Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Dylan 3

Much as Dylan loved and used  Blake's poetry, he loved and used the Bible.  You might say that the Bible was the chief source of both men. Look at the Wicked Messenger:  "one day he just appeared with a note in his hand" and other lines relate strongly to the 1st Chapter of Luke where Zacharias was struck mute for refusing to believe the good news the Angel Gabriel sent him; he presumably had to write it out.

This is only one of a multitude of stories in the Bible that Dylan used freely.

He was not exactly a "Bible Soaked Protestant" (as Northrup Frye said of Blake), but maybe the nearest thing to it among modern artists. Dylan, the secular artist was credited with the monumental achievement of lifting the popular musical taste to the level of real art, rather than the trivialities so common to popular music then and now.  More than that he addressed the awesome task of raising the popular spiritual level to the Christian faith with some intellect.

Wicked Messenger is comparable to Blake's Wheel of Religion:
"I stood among my valleys of the south
And saw a flame of fire, even as a Wheel
Of fire surrounding all the heavens: it went
From west to cast against the current of
Creation and devourd all things in its loud
Fury & thundering course round heaven & earth 
By it the Sun was rolld into an orb:
By it the Moon faded into a globe,
Travelling thro the night: for from its dire 
And restless fury, Man himself shrunk up
Into a little root a fathom long.
 And I asked a Watcher & a Holy-One
Its Name? he answerd. It is the Wheel of Religion
I wept & said. Is this the law of Jesus 
This terrible devouring sword turning every way"
(Erdman 232; Plate 77 of Jerusalem)

But I saw a glow-worm near:
Who replied. What wailing wight
Calls the watchman of the night"

Dylan wrote a song called All Along the Watchtower that echoes Isaiah:

5] Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise, ye princes, and anoint the shield.
[6] For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.
[7] And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; and he hearkened diligently with much heed:
[8] And he cried, A lion: My lord, I stand continually upon the watchtower in the daytime, and I am set in my ward whole nights:
[9] And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground.
[10] O my threshing, and the corn of my floor: that which I have heard of the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have I declared unto you.
[11] The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?
[12] The watchman said The morning cometh, and also the night:
(Isaiah 21)
Watchman also appears in six other books of the Bible including

Ezekiel 3
[17] Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. 
[18] When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

Plate 169 Jerusalem:
"O Human Imagination O Divine Body I have Crucified
I have turned my back upon thee into the Wastes of Moral Law:
There Babylon is builded in the Waste, founded in Human desolation.
O Babylon thy Watchman stands over thee in the night
Thy severe judge all the day long proves thee O Babylon
With provings of destruction, with giving thee thy hearts desire.
But Albion is cast forth to the Potter his Children to the Builders
To build Babylon because they have forsaken Jerusalem          
The Walls of Babylon are Souls of Men: her Gates the Groans
Of Nations: her Towers are the Miseries of once happy Families."

Erdman 362 The Four Zoas
".......And must not I obey the God thou Shadow of Jealousy
I cry the watchman heareth not I pour my voice in roarings
Watchman the night is thick & darkness cheats my rayie sight
Lift up Lift up O Los awake my watchman for he sleepeth
Lift up Lift up Shine forth O Light watchman thy light is out
O Los unless thou keep my tower the Watchman will be slain

So Enitharmon cried upon her terrible Earthy bed"
Plate 39
Satan's Watch-fiends never find the Gate of Los

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