Bob Dylan And Edgar Allan Poe: the light in the darkness

Bob Dylan and Edar Allen Poe: the howl in the songs, can be found here.

By Larry Fyffe

Throughout many of his songs, Bob Dylan mixes the Judeo-Christian good God and evil Devil working in the world side by side with the horrible spirits of Gothicism, and the dark and light forces circling hither and about as depicted in some forms of Gnosticism.

Poet and storyteller Edgar Allan Poe is a source of both Gothic and Gnostic thoughts and images from which Dylan draws:

What a tale of their terror tells
Of despair!
How the they clang, and clash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour ….
Yet the ear distinctly tells
In the jangling
And the wrangling
How the danger sinks and swells
By the sinking and the swelling in the anger
of the bells
(Edgar Allan Poe: The Bells)

Ghostly Gothic fog-filled visions of Poe re-appear in the lines below:

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning, I’ll come following you ….
And take me disappearing through the smoke rings
of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time
Far past the frozen leaves
The haunted frightened trees
(Bob Dylan: Mr. Tambourine Man)

In the lines below, Gnostic aural images and rhythms depict light within the darkness, life juxtaposed with death, symbolized by the personification of the ringing bells:

They are ghouls
And their king it is who tolls
And he rolls, rolls, rolls
A paean from the bells
And his merry bosom swells
With the paean of the bells
And he dances and he yells
(Edgar Allan Poe: The Bells)

Singer/songwriter Dylan praises the light that shines in the darkness:

Out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of
crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky
With one hand waving free
(Bob Dylan: Mr. Tambourine Man)

Bob Dylan celebrates that John Lennon’s goodly spirit, after his physical death, lives on in the singer’s works of art:

Shine your light
Movin’ on
You burned so bright
Roll on, John
(Bob Dylan: Roll On, John)

Poe’s legacy lives on in the following song lyrics which express, again in the sound imagery of bells, the sorrow that’s oft felt by the living when someone passes from the physical world:

And listen to the chimes of trinity
Tolling for the outcast
Tolling for the gay
Tolling for the millionaire
And friends long passed away
(Chimes Of Trinity: MJ Fitzpatrick – composer/writer)

Dylan gets creative energy from the poetic lyrics of Poe, and the song lyrics of

As the echo of the wedding bells before the blowin’ rain
Dissolved into the bells of the lightning
Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake
Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned, and the forsaked
Tolling for the outcast burning constantly at stake
And we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing
(Bob Dylan: Chimes Of Freedom)

Sadly for some, death is an escape from a world of woe:

For on its wing was dark alloy
And as it fluttered fell
An essence – powerful to destroy
A soul that knew it well
(Edgar Allan Poe: The Happiest Day, The Happiest Hour)

According to Bob Dylan, religion, art, or a lover provides at least temporary shelter from such dark and stormy night thoughts, as though one were a raven at her window with a broken wing:

I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail
Poisoned in the bushes, and blown out on the trail
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn
‘Come in’, she said, ‘I’ll give you shelter from the storm’
(Bob Dylan: Shelter From The Storm)

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  1. I would also note that the phrase “Time out of mind” came from Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher.

  2. Interesting indeed….and Poe may have gotten the phrase from Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo And Juliet'(Act I)

  3. From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime
    Out of SPACE – out of TIME
    Poe: Dream-Land)

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