Bob Dylan And Edward Taylor: If There’s An Original Thought Out There, I Could Use One Right Now (Part II)

Bob Dylan And Edward Taylor: If There’s An Original Thought Out There, I Could Use One Right Now (Part II)

by Larry Fyffe

You may also enjoy Part one of this series.

Missed by academic examiners of Bob Dylan song lyrics is the Dylanesque ‘rhyme twist”, a literary device employed by the singer/songwriter whereby he tips off the observant listener or reader as to the works of another artist that he sources:

With your silhouette when the sunlight dims
Into your eyes where the moonlight swims
And your match-book songs, and your gypsy hymns
Who among them would try to impress you?

(Bob Dylan: Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands)

No one, as far as I know, points out that the obvious referent in the above lyrics is Edward Taylor, the American Puritan poet who is nevertheless influenced by the witty, sometimes downright skeptical, Baroque poets. Their poems often examine the psychological tension between blind emotion and mindful reasoning.

Baroque (Metaphysical) poets utilize far-fetched comparisons (conceits), and complex imagery to express esoteric ideas:

You want clear spectacles: your eyes are dim
Turn inside out , and turn your eyes within
Your sins like motes in the sun do swim ...

(Edward Taylor: The Accusation Of The Inward Man)

Note the Dylanesque ‘rhyme twist’: ~ ‘dims’/’swims’ in Sad-Eyed Lady; 

~ ‘dim’/’swim’ in The Inward Man.

Indeed, it appears that Bob Dylan picks up the idea of the ‘rhyme twist’ from another favorite poet of his:

What the hammer, what the chain
In what furnace was thy brain
What the anvil, what dread grasp
Did it's deadly terrors clasp? ...
Tiger, Tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night

(William Blake: The Tiger)

Who among us would not be impressed by the the similarity of Blake’s lyrics to those of Taylor’s below:

Upon what base was fixed the lath, wherein
He turned this globe, and riggalled it so trim
Who blew the bellows of his furnace vast
Or held the mold wherein the world was cast?

(Edward Taylor: The Preface)

The end-rhyme ‘twist’ is illustrated by the two poems ~ ‘grasp’/’clasp’; 

~ 'vast'/'cast'.

And also take notice of the ‘bright’/’night’ end-rhyme in the Baroque-imaged song lyrics below that might otherwise be considered a coincidence:

And stopped inside a strange hotel
With the neon burning bright
He felt the heat of the night
Hit him like a freight train

(Bob Dylan: Simple Twist Of Fate)

Luck, bad or good, plays a big part in Bob Dylan’s portrayal of the modern times in which he exists. A sure thing it is that God’s grace saves those through their faith alone in Edward Taylor’s fiery Puritan world:

One sorry fret
An anvil spark, rose higher
And in thy temple falling, almost set
The house on fire
Such fireballs dropping in the temple flame
Burns up the building. Lord forbid the same

(Edward Taylor: To The Soul Occasioned By A Rain)

A number of songs by Dylan are ‘jeremiads’ that lament a corrupt world in which man-made things are, but should not be, admired, idolized, or misused:

And I will utter my judgments against them
Touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me
And have burned incense unto other gods
And worshipped the works of their own hands

(Jeremiah I:16)

Though goodly works are considered important by Jewish-grounded Bob  Dylan, many a song of his deals with emotional faith that has been burned and betrayed:

The priest wore black on the seventh day
And sat stone-faced as the building burned
I waited for you on the running boards
Near the cypress trees, while the springtime  turned
Slowly into autumn

(Bob Dylan: Idiot Wind)

Editorial footnote:

Apologies for the long period without posting on this site while I was in Australia.  A set of ludicrous technical problems were to blame.  However we are back now in England, and resuming work here, and on our “Untold Dylan” Facebook Page






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