Wednesday, October 13, 2010

BLAKE & DYLAN

An illustration extracted from page 61 of
William Blake, painter and poet
by Richard Garnett

A plaintive song of Bob Dylan's which was evidently written under the influence of William Blake is titled EVERY GRAIN OF SAND. It was written during what is know as Dylan's Christian period. I see in the song echoes of "Auguries of Innocence" and what may be called the "Jerusalem Hymn" from the beginning of Blake's Milton. Dylan writes of the faith and fears experienced as one travels on the spiritual journey in a world of danger and temptation. Blake's images provide an affirmative note of comfort.


Milton,
Plate 1, (E 95)
"And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land."

[Pickering Manuscript], Blake's Notebook, (E 490)
AUGURIES OF INNOCENCE
"To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
A Robin Red breast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage
A Dove house filld with doves & Pigeons
Shudders Hell thro all its regions
A dog starvd at his Masters Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State"

This poem continues for 132 lines. The final lines were used prominently in the movie "Dead Man".

EVERY GRAIN OF SAND
by Bob Dylan
"In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed
There’s a dyin’ voice within me reaching out somewhere
Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair

Don’t have the inclination to look back on any mistake
Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break
In the fury of the moment I can see the Master’s hand
In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand

Oh, the flowers of indulgence and the weeds of yesteryear
Like criminals, they have choked the breath of conscience and good cheer
The sun beat down upon the steps of time to light the way
To ease the pain of idleness and the memory of decay

I gaze into the doorway of temptation’s angry flame
And every time I pass that way I always hear my name
Then onward in my journey I come to understand
That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand

I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer’s dream, in the chill of a wintry light
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand"

Copyright © 1981 by Special Rider Music

Emmy Lou Harris singing EVERY GRAIN OF SAND

2 comments:

Larry said...

This is fantistic, Ellie-- a Christian Dylan revival! Wow!

ellie said...

Dylan could have had this passage in mind also:
Milton,PLATE 35 [39],(E 181)
By Satans Watch-fiends tho' they search numbering every grain
Of sand on Earth every night, they never find this Gate.
It is the Gate of Los. Withoutside is the Mill, intricate,
dreadful
And fill'd with cruel tortures; but no mortal man can find the
Mill
Of Satan, in his mortal pilgrimage of seventy years

For Human beauty knows it not: nor can Mercy find it! But
In the Fourth region of Humanity, Urthona namd[,]
Mortality begins to roll the billows of Eternal Death
Before the Gate of Los. Urthona here is named Los.
And here begins the System of Moral Virtue, named Rahab.
Albion fled thro' the Gate of Los, and he stood in the Gate.