British and French writers in reference to Bob Dylan’s song lyrics


You may also be interested in American poets and writers to whom Dylan pays tribute: an index

By Larry Fyffe

Bob Dylan songs often crunch past and present and future time into a singularity.

To give listeners a linear time perspective on British/French poets and writers that Dylan actually or seemingly alludes to in his song lyrics, here are the birth and death dates of writers that I’ve referred to in my articles.

The writers cited are listed in chronological order by date of birth, and in each case followed by a one line summary of their position in literature.  Beneath that is a link to an article (or two) on this site that includes mention of this poet – although please do note that these range from articles that are primarily dedicated to the link between the poet and Bob Dylan, to articles that touch upon the writer in less detail.

We are aware from correspondence both from academics and students that this site is being used for the purposes of studying Bob Dylan’s work, and of course we find that incredibly gratifying.  Indeed we hope that this list might be of help in that work.

All that we ask in return is that if you do utilise this page, or indeed extract data from any other page from this site, you do cite the author of the page and the website “Untold Dylan” as the source.

British writers

Chaucer 1343 -1400
Canterbury Tales: Satirical narrative of Christians on holy pilgrimage

Spenser 1552 – 1599
Faerie Queen: Allegory of Christian Knights’ faith, charity, and moderation

Shakespeare 1564 – 1616
The Tempest: Fantasy that explores romance, sibling rivalry, and fatherly love

Donne 1572 -1631
For Whom The Bell Tolls: Conceits, extended metaphors satirising blind faith

Milton 1608-1674
Paradise Lost: God depicted as Satan

Blake 1757 – 1827
Jerusalem: Gnostic coexistence of light and dark, good and bad, body and soul

Burns 1759 – 1796
My Heart’s In Highlands: Anticleric Romantic visions of lost freedom

Wordsworth 1770 – 1850
Solidarity Reaper: Intuited transcendental Spirit of light throughout Nature

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)
The Fire-King: knightly romance

Coleridge 1772 – 1834
Kubla Khan: Dark aspects of earthly existence beneath the Spirit of light

Byron (1788-1824)

The Destruction Of Sennecherib: The struggle against oppression; nature and love have a dark side, but art endures

Shelley 1792 – 1822
Ode To The Westwind: Analogical hope for the return of youth and springtime

Keats 1795 – 1821
Ode To A Grecian Urn: Melancholic life juxtaposed with the lasting beauty of art

Tennyson 1809 – 1892
Charge Of The Light Brigade: A melancholic Pandeistc view of Darwinianism

Browning 1812 – 1889
Love Among The Ruins: A darkly humoured Gnostic vision of Darwinism

Carroll 1832 – 1898
Tweedledum And Tweedledee: Mirror images and reference to nursery rhymes

Swinburne 1837 – 1909
Delores: Catullus influenced where Christianity is depicted as a religion of pain

Oscar Wilde 1854-1900

  • The Picture Of Dorian Gray: Life imitates art

▪Bob Dylan And Oscar Wilde

(after Wordsworth) – Scott is Scottish so index can be expanded to include Scots

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)
The Fire-King: knightly romance

Bob Dylan And John Crowe Ransom (Part II)

Kipling 1865 – 1936
The Law Of The Jungle: the misapplication of Darwinism to human ‘races’

Yeats 1865 – 1939
The Second Coming: The eternal recurrence of authoritarianism and nihilism

Joyce 1882 – 1941
Ulyssess: An ironic Homeric reconciliation with an unfaithful wife

Eliot 1888 – 1965
The Waste Land: Conrad-influenced feeling of isolation in a materialistic society

Tolkien 1892 – 1973
All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter: The inversion of material and spiritual values

Graves 1895 – 1985
The White Goddess: Elimination of the Gnostic Goddess under Christianity

Auden 1907- 1973
Victor: Critique of the Christian call for vengeance against unfaithful women

Thomas 1914 – 1953
Children Of Darkness: Gnostic-like confrontation of the chains of Christianity

French writers

Villon 1431 – 1463
Ballad Of The Easy Life: The joy and comfort provided by material things

Charles Perrault (1628-1703)
Sleeping Beauty and other fairy stories

Bob Dylan: Paul Verlaine And Charles Perrault

Baudelaire 1821 – 1867
Seven Old Men: Surrealistic images of depraved beauty in the modern city

Verlaine 1844 – 1896
After Three Years: Triumph of man-made art over the beauty of organic nature

Ducasse 1846 – 1870
Songs Of Maldoror: Gnostic surrealism’s enough so Christian heaven can wait

Rimbaud 1854 – 1891
Subject Of Flowers: What a symbol stands for, an artist can freely choose

Breton 1896 – 1966
Freedom Of Love: Gnostic analogies alchemized from the world outside

What else is on the site

1: Over 450 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 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 produced 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 our articles on various writers’ lists of Dylan’s ten greatest songs.

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. W B Yeats and James Joyce are not British. They are from Ireland. Yeats is from Sligo and Joyce is from Dublin.

    Yeats was both a poet and a member of the Irish Senate.

    Joyce set all of his work in Dublin Ireland.

    I am astonished at your error. It would take one second to check the birthday of 2 of Ireland’s most gifted writers.

  2. something is happening here but you don’t what it is, do you mr. cahill?

    …I am astonished at your error. It would take one second to check the birthplace of bill yeats (Dublin, not Sligo)…he also spent much of his early years in London (Britain, not Ontario)

  3. You born under a log or something? You’re telling me nothing I don’t already know. In fact, who in hell does not know Joyce and Yeats are Irish?

    They wrote in English.

    The classification into only American/British writers is just to keep things simple.

    French writing needs to be translated for English-speakers. For example, Ducasse is not strictly French.

    I am surprised – nay astonished – that you would not be able to figure this out for yourself.

  4. You could put *- notes beside the names of Eliot, Auden, Burns, Kipling, and Dylan Thomas, as well.

  5. As the person who edits the site perhaps I may put my point of view on the issue of the use of the term British here.

    As far as I have always understood matters Yeats and Joyce were born British. The island of Ireland was part of the country we now call the United Kingdom until 1922, with the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. It had the status of dominion until 1937 when it effectively became a wholly independent country. (Beware though, if you type “When did Ireland become an independent country?” into Google you are liable to get a wholly wrong answer – the date they give – or gave when I looked it up – is the Easter uprising, which is not the date of independence.

    Indeed to add one point of detail, during the First World War (1914-18) over 200,000 soldiers from the country now called Ireland fought in the British army. It is an interesting number since although conscription was enforced in England, Scotland and Wales from 1917 onwards, it was never enforced on the island of Ireland and these men were volunteers fighting alongside compatriots from the rest of the kingdom, and of course the Allied forces.

  6. Simple ?
    Let’s call all Americans Mexican then.

    How hard is it to get something sooo simple right. My God – find another job- a simple one!.

  7. I am sure if you called Yeats and Joyce British to their face – they would tell you to go

    Let’s call everyone in California Mexican – as it was once part of Mexico

    Or everyone in the UK French- as it was once part of France

  8. Cahill, you miss my point….i’m not calling either Yeats or Joyce ‘British’, but am simply placing their writings under that label for the sake of simplicity – to separate them from the list of ‘American’ writers that I also include.

    The latter can be separated further into ‘New England’ writers if one wants to go to the trouble, but my main point was to make a simple index of writers.

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