Bob Dylan And Thomas Payne


By Larry Fyffe

Bob Dylan uses traditional lyrics sung by ‘dead angels’ as a foundation upon which to build his own songs; he leaves no doubt that he’s encouraged in that endeavour by the folk songs of ‘farmers’, and by ‘businessmen’ in the music industry, and especially by female muses of the genre:

Oh, the farmers and the businessmen, they all did decide
To show you the dead angels that they use to hide
But why did they pick you to sympathize with their side?
(Bob Dylan: Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands)

Alluded to is an old country ballad:

If you be a lass from the low country
Don’t love of no lord of high degree
They hain’t got a heart for sympathy
Oh, sorrow, sing sorrow
(John Niles: The Lass From The Low Country~traditional)

Dylan throws in a pinch of a more recent song:

Like the moon grows dim, on the rim of the hill
In the still, chill, of the night
(Cole Porter: In The Still of The Night)


With your silhouette when the sunlight dims
Into your eyes where the moonlight swims
(Bob Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands)

Dylan mixes in the ‘high art’ of the Bard – the singer/songwrite wonders if he should leave his drums and sunglasses as a tribute to Olivia, his ‘sad-eyed’ muse:

My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums
Should I leave them by your gate
Or sad-eyed lady, should I wait?
(Bob Dylan: Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands)

The reference is to Viola’s advice:

Make me a willow cabin at your gate
And call upon my soul within the house
Write loyal cantons of contemned love
And sing them loud even in the dead of night
(William Shakespeare: Twelfth Night, Act I, sc.v)

In the following song lyrics, it’s not much of a stretch to assert that Dylan references another masked marauder:

As I went out one morning
To breathe the air around Tom Paine’s
I spied the fairest damsel
That ever did walk in chains
(Bob Dylan: As I Went Out One Morning)

The muse is Kathleen bound in chains of rhyme, and her American conjuror, Thomas Payne Westendorf:

I’ll take you home, oh Kathleen dear
Across the ocean wild and wide ….
Where laugh the little silver stream
Beside your mother’s humble cot
And brighter rays of sunshine gleam
There all your grief will be forgot
(T.P. Westendorf: I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen)

Change of rhyme resonates in a poem by Irishman William Butler Yeats, plus there’s a sight rhyme – ‘gone’/’done’:

I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout ….
I will find out where she has gone
And kiss her lips and take her hands
And walk among long dappled grass
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon
And the golden apples of the sun
(W. B. Yeats: The Song Of The Wandering Aengus)

Also using a sight-rhyme – ‘now’/’know’, Bob Dylan brings it all back home again:

I’ll look for you in old Honolul-a
San Francisco, Ashtabula
You’re gonna have to leave me now, I know
But I’ll see you in the sky above
In the tall grass, in the ones I love
You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go
(Bob Dylan: You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go)

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  1. In the still of the night, in the world’s ancient light
    Where wisdom grows in strife
    My bewildered brain tolls in vain
    Through the darkness on the pathways of life
    (Bob Dylan: When The Deal Goes Down)

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