Bob Dylan And  Arthur Rimbaud (Part II)


Bob Dylan And  Arthur Rimbaud Part 1 can be found here


By Larry Fyffe

The French surrealist poet Arthur Rimbaud turns fairy tales and nursery rhymes up side down and inside out:

His feet in the yellow flags, he is sleeping
Smiling as a sick child might smile, he is having a nap
Cradle him warmly, Nature, he is cold
(Arthur Rimbaud: The Sleeper In The Valley)


Singer/songwriter Bob Dylan, follows Rimbaud down the same dark path to the latrines:

So brave and true was he, so gentle is he
I’ll weep for him as he’d weep for me
Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn
In Scarlet Town, where I was born


Ambiguous the words are for sure – apparently the narrator, and the one to whom he is speaking to in the song, they weep not easily.

The first reference is to the Holy Bible:

But Jesus turning unto them said
‘Daughters of Jerusalem weep not for me
But weep for yourselves, and for your children’

(Luke 23:28)

These words are spoken at the time Jesus is going to be put to death; he  shows no remorse to the authorities of the status quo for his rebellious behaviour, and in return asks for no pity; He’s got God on his side as far as He is concerned.

The second reference is to a nursery rhyme:

Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn
The sheep’s in the meadow
The cow’s in the corn
But where is the boy who looks after the sheep
He’s under the haystack, he’s fast asleep
Will you wake him?
No, not I
For if I do
He is sure to cry

(Nursery Rhyme)

Mixing in the message from the nursery rhyme – though He’s leaving everyone down on Earth to go astray, it’s best to leave the little shepherd Jesus alone  lest he starts to cry that he doesn’t really want to die.

It’s back to the Bible:

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye
At the last trump
For the last trumpet shall sound
And the dead shall be raised incorruptible
And we shall be changed

(I Corinthians 15:52)

Suggesting that the little boy eventually  gets to blast his horn, and though help comes too late to save Him from the cross, it comes just in the knick of time to save everybody else. The Universe unfolds as it should

The trumpet player asleep in the manger jumps up and begins to sing and dance that the times, they are a-changing.

Well anyhow, that’s one way to interpret the song ‘Scarlet Town’. Bob Dyan does not the dark as much as Rimbard does, and lights things up a little at the end of the song:

If love is a sin, beauty is a crime
All things are beautiful in their time

Rimbaud lights no such match:

In summer especially, he persisted
In locking himself up in the latrines
Where he reflected in peace, inhaling deeply
(Arthur Rimbaud: Summer)



Leave a Reply

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