Dylan shared with Blake an extreme anti-war position. In fact he set in motion forces that eventually helped to end a war. Blake was less successful, though just as passionate. Both men moved from the overt themes of protest to the "contention against principalities and powers", and both incurred the displeasure of some of their admirers in so doing (largely posthumous ones in Blake's case).
By 1966 Dylan was acknowledged chief prophet of the American counterculture; his corrosive judgments filled the minds of the young and nurtured their spirits, while their adulation poisoned his.
"Blonde on Blonde" is his mad, infected St. Vitus Dance, chaotic, nihilistic, a paean of fallenness, and Dylan projects himself as more personally involved than Blake ever did in his most lurid passages. Dylan is Los after binding Urizen, and he proceeds to chain his creative energy to hell just as Los had done.For example Dylan and his associates may have sounded the death knell to 'machismo', at least to the North American manifestation of it, the sick masculine attitude that trivializes sexual relationships and makes of woman a plaything.
Dylan allowed himself to be interviewed by Playboy, but his sexual values undercut the Playboy philosophy, and very likely undercut Playboy sales as well, much more than the antipornographers have ever done. Dylan disparaged possessiveness and jealousy just as Blake had done two centuries before with VDA.
Looking at Dylan's 'I ain't me, babe:
"You say you're looking for someone
Who'll pick you up each time you fall,
To gather flowers constantly
And to come each time you call:
But it ain't me, babe."
After his first sobering up in l968 Dylan apparently turned to the experience of love as the summum bonum, and according to Michael Gray it became for about a decade Dylan's most serious alternative to a traditional religious perspective. It seemed as if he had to live through the 'female will' phase that Blake had always feared and despised. Gray tells us that the seventies decade was for Dylan an inner struggle between Sara and Christ. 'Somewhere near the climax of that struggle he wrote a song named Isis (the Egyptian Astarte), which shows how close to the Blakean position his sexual philosophy had become:
"Isis, oh, Isis, you mystical child.
What drives me to you is what drives me insane."
Put that beside Blake's plea to his emanation:
"Let us agree to give up Love
And root up the infernal grove;
Then we shall return & see
The worlds of happy Eternity."
Dylan's marriage broke up in 1977, and two years later he made a public commitment to Christ. Afterward he attempted, to use the hackneyed phrase so often applied to Blake, to Christianize his art, so far with less acclaim than greeted his earlier music.
In style Dylan closely approaches Blake as a symbolist. Fiercely eclectic like the English poet, he drew with utmost freedom upon his entire experience for the imagery of his lyrics. This means that the listener unversed in Dylan's experience will have the same sort of problems with his lyrics like "Blowin' in the Wind" that so many have had with 'Jerusalem'.
Much of it comes through as sheer gibberish to all except the few who begin. (Please don't take that in the most obvious sense.)
It helps to know the sixties Greenwich Village scene, country music, blues and rock as well as Verlaine, Rimbaud and Baudelaire, plus a few other esoteric sources. It also helps to know the Bible.