McGuinn, Quinn, And Din: Bob Dylan And Rudyard Kipling (Part III)

by Larry Fyffe

Previously in this series:

The Victorian perspective of poet and writer Rudyard Kipling has a lasting influence on Western culture:

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs, and blaming it on you

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you

But make allowance for their doubting too ....

.... you'll be a man, my son

(Rudyard Kipling: If)

Bob Dylan grows up in days when men are depicted as men; women as women:

Trust yourself

Trust yourself to do the things that only you know best

Trust yourself

Trust yourself to do what's right, and not be second-guessed

(Bob Dylan: Trust Yourself)

The rhythmical waves of Kipling’s ideal values ripple yet through the song lyrics of singer/songwriter Bob Dylan:

Of all of them blackfaced crew

The finest man I knew

Was our regimental 'bhisti', Gunga Din

He was Din, Din, Din

You limpin', lump o' brick-dust, Gunga Din

(Rudyard Kipling: Gunga Din)

Bob Dylan adds the name of a latter-day member – Roger McGuinn of the Byrds:

Clouds so swift, and the rain fallin' in

Gonna see a movie called 'Gunga Din'

Pack up your money, pull up your tent, McGuinn

You ain't goin' nowhere

(Bob Dylan: You Ain’t Going Nowhere)

And film actor Anthony Quinn:

When Quinn the Eskimo gets here

Everybody's gonna doze

Come all without, come all within

You'll not see nothin' like the mighty Quinn

(Bob Dylan: The Mighty Quinn)

Other lines by the disillusioned Victorian poet have already been mentioned:

We have done with hope and honour; we are lost to love and truth

We are dropping down the ladder rung by rung

And the measure of our torment is the measure of our youth

God help us, for we knew the worst too young

(Rudyard Kipling: Gentlemen-Rankers)

Kipling knows his Keats:

More happy love! more happy, happy love!

For ever warm and still to be enjoyed

For ever panting, and forever young

All breathing passion from above

(John Keats: Ode On A Grecian Urn)

And Dylan his Keats, and his Kipling:

May you build a ladder to the stars

And climb on every rung

May you stay

May you stay forever young ...

May you grow up to be righteous

May you grow up to be strong

May you always know the truth

An see the lights surrounding you

(Bob Dylan: Forever Young)

Kipling alludes to a nursery rhyme:

We're poor little lambs who've lost our way

Baa! baa! baa!

We're little black sheep who've gone astray


Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree

Damned from here to eternity

(Rudyard Kipling: Gentlemen-Rankers)

To wit:

Baa, baa, black sheep

Have you any wool?

Yes sir, yes sir

Three bags full

(Nursery rhyme: Baa Baa Black Sheep)

And Dylan too:

And the mountains are filled with lost sheep

Ring them bells for the blind and the deaf

Ring them bells for all of us who are left

Ring them bells for the chosen few

(Bob Dylan: Ring Them Bells)

Whether the sheep are Jewish or Calvinist, we’re not sure!

In the burlesque adventure movie ‘Gunga Din’, based on Kipling’s poem by the same name, the water-bearer Gunga Din (Sam Jaffe) dies a hero’s death –  saves Sergeant Cutter, played by Cary Grant.

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