Bob Dylan’s Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands. (A song for Sara his wife).


By Sandra Tibble

He feels helpless to rescue her from her fate which is  inextricably tied to their sad ending in marriage.

It is a fait accompli. He had the strange joy of loving her and now the awakened mind sings to the impending loss of her forever. The reality is sobering. There is a joy in the sadness as the love has happened, it was real.

Having to feel her moods and her temperaments pass away from and through him as something he will forever be connected to and haunted by. He has a deep abiding love for her and sings in poetic ways his endearment to her. His energy is suggested in the song as it seems long but it has to be to stay connected in spirit with words as long as he can.
He is sharing with us through songs his deepest moments of adoration that is not felt by his wife, she is a ghost.

Her eyes are sad as she seeks to escape from her torment to leave her lover her keeper her soul to another place of which she has faith but knows not where. Her soul is being purged out of necessity to travel spiritually away from where she has stayed for a time with her
lover and feeling bondage, not the love she had wished nor hoped for. Time had played a cruel trick.

Was the love all in vain? No, as she is sad because she knows she must hurt him even though he realizes she is leaving he is hopeful in his song that she will see it’s just a phase she is going through. It is not and the finality of it makes the observer feel discouraged at the inability of him to pass through the pain as easily as she does. To not break down
he is the muse of his own tragic drama. The words are so lyrical and light but they cannot hide the undercurrent of the agony of losing his lover.

He feels her and knows her intimately as she reminisces from the deepest corners of his soul and of his heart. He reaches out to her beyond the confines of trinkets and reflections which only the man who loves her could know, the moon, the cross she wore around her
neck. Of the sensuality they shared and how bound they were and close.

The moon is significant as it haunts him as to how he saw her dark eyes and the pain he felt that he would always be immersed in the sad memory of deepest a love he has for her by objectifying his love of her eyes.

The light of the Moon reaches the earth and illuminates all around it, softly touching it.
The moon could be of her touch her presence he could feel it despite and without her touching him at all. He is awakening from a nightmare, only to find it is not a dream. He can search for her and he cannot find her.

Through his gypsy ways of lightness there is an impasse to her soul that lies out of reach to his touch and his words soft as silk and unlike rope cannot bind her, his gentle gliding force cannot hold onto her and she slowly painfully slips from his grasp. He once held her
attention as lovers but she could not stay lost in searching for herself, somewhere out there.

She leaves to find herself, no reflection on Bob…  He is the conduit to which she knows she must leave him. The strength she has been drawn from her spring of love that came to her but did not challenge her and so neither lost her.

Lastly, where can she find someone who loves her as terribly as he does. As lonely as he gets he knows it is gone and she remains in physical form in his mind and that is how he holds onto her beautiful memory and his time with her, intimate and soft and loving
even in parting with his song. The gentle love is still lingering hoping to capture her if only for a memory and a moment in his song for her and for him to remember always him,
and how he thought of her, haunting to the depths of his imagination.

A song like this takes everyone deeper into the emotions of a man’s heartbreak and it’s beautiful imagery of loss and loneliness yet the unbreakable human spirit she has to end their most holy union. Yet the impression she has left on his the soul will remain for a lifetime makes it immortal. She had taught him what it is to love someone so deeply and completely.

Yes, he can witness and understand her leaving but the torment on him is unforgettable and he forgives her. So he has loved and lost her and he thinks about that and sings to a memory that he never wants nor needs to forget. Like the time-honoured cliche, it is better
to have loved and have lost than never to have loved at all. The richness of the experience has changed him forever.

Love like energy can never die.  That is what makes this song so beautiful it is casting shadows on the ground that will return as long as the Sun is shining upon the ground. Love is eternal and only ends in a strange loop.

This article first appeared on Untold Dylan as a comment and was published as an article with the author’s permission.

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  1. Surprisingly, you do not know the facts. The song was recorded on February 16, 1966 and released on Blonde on Blonde on May 16, 1966. And that was the beginning of the marriage, starting loving her.

  2. The album is indeed called ‘Blond on Blond’, which has always suggested to me ambiguity and shifting perspectives. For example, I remain to be convinced that “With your saint-like face and your ghost-like soul” is a compliment. Also, Dylan sings on ‘Desire’ that he wrote the song for her. That is different from saying that he wrote the song about her, although I do not want to suggest that that is not a reasonable interpretation.

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