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PostPosted: Tue June 26th, 2012, 06:32 GMT 
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As the above 2 posters have stated and shown events completely unlinked to lyrics can appear to be related by theme . In years to come it is possible people unaware of the timing will be come convinced that 9/11 was responsible for Dylan wrtiting those lyrics.
And so myths and legends and left field theories are born.


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PostPosted: Tue June 26th, 2012, 11:59 GMT 

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the_revelator wrote:
There's no way to know what the meaning is for him, of course. Additionally, we can't know what other listeners hear in the songs nor can Dylan guess what listeners may attach to the songs irrespective of his intentions.


yeah, people do become very convinced of various things- i'm not saying i'm convinced of anything. people will attach all kinds of meaning to things, create all kinds of ideas and the songs create all kinds of emotions depending on a person's life. so the songs are always alive in a way, because they will hit everyone a little differently. i wonder if that is ok, with dylan (or with most artists), or if it is a problem sometimes. is a there a way of leading to a direct meaning and bypassing interpretation. yeah, people will have their wacky interpretations, but is it only a problem, if they don't realize that there is no one way of interpreting the songs. is there a right or wrong way hear them... anyway, these questions have been asked for a long time i guess


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PostPosted: Tue June 26th, 2012, 13:05 GMT 
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many people will argue black and blue that only their interpretation is right.


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PostPosted: Tue June 26th, 2012, 18:05 GMT 
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MMD wrote:
I'll keep this very brief here and say just this:
When our narrator is singing, we start in the present, the words have meaning for us in relation to our current social circumstances (e.g., High Water and September 11th). And we experience the statements of loneliness or anxiety or rebellion in that context. But, when we learn that the narrator is either speaking in Timrod's or Ovid's words, or has been replaced by Timrod or Ovid in the song, if we recognize that shift in narrator, and know the the overall sense of the original poem that the lines come from, and if we know the historical conditions in which the "quoted" lines were written, then we can overlap Ovid's or Timrod's experience as well as all the implications of the Civil War or the collapse of Rome onto our 21st century narrator. Suddenly, Dylan