Nettie Moore: The world has gone black before Bob Dylan’s eyes


by Joost Nillissen

There is a man sitting on the railroad track. They never called him Lost John before, but now they do, because he’s in trouble deep. He’s about to leave the stage. The blues hit him like a hammer hits the nail. Something is out of whack.

He could travel the world, he thinks, but it would only be to return to the arms of Nettie Moore. So what’s the point? It is all struggle and strife and anything might go wrong. He might not even make it back home alive.

But what do you expect from the oldest son of a crazy man? Time is running out for him. While on the road he has done a lot of bad things and hiding in a cowboy band is no longer an option. The countdown has begun, there will be a prize to pay, but even as the net is closing in on him, he’ll still  walk through a blazing fire for his Nettie Moore.

Looking back on a long life he can tell the world has gone berserk. Like everybody else he was brought up in one religion or another, never paid any attention, but now that he is reaching the end of his trail, he’s beginning to believe what the scriptures tell.

He’d like to go back one more time to the loneliest place on earth with that huge cross in the empty fields, the place where the Southern crosses the Yellow Dog, just to get away from people’s opinions and orders from the D.A.

All the time that Nettie’s not with him, bad luck women follow him around, nagging him to be careful in this dance and to lay of the booze. How he misses his Nettie Moore. There is no none left here to tell.

He wonders why his baby never looked so good before, then realizes he has to wonder no more. He is going to need all night to eat all that food she prepared for his last meal. Earlier he faced his  judge who said “rise” and he rose and he said: “Whatever you have to say won’t come as any surprise to me. Just don’t call me any names.”

Shivering in his cell he can tell it’s getting light outside, temperature is down. Vengeance was on his mind all night, plotting a different ending, to make the powers that be come to grips with fate. He’d like to teach them how to keep their business straight.

But in the meantime it is Nettie Moore who rules his heart. You couldn’t cut their love apart and when he is with her, all his grief gives way. He could live with her forever and it would be like a heavenly day. But the world has gone black before his eyes.

Now that he is about to meet his maker at the end of winter, when the river is on the rise, he’ll raise a voice of praise. He is standing in the light, wishing to God it were night. Then the world goes black before his eyes.

Today I’ll stand in faith and raise
The voice of praise
The sun is strong, I’m standing in the light
I wish to God that it were night

Oh, I miss you Nettie Moore
And my happiness is o’er
Winter’s gone, the river’s on the rise
I loved you then and ever shall
But there’s no one here that’s left to tell
The world has gone black before my eyes

What else is on the site

1: Over 400 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.  A second index lists the articles under the poets and poetic themes cited – you can find that 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


  1. In a little white cottage
    Where the trees are evergreen
    And the climbing roses bloom at the door
    I’ve often sat and listened to the birds
    And the gentle voice of charming Nettie Moore

  2. 1870! Hey, hang in there….you don’t sound ‘that’ weary….for a guy who’s nearly a 150 years old!!!

  3. The song is 150 years old! You quoted the first verse, I took the last.

    For the interested readers: Lyricists A. Green & Marshall Pike, published in the late sixties of the 19th century in Macon, Georgia. Easily found online.

  4. That figures… for a youngster like you, laughing out loud, laying on lime, or lying on line, loving on Lesbos and the Loot of Litotes.
    Besides, I had the benefit of the thousands of other readers in mind. I don’t want them to think I smell like an old-age-home.

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