Friday, April 20, 2007

Five Best...Literature References in Bob Dylan Songs

#5. “Love is Just a Four-Letter Word”

Taken from Tennessee William’s play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, where one character says, “You don’t know what love is. To you, it’s just another four-letter word.”

#4. “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”

Maybe it's just coincidence but you have to imagine that the "country doctor" that rambles is referring to Kafka's country doctor in the story of the same name.

“The bridge at midnight trembles,
The country doctor rambles,
Bankers' nieces seek perfection,
Expecting all the gifts that wise men bring.”

#3. “Workingman’s Blues #2”

Dylan: "You are dearer to me than myself/As you yourself can see.”

Ovid: "Well, dearer to me than myself, you yourself can see."

#2. “Caribbean Wind”

It mentions both Milton's Paradise Lost and Dante's Divine Comedy.

“She was the rose of Sharon, from Paradise Lost
From the city of seven hills, near the place of the cross.
I was playing a show in the theater of Divine Comedy.”

#1. “Desolation Row”

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Ophelia is the love interest of the title character.

“Now Ophelia, she's 'neath the window
For her I feel so afraid
On her twenty-second birthday
She already is an old maid
To her, death is quite romantic
She wears an iron vest
Her profession's her religion
Her sin is her lifelessness
And though her eyes are fixed upon
Noah's great rainbow
She spends her time peeking
Into Desolation Row.”


inthealley said...

I'd like to suggest, from the drunken gatekeeper scene in Macbeth and in the song 'I Want You', the superb quote:

'and I wait for them to interupt
me drinking from my broken cup
and ask for me to open up
the gate for you' ........

Oskar Kokoschka Paprikash said...

Every Grain of Sand --

"like every sparrow falling like
every grain of sand."

"Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
A hero perish, or a sparrow fall,
Atoms or systems into ruin hurl'd,
And now a bubble burst, and now a world." - Pope, Essay on Man

The song is so thick with allusion it's hard to pick a favorite.

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