Cry A While, There’s A Mean Old Rhyme Twister Bearing Down On You


By Larry Fyffe

Jean-Jacques Rousseau utters his famous cry that man is born free but is everywhere in chains, and though he idealizes the ‘noble savage’, he remains a man of Reason. Oliver Goldsmith loosens the chains that bind him to an orderly British class society, and takes up writing for a living; he focuses on the trials and tribulations of lovers who are star-crossed because they dwell in a society that is inequitably structured. 

The idea that humans are part of the natural world – with a desire to be released from the social restraints imposed upon them by an ‘artificial’ society – is blowing in the wind. It’s the aristocracy’s turn to cry:

But nothing mirthful could assuage
The pensive stranger's woe
For grief had seized his early age
And tears would often flow

(Oliver Goldsmith: The Ballad Of Edwin And Angelina)

Himself many times accused of thefts from the works of other songwriters and poets, singer/songwriter Bob Dylan burlesques those who do not realize that the  practice has a long tradition in the world of the arts. As previously noted, Dylan often leaves his fingerprints at the scene of the crime by messing around with the rhymes as well as the lines that he steals from the poems and songs of other writers; he twists the rhymes into his own song lyrics, changing them in varying degrees.

Oliver Goldsmith be one of those writers who is accused of being  a ‘hack’ because he pockets the creative endeavours of others:

Well, I had to go down and see a guy named Mr. Goldsmith
A nasty, dirty, double-crossin' phony I didn't want to have to deal with
But I did it for you
And all you gave me was a smile
Well, I cried for you, now it's your turn to cry for awhile

(Bob Dylan: Cry A While)

 Note the internal rhyme in the last line ~ ‘I/cry’.

And the Dylanesque rhyme twist ~’smile’/’awhile’ ~ that echoes the end-rhyme in the verse below ~ ‘smiled’/ ‘beguiled’:

And spread his vegetable store
And gaily prest and smiled
And , skilled in legendary lore
The lingering hours beguiled

(Oliver Goldsmith: The Ballad Of Edwin And Angelina)

Mr. Goldsmith, the dirty rat, has spied with his little eyes an old ballad:

Thus every day, I fast and pray
And ever will do till I die
And set me to some secret place
And so do he, and so will I

(Gentlemen Herdsmen Tell To Me)


Therein above lies the same rhyme that the later poet Goldsmith gives to Angelina  ~ ‘die/I’.

And then in sheltering thicket hid
I'll linger till I die
'Twas thus for me my lover did
And so for him will I

(Oliver Goldsmith: The Ballad Of Edwin And Angelina)

The star-crossed lovers theme from Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” lingers on in another Dylan song:

She touched his head and kissed his cheek
He tried to speak but his breath was weak
'You died for me, now I'll die for you'
She put the blade to her heart, and she ran it through

(Bob Dylan: Tin Angel)

Dylan steals from himself:

Cry A While ~ ‘Well, I cried for you, now it’s your turn to cry for awhile’;

Tin Angel ~ “You died for me, now I’ll die for you”.

Not that the singer/songwriter would throw up the twist in anybody’s face:

Well, there's preachers in the pulpits, and babies in the cribs
I'm longin' for that sweet fat that sticks to your ribs
I'm gonna buy me a barrel of whiskey, I'll die before I turn senile
Yes, I cried for you, now it's your turn, you can cry for awhile

(Bob Dylan: Cry A While)

There’s ~ “die”/”I”; “cry”/”I”; and for good measure ~ “I’ll”/”senile”.

From the opposite loft, Bob Dylan burlesques the burlesquers, in this case a relatively recent satirical opera:

Last night 'cross the alley, there was a pounding on the walls
It must have been Don Pasquale makin' a two a.m. booty call
To break a trusting heart like mine was just your style
Well, I cried for you, now it's your turn to cry awhile

(Bob Dylan: Cry A While)

The comic opera is about love and theft. Dylan hangs a pun – ‘ booty’ is American street sang for ‘a piece of tail’. The lyrics directly above indicate that the American songwriter is aware that, in the Italian opera, old man Pasquale, in an attempt to stay forever young, gets his wealth – his booty – stolen by a young widow because he scorned her as unworthy for his nephew to marry.

Now it’s your turn to cry for a while. 


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