*Bob Dylan: The Rummy And The Drunken Persian*


By Larry Fyffe

Persian poet Omar Khayyam, with his “jug of wine and thou”, holds on to the physical side of the human animal while the Zarathustra-influenced Mawlana Rumi seeks to ignite the divine spark within the individual:

When we are dead, seek not our tomb in the earth
But find it in the hearts of men

(Mawlana Rumi ~ translated) 

Rumi is a ‘roomie’ type of character – not the ‘rummie’ kind, for sure:

The dark thought, the shame, the malice
Greet them at the door, and invite them in
Be grateful for whatever comes

(Rumi: The Guest House)

The Surfi poet of yore uses music and dance as an earthly means to communicate with the spiritual Oneness of the Universe that lies, often dormant, within the physical body – “fire” be his key symbol:

Oh music is the meat of all who love
Music uplifts the soul to realms above
The ashes glow, the latent fires increase
We listen, and are fed with joy and peace

(Rumi: Remembered Music) 

The mystical Persian poems of Rumi influence the writings of the Romantic Transcendentalist poets, and the lyrics of a present-day band of musicians:

When I awoke, the dire wolf, six hundred pounds of sin
Was grinning at my window, all I said was, "Come on in"
Don't murder me, I beg of you, don't murder me
Please, don't murder me
The wolf came in, I got my cards, we sat down for a game
I cut the cards to the  Queen of Spades
But the cards were all the same

The Queen of Spades, a symbol of death, the eternal servant that awaits us all – while we sing the blues:

Oh, the women on the levee, honey, hollerin', "Whoa, haw, gee"
The men on the levee, hollerin', "Don't murder me
Please, baby, please, baby. Please, don't murder me"

(Lead Belly: I’m Down And Out ~ traditional)

The black queen – a Gothic symbol that singer/songwriter Bob Dylan employs:

Well, I return to the Queen of Spades
And talk with my chambermaid
She knows that I'm not afraid to look at her
She is good to me
And there is nothing she doesn't see
She knows where I'd like to be
But it doesn't matter

(Bob Dylan: I Want You) 

In modernistic Freudian terms, the Grateful Dead’s ‘dire wolf’ represents the animal side of humankind – the Id- , the Darwinian monkey that dwells within us. In one song, based on Egyptian mythology, Bob Dylan’s persona tries to escape from his Id:

I picked up his body, and I dragged him inside
Threw him down the hole, and put back the cover
I said a quick prayer, and I felt satisfied
Then I went back to Isis, just to tell her I love her

(Bob Dylan: Isis)

Isis, the Sun-Queen Queen, stitches her twin and husband back together after he’s torn apart by their canine-like brother Seth. In the Holy Bible, the reverse happens – God does not like it when the settled down Cain does away with his brother, the pipe-playing shepherd Abel; God puts His cane to Cain:

And Abel was a keeper of sheep
But Cain was a tiller of the ground

(Genesis 4:2)

In the following lyrics, Dylan’s persona wishes not to suffer Cain’s fate:

One of these days, I'll end up on the run 
I'm pretty sure she'll make me kill someone
I'm going inside, roll the shutters down
I just wanna say that Hell's my wife's home town

(Bob Dylan: My Wife’s Home Town ~ Dylan/Hunter)


The lyrics of Dylan’s songs are seldom as simple as they first appear. 


  1. Your post reminded me of these lines by Kahyyam

    “The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
    Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
    Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
    Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

    Maybe Dylan was feeling along these lines when he wrote:
    “You broke a heart that loved you
    now you can seal up the book
    and not write anymore.”

  2. Yes, it appears that early Christianity had a plan to accommodate the sexual energy of the “Id” (represented by Abel) as did Egyptian mythology (represented by Osirus).

    Orthodox Christianity, on the other hand, attempts to to kill them off for good – ‘”You broke the heart that loved you, now you can seal up the book”.

    See: Bob Dylan And Omar Khayyam Part II)

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