Featured Post

Film review: Danton outgrosses Robespierre

Preface: As I've said, oldie writing will be dusted off and plunked blogside (at least at first; new stuff should gradually overtake i...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Is Bob Dylan's "Absolutely Sweet Marie" actually Emily Dickinson?

Can't believe how oddly and easily this idea came to me. As part of immersing myself in Dylan I downloaded Blonde on Blonde, and one day (in February or March?) the line in "Absolutely Sweet Marie" about "The Persian drunkard he follows me" just suddenly CLICKED. Hey, that would be Omar Khayyam!
   Now, I've known since Day One (1970s) that, in "Absolutely Sweet Marie" the "riverboat captain/ He knows my fate" is actually Mark Twain (I've read Letters from Earth etc.), and so with two scribes aboard the song/poem, another idea next-instantly occurred, namely that Marie herself might be a literary person. And simultaneously, all the nudge-wink stuff in Dylan's cryptogram ALSO clicked as being not about some slutty nympho hussy (check the standard interpretations, anywhere) but the reverse: some prim, chaste chick who scarcely talks about sex at all--"You see you forgot to leave me with the key/ So where are you tonight, Sweet Marie?" Emily Dickinson.
    But the truth is I know Dickinson perhaps only from a single poem (that one with "Because I would not stop for death/ Death kindly stopped for me"--exact wording not guaranteed). But just how I could generalize from THAT to the overall chasteness of her verse is a bit of a mystery. Maybe I read some notes in an old Norton Anthology?? Anyway, being a professional digressor (I'm SUPPOSED to be digging into Dylan's roots in Shakespeare, which itself is a digression from my Shakespeare work) I just HAD to stray into a few explorations of Dickinson, to see if I couldn't reinforce this Dylan hunch a bit.
    A couple of the results I posted a few days ago on @frameofmind on Twitter (to the usual silence, and presumably incomprehension) but let me repeat them a little more extensively here.
    When Dylan sings "I'm just sitting here, beating on my trumpet/ With all these promises that you left for me" and again "Six white horses that you did promise/ Were finally delivered down to the penitentiary" doesn't THAT suggest the hint of eroticism, ending in penitence, displayed in THIS Emily Dickinson poem about promising:
    The suspicion is strengthened by the appallingly deep scholarship in Clinton Heylin's Revolution in the Air, where Heylin reveals that in Dylan's original notes for the song, the lyric is actually "the promises you left, that (he) gave to me"
It's pretty easy to perceive an overlapping "he" in both Dylan and Dickinson, eh? And, Jesus, on Dickinson's side it's literally six stanzas/horses of percolating eroticism (by Victorian standards) before Dickinson gets to ye olde Christian penitence.
I'd say Dylan is a pretty good critic of poetry...

PS: I listed "sex" in the labels for this post, at the risk of attracting all those Russian porn surfers again. Take a hike, creeps! But nah, nobody is reading my cyber-blather, except bots methinks.

PPS: (Aug. 1) Likely it would be NSA/KGB security-bots, surveying every drop in the internet-ocean, attempting to see if this poetry stuff is terrorist or what... hm hm... just re-read that Dickinson "Promise This" poem and did a further *CLICK!* to her "Belt your eye" and Bob Dylan's "Me with my belt/ Wrapped round my head" in "Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat" (also from Blonde on Blonde) ... http://www.bobdylan.com/ca/node/25814

Any deniers left?