Dylan’s Every Grain Of Sand Revisited (Part II)


Part one of this article is here…


By Larry Fyffe

Kees de Graaf, an examiner of Bob Dylan’s song lyrics finds ‘Every Grain Of Sand’ to be a devotional song that’s been fermented in the vats of Christian beliefs; apparently, for de Graaf there can be only one proper interpretation – the song’s all about confessing and repenting in order to get God’s help in resisting temptation:

I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer’s dream, in the chill of a wintry light
In the bittter dance of loneliness fading into space
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face
(Bob Dylan: Every Grain Of Sand)

In the lyrics above, Dylan quite likely references the plight of the sad-eyed lady from ‘Twelfth Night’, and at the same time refers to two other plays by William Shakespeare – ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘The Winter’s Tale’. In any event, one detects in a number of his song lyrics that Dylan detests Christian intolerance of those with a same sex orientation:

I been to Babylon
I gotta confess
I could still hear the voice crying
in the wilderness
(Bob Dylan: Someone’s Got A Hold Of My Heart)

Nor is it an orthodox Christian view on sexuality that William Blake puts forth in his poetry, ie, the bitter fading out of the innocence of youth – a view taken in Dylan’s “Every Grain Of Sand” above, and presented in the Blake verse below:

I wandered through each chartered street
Near where the chartered Thames does flow
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe
(William Blake: London)

And William Blake in his day wonders why God permits church fathers to ignore the cries of child chimney-sweeps, and allows the blood of soldiers to run down palace walls. Bob Dylan questions how a loving God can cast Adam and Eve into a world that has an H-Bomb hovering over every town:

So now that I’m leavin’
I’m weary as hell
The confusion I’m feeling
Ain’t no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
That if God’s on our side
He’ll stop the next war
(Bob Dylan: With God On Our Side)

The use of irony and black humour by Dylan in songs concerning social values is often lost on examiners of his lyrics who are doctrinaire in their religious beliefs – so much so that alternate interpretations of such songs are often overlooked.

For example, in the following lyrics, the singer/songwriter notes that he’s already confessed seemingly quite without any effect, and so, in the face of possible danger, he’s getting out of town with the other folks. As Snagglepuss the cat says in the cartoons – “exodus, stage right”:

Everybody going and I want to go too
Don’t want to take a chance with somebody new
I did all I could, and I did it right there and then
I’ve already confessed, no need to confess again
(Bob Dylan: Thunder On The Mountain)

Can you blame the townspeople? Nowadays, Zeus, the God of Thunder, in his wrath, besides having control of whirlwinds and twisters, has bolts of H-Bombs to throw down on the sinful:

And all the people saw the thundering, and the lightnings
And the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking
And when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off
(Exodus 20:19)

A serious gospel song Dylan is capable of singing, but a Mark Twain sense of humour he retains when singing about a real nuclear, rather than a mythological, apocalypse:

Well, I spied me a girl, and before she could leave
I said “Let’s go play Adam and Eve”
I took her hand, and my heart it was thumpin’
When she said, “Hey, man, you crazy or somethin’
You see what happened last time they started”
(Bob Dylan: Talkin’ World War III Blues)


The Untold Dylan review of this song appears here

What else is on the site

1: Over 480 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. ‘Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left’, saith the Lord
    (Isaiah 39: 6)
    The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God’
    (Isaiah 40:3)

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