Bob Dylan:

Dark As Dungeon Way Down In A Mind

by

R.E. Prindle

We’re on a bad motorcycle with the devil in the seat

Going ninety miles an hour down a dead end street.

Hank Snow

Dylan Feinstein Photo

     My correspondent replied to my post Bob Dylan The Reactionary.  An excerpt:

     Poetry is a funny thing: it bypasses the cerebral when it is best IMHO…Poetry is nonsense, making the nonsense of mortality a bit more bearable for a moment in time.

     I suppose that’s a valid reflection.  There has been some debate as to whether song lyrics are poetry.  In a lyric’s effort to condense experience into the fewest possible words my own thinking is that they are of the essence of poetry whether or not one considers them ‘true poetry.’

     I certainly carry innumerable song lyrics around in my head while very little ‘true poetry’ has had the same effect on me.  A great many of the lyrics are Country and Western and what passed for Folk.  I find references in Dylan of the same importance of favorites that I have.

     I recently ran Hank Snow’s Ninety Miles An Hour Down A Dead End Street on Rhapsody and was surprised to discover that Dylan had actually recorded a heavily edited version as a religious gospel dirge.  Don’t get the connection but if Dylan says so…

     The part of the lyric that has always struck me the most forcefully is the line:  We’re on a bad motorcycle with the devil in the seat going ninety miles an hour down a dead end street.  I apply the line to all kinds of situations including the present political quagmire.  Dylan seems to emphasize the illicit love affair.  Doesn’t really matter, the point is that that little piece of ephemera had a profound influence on us.  Dylan resurrected the song fifty years on while I use the image that appealed to me in my writing frequently.  Poetry?  Well, I think maybe.

     There are a couple of other country classics that live in my mind by Merle Travis: Dark As A Dungeon Way Down In A Mine and Nine Pound Hammer.  I always imagined those were folk songs dating back to the 1880s or something but Travis wrote as late as 1947.  The relevant quotes for me:

It’s dark as a dungeon way down in a mine

Where the wind never blows, and the sun never shines,

Where the dangers are double and the pleasures are few.

Merle Travis- Sixteen Tons

———————–

Roll on buddy, don’t you roll so slow,

Tell me, how can I roll when the wheels won’t go.

This nine pound hammer is a little too heavy

For my size, boys, for my size.

     The first quote is from Dungeon, the latter from Nine Pound Hammer.

     For myself I always gave the lyrics a psychological twist saying ‘mind’ for mine.  Roll on buddy referred to my habitual procrastination, psychological blockage preventing action.  Had problems.  Solved ’em.  Are these songs poetry?  They are in my mind.  I make all kinds of things out of them even the innocuous line:

It’s a long way to Harlan,

It’s a long way to Hazard,

Just to get a little brew. boys,

Just to get a little brew.

     I’m not thinking of booze either as in ‘My Buckets Got A Hole In It.’  Can’t buy no beer.

     I’m sure Dylan cherishes both those songs.  They’re the classics that people in the know know.  They don’t call us cognoscenti for nothing.  Roll on buddy…

     As a last example before I get to the gist of this thing is the song ‘Grand Coulee Dam written by Woody Guthrie a man I really despise- damn it.  But talent will out and while I have my prejudices I’m no bigot.  For me this lyric is as poetic as you can get.

Well, the world holds seven wonders that the travelers always tell,

Some gardens and some towers, I guess you know them well,

But now the greatest wonder is in Uncle Sam’s fair land,

It’s the great Columbia River and the big Grand Coulee Dam.

 

She heads up the Canadian Rockies where the rippling waters glide,

Comes a-roaring down the canyon to meet the salty tide,

Of the wide Pacific Ocean where the sun sets in the West

And the big Grand Coulee country in the land I love the best.

 

Uncle Sam took up the challenge in the year of thirty-three,

For the farmer and the factory hand and for all of you and me,

He said, “Roll along, Columbia, you can ramble to the sea,

But river, while you’re rambling, you can do some work for me.”

 

Now in Washington and Oregon you can hear the factories hum,

Making chrome and making manganese and bright aluminum,

And there roars the Flying Fortress now to fight for Uncle Sam,

Spawned upon the King Columbia past the Big Grand Coulee Dam.

 

In the misty crystal glitter of that wild and windward spray,

Men have fought the pounding waters and met a watery grave,

Well she tore their boats to splinters but she gave men dreams to dream

Of the day the Coulee Dam would cross that wild and wasted stream.

     Nice stuff from my point of view.  Doesn’t get any better than that.  The song gave me dreams to dream.  If you want to hear the best rendition ever by Lonnie Donegan click this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Jc2efqj5Js

     My verdict is that good lyrics are good poetry while bad poetry doesn’t necessarily make a good lyric.

2.

     Now as to the lyrics to Highwater by Dylan that my correspondent referred me to that I discussed in the post: Bob Dylan The Reactionary.

     As the lyric touched my correspondent’s psychology I tackled the lyric from a different angle as the way I was interpreting it may not have reflected his.  For all I know this doesn’t either but I think it’s interesting.

