Bob Dylan And John Keats (Part III)
by Larry Fyffe
Earlier Parts of this series are available at
Ye who holds that Bob Dylan knows not his Keats, knows not Bob Dylan. The singer/songwriter shows regret at not being able to establish a permanent love relationship:
In the lyrics above, the narrator accepts the reality of impermanence in relationships – he’s moving on:
Bob Dylan is sorry.
For Romantic poet John Keats, a permanent relationship is the be-all and end-all of desire:
(John Keats: Bright Star)
John Keats is sad.
Both Dylan and Keats show Gnostic influence. There be alliterative snake-like ‘s’ sounds prominent in both their pieces, suggesting oxymoronic reticence mixed with danger. Bob Dylan keeps alert. Like Keats, he’s aware of the sleepless shape-shifting female of Greek mythology who seduces men and then consumes them. Her name is Lamia. In the poem above, Keats (or at least his persona) is willing to put up with the ‘sweet unrest’. If only she would lie beside him, Keats is ready to sacrifice everything.
Aware of Egyptian mythology, Bob Dylan envisions a war that is not only going on between the sexes, but within oneself; he mixes the mythological gods together as the ancient Egyptians did over time themselves:
Some mythologists consider that Seth, the God of Disorder and a brother of Isis, be symbolized by a snake and a hyena.
Christianity, for Dylan, brings pieces of compassion to fit in the cosmological puzzle:
From Dylan’s perspective, the Jesus-like Lady has a ‘mercury mouth’ – tasted, it could be poisonous.
In a John Keats poem, two lovers safely flee together:
(John Keats: The Eve Of St. Agnes)
In a Dylan song, dice are rolled, and you take your chances – bad luck should they come up ‘snake eyes’:
There’s a lot of Keats in Dylan – he takes his cake and eats it too.
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