Language In ‘Blood On The Tracks’

byLarry Fyffe

In the captain’s tower, T.S. Eliot sings ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ as the world’s
biggest metaphor slips beneath the waves; the jester, in his pointed shoes and bells, tosses his guitar overboard, grabs Mary Magdalene, jumps, and says, “I can find another one”.

‘Blood On The Tracks’ is full of innovative  tropes by Dylan, a number grounded in recent technological inventions from the automotive, to the locomotive, to the jetplane, and the modern ship:

“We drove the car as far as we could
Abandoned it out West
Split up on a dark sad night
Both agreeing it was best”
(Tangled Up In Blue)

Over-heated love compared to an automobile that burns itself out.

“And stopped into a strange hotel
With a neon burning bright
He felt the heat of the night
Hit him like a freight train
Moving with a simple twist of fate”
(Simple Twist Of Fate)

This time, it’s compared to being run over by a heavy locomotive.

“Time is a jet plane, it moves too fast
Oh, but what a shame if all we shared can’t last”
(You’re A Big Girl Now)

Love, like time, disppears, quickly like a jet plane.

“I haven’t known peace and quiet for so long, I can’t remember what it’s like
There’s a lone soldier on the cross, smoke pourin’ out of a boxcar door”
(Idiot Wind)

Love burned out compares to a train wreck.

“Now there’s a wall between us, something’ there’s been lost/
I took too much for granted, got my signals crossed”
(Shelter From The Storm)

Love wrecked, caused by an engineer’s carelessness.

Dylan makes it back to the ship:

“Look at the sun sinking like a ship
Ain’t that just like my heart, babe
When you kiss my lips”
(Meet Me In The Morning)

But there is no shelter; again that uneasy feeling that an unsinkable love is slipping beneath the waves.

So necessary is a little humour; not a sad love story,  not a lot of modern technology; just a happy love toy:

“Little red wagon
Little red bike
I ain’t no monkey
But I know what I like
I like the way you love me
Strong or slow
I’m takin’ you with me
When I go.”
(Buckets Of Rain)

To forget that:

“Down the highway, down the tracks, down the road to estasy
I followed you beneath the stars
haunted by your memory”.
(Idiot Wind)

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The Chronology Files

These files put Dylan’s work in the order written.  You can link to the files here


  1. Cinderella: Gramm Brothers

    When they passed the hazel tree, the birds sang,
    ‘Prithee, look back, prithee, look back,
    no blood on the tracks

  2. “You lost the battle, but you have a chance to win the war”

    – ‘On The Waterfront’ (movie)

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