     The lyric in question:

Well, George Lewis told the Englishman, the Italian and the Jew

You can’t open up your mind, boys, to

every conceivable point of view

They got Charles Darwin trapped out on Highway 5

Judge says to the high sheriff, I want him dead or alive

Either one, I don’t care

Highwater everywhere.

     The format Dylan uses here is that of the genre of old jokes that begins something like this:  A Protestant, a Catholic and a Jew… then moves on to the punchline.  Dylan’s presentation can be interpreted as flip so he is probably thinking of the verse as a joke.

     As I said in my previous post George Lewis represents a Black, the Englishman as Science or Darwin, the Italian Catholicism or Christianity and the Jew Judaism. Four different conceivable views that can’t be held simultaneously no matter how open you think your mind is.

     These are four crucial irreconcilable conflicts in Dylan’s mind while they probably represent the major psychological dilemma of most White or Jewish people.

     The problem is especially acute for Dylan who was indoctrinated into Jewish Lubavitcher beliefs for his Bar Mitzvah while having

Hank Snow- It Don't Get No Better

 been brought up from infancy on Hillbilly music, Country if you prefer, which is quintessential Christian music whether sung in church or honky-tonk.  Those good old boys live with their religion  even when they’re robbing banks so even with0ut going to church Dylan has a strong Christian background.  He did sing a sexual anthem like Ninety Miles An Hour as a hymn.  Ponder that for a minute.

     So Dylan has had to reconcile his dual religious beliefs seeming to have come down on the side of his Lubavitcher Judaism which is no surprise.  He then has to do something about his religious vs. scientific or evolutionary beliefs.  Darwin doesn’t go with Judaism.  He centers the problem on Darwin as Science.  Here he has made the decision to imprison or kill Evolutionary beliefs.  Dead or Alive, either way, Judge says, he don’t care.  Having eliminated Science and Christianity we have Judasim and the Blacks on the racial issue.  Dylan has subordinated himself to the Blacks on the racial issue and is willing to take the inferior position.  While he believes he has resolved these for him difficult problems they still trouble him or he wouldn’t be talking about them.  Strange.

     Why did my correspondent associate me with the verse?  He says:  Just thought of you and the line(s) for some reason.  My correspondent seems to be wrestling with Dylan’s problem himself.  As I have written on all four topics fairly extensively and I know the correspondent has read lots of my stuff I suppose the lines suggested me.  The song isn’t good poetry and not even good lyrics  but if it succeeded at least on my correspondent’s level one would have to concede that lyrics are poetry.  The better the lyric the better the poetry.  And now for a little circular logic: The better the poetry the better the lyric.

 

 

 

A Review

The Myth Of The Twentieth Century

by

Alfred Rosenberg

Part III

Rosenberg, Alfred, The Myth Of The Twentieth Century, Noontide Press, 1982

https://idynamo.wordpress.com/2007/03/16/hello-world/

https://idynamo.wordpress.com/2008/07/09/men-like-gods-tarzan-pays-homage-to-heracles/

 

     In contrasting the spiritual and intellectual attributes of the Semites and Nordics Rosenberg seems to confuse tenacity with will.  The Semites pursue their goal so tenaciously because they don’t have the intellgence to compare different intellectual and spiritual views.  There is really no intellectual progression of evaluation in the Semitic psyche.

     Contrast for instance the approach taken by the Hebrew predecessors of the jews with the Greeks in this primary problem of the evolution of society and the human psyche;  that of the change from human sacrifice to that of animal and then vegetable sacrifice.   The Semitic Bible tells the story under the title of Cain and Abel.

     At one time we are led to believe the standard approach to appeasing the gods was human sacrifice. If the Cain and Abel story had been written down c. -2000 to -1000 the content would have been about human sacrifice rather than animal sacrifice.  By c. -500 to -400 when the story was written human sacrifice, except under extraordinary circumstances had been abandoned.  Animal sacrifice was still retained by the Abelites while the Cainites had abandoned animal sacrifice for an offering of the fruits of the earth.

     As the Bible tells it the Abelites offered animal sacrifice to the god Shamash,  while the Cainites offered vegetable produce.  As the Abelites are telling the story their god being as conservative as the Abelites preferred the flesh sacrifice to the vegetable rewarding the Abelites and rejecting the Cainites.  The Abelites then lorded it over the Cainites who retaliated by killing the Abelites.

     In the Greek version as recounted by the late nineteenth century A.B. Cook in his magnum opus, Zeus, the story is told quite differently.  It doesn’t appear that Cook understood the Greek story to be their version of Cain and Abel or, in other words, the evolution of sacrifice to the gods.

     Zeus was always known as the god of the sky.  In this story he is called Zeus Lykaios thus seemingly associated with the wolf; as Cook supposes, a wolf god.

     I don’t think this is the case.  I think the tale should be something like Zeus vs. Human Sacrifice or Zeus against the wolfish practice of man eating that might be supposed a habit of wolves.  In the myth a tribesman as scapegoat is singled out, stripped naked, compelled to swim across a body of water then live for ten years in this primitive or wolfish condition.  If he passes the ten years without eating human flesh he is allowed back into the community.  One may assume that during this probationary period the community itself is forbidden human sacrifice thus ending the practice. 

     An offering is then made to the gods of a wheaten wafer.

     One can compare that story to that of the Christ who offers a glass of wine in substituion of his blood and a wafer for his body but is still a human sacrifice on the cross.

     The messages seem quite clear.  Zeus disapproves of human sacrifice and cannibalism of the human sacrifice.  The above way is the Greek way of demonstrating disapproval of the practice while the acceptance of the wafer is an example of what is considered appropriate. Semitic development is halted at animal sacrifice.

     Thus one is able to compare and contrast the psychological attitudes of the Semites and the Aryans.  Ye shall be judged by your acts.  On the one hand the Semitic story is extrememly dogmatic while the Aryan story shows more science and intelligence.

     The two attitudes remain constant down through history.

     Thus the unyielding dogmatic or bigoted approach has the advantage over a more yeilding or understanding attitude.  It is the former attitude to which Rosenberg is actually objecting.

     When developed in the religious sphere the hatred of the opposing point of view is translated into an inquisition in which the holders of the opposing viewpoint are tortured to death or burned at the stake.  Put on the cross.  The temporal authorities are called in as in the cases of the Waldenses, Cathars, and Huguenots to exterminate the entire body of the dissidents.  Whether done by Catholics, Jews or Moslems extermination of unbelievers is the inevitable result whether a single individual, tens of thousands or in the case of the current crusade, a billion of Whites.

     In Rosenberg’s case his scientific Nordics have nothing like the insane Semitic god.  Thus in the religious sphere the Whites have never had an alternative to the Semitic god hence being at a disadvantage.

     A certain type of mind prefers a storming Yahweh figure to an intelligent Zeus.  No intelligent person can accept the notion of a supernatural diety whether Yahweh or Zeus.  Thus, to some extent Hitler himself was ofered a a version of a man-god.  As no flesh and blood man can successfully pose as a god what was and is needed is an idealized man-god not as a supernatural person but as an ideal toward which one can strive.

     Perhaps it is time to create one.  Actually this has already been done.  The American writer Edgar Rice Burroughs of the first half of the twentieth century created the only acceptable version of the ideal man-god, Tarzan Of The Apes.

     Burroughs is seldom taken seriously and yet a careful reading in any  of the novels of the Tarzan series is seen to be drenched with explorations on religious themes.  Not the least important position is the need to abandon supernatural deities for a realistic man-god.

     This is not to say that any living man should be accorded the status of a god but that a god like ideal would replace the supernatural psychological projections.  After all any notion of god is merely an intellectual projection of a given people in their own image.  Thus the Greek pantheon is a reflection of the Greek psyche, Yahweh is the projection of the Jewish psyche and its god.  So with Buddha, he is merely the aspirations of the Indian psyche.

     Tarzan, it follows is a projection of Burroughs’ psyche and one might add satisfactory to millions around the world as a god like projection.  The Tarzan religion is already in place.  It remains only to develop and codify it.  Further as an ideal he is attainable to the dedicated aspirant.  When Burroughs wrote the ability to build bodies of ideal proportions  was in its infancy but has been perfected over the years to such magnificent specimens as Charles Atlas and Arnold Schwarzenegger in their primes. These two men realized the physical perfection of Tarzan.  My essay Men Like Gods looks into this aspect more closely.

     Psychological perfection can be attanined but may be more restricted than physical perfection and take longer to achieve but refined methods may be able to break the crust sooner.  As Burroughs portrays Tarzan he seems to have the essential integrated personality; that is his conscious and subconscious minds are unified.  To achieve this goal one must have an accurate idea of how the subconscious functions in relation to the conscious.  Freud’s notion of the ‘unconscious’ is completely erroneous.  I examine that problem and offer a solution in my essay on Freud a link for which is provided at the head of this essay that for some reason is titled Hello World.

     And finally in the area of intelligence we have the means to prepare the mind with accurate scientific knowledge.  Because of varying intellectual capacities that are unavoidable success in education will depend on the innate intelligence of the individual.

     Yet with the proper guidance and the ideal of the man-god before him the youth will be ale to see that to which he is to strive.  Of course, the physical is the most easily attained by nearly all healthy men; psychology and education will depend on the individual.

     The old gods are dead; they are no longer viable.  Each represented a stage in the psychology of human evolution.  It is now time to evolve into scientific man and leave the religious mind behind.

     If Rosenberg didn’t explcitly state the goal it was implied.  Edgar Rice Burroughs did state the goal and gave an example of the ideal.  The time has come for the man-god.  It remains only to set up the ideal as a beacon to draw people to it.

     In so doing an acceptable and soul satisfying ideal can be supplied to heal and anneal the troubled soul of man that so disturbed Rosenberg, troubled Burroughs and plagues the world.

     The old gods, almost dead, must go.

  Part IV to follow.