The Great White Wonder: Bob Dylan And Robert Graves

By  Larry Fyffe

The fuzzy-categorized, overlapping writings in the Judeo-Christian Bible, in Romantic Transcendentalist poetry, in Romantic Gothic poetry, in Symbolist poetry, in Neo-Romantic and AntiRomantic Modern poetry, and in Post-Modern poetry, all have influences to varying degrees on Bob Dylan song lyrics and on his music.

But not so great an influence as the PreRomantic Swedenborg-tinged poetry of the mystic William Blake with his poetic quest to find a suitable balance amongst the Classic entangled elements of Earth, Air, Water, and Fire, that represent man’s Imagination, his Spirit, his Power, and his Desire.

A world-view which evolves from time out of mind,  when the female-component of the God Hermaphrodite dominates the Cosmos:

“Then the lips that you have kissed
Turn to frost and fire
And a white-steaming mist
Obsures desire
So back to the birth
Fade water, air, earth
And the First Power moves
Over void and dearth”
(Robert Graves: The Kiss)

The symbol of the Female, the all-powerful Mother Goddess, the white mist, that gives birth to the male, feeds him, holds him, has sex with him, serves as a Muse to his poetic and musical ambitions, and, in the end, envolopes him.

The omnipotent presence of the Great White Wonder Goddess shedding her kisses and her tears, Bob Dylan often depicts in his song lyrics:

“My love she speaks like silence
Without ideals or violence
She doesn’t have to say she’s faithful Yet she’s true like ice, like fire”
(Bob Dylan: Love Minus Zero/No Limit)

In the words of a poet that Bob Dylan admires:

“Green sap of Spring in the young world a-stir
Will celebrate the Mountain Mother
And every song-bird start awhile for her
But I am gifted, even in November
Rawest of seasons, with so huge a sense
Of her nakely worn magnificence
I forget cruelty and past betrayal
Careless of where the next bright bolt may fall”
(Robert Graves: The White Goddess)

Again the lyrics of the singer/songwriter:

“You’re the one that reaches me
You’re the one that I admire
Every time we meet together
My soul feels like it’s on fire
Nothing matters to me
And there’s nothing I desire
‘Cept you, yeah, you”
(Bob Dylan: Nobody ‘Cept You)

A mysticism found also in the songs and music of a band Dylan associates with:

“You know the rules by now
And the fire from the ice
Will you come with me? Won’t you come with me?”
(Grateful Dead: Uncle John’s Band)

And in the verses of a Medieval poet:

“The dark thought, the shame, the malice
Greet them at the door laughing
And invite them in”
(Mawlana Rumi: The Guest House)

A final word from the Dylan on the matter:

“Can’t help looking at you
You made love with god-knows-who
Never found a gal to match you
I can’t escape from you”
(Bob Dylan: Can’t Escape From You)

An Einstein, disguised as Robin Hood, Bob Dylan reaches out for a Unified Field Theory.

What is on the site

1: Over 360 reviews of Dylan songs.  There is an index to these in alphabetical order on the home page and an index to the songs in the order they were written in the Chronology Pages.

2: The Chronology.  We’ve taken all the songs we can find recordings of and put them in the order they were written (as far as possible) not in the order they appeared on albums.  The chronology is more or less complete and is now linked to all the reviews on the site.  We have also recently started to produce overviews of Dylan’s work year by year.     The index to the chronologies is here.

3: Bob Dylan’s themes.  We publish a wide range of articles about Bob Dylan and his compositions.  There is an index here.

4:   The Discussion Group    We now have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook.  Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

5:  Bob Dylan’s creativity.   We’re fascinated in taking the study of Dylan’s creative approach further.  The index is in Dylan’s Creativity.

6: You might also like: A classification of Bob Dylan’s songs and partial Index to Dylan’s Best Opening Lines

And please do note   The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, is starting to link back to our reviews.


  1. It appears however when looking at his work as a whole that Dylan takes a somewhat Gnostic view that envisions a world in which the White Goddess has been downgraded to a Goddess whose status is not on even terms with her male God counterpart…represented by the Moon which merely reflects the light of the Sun.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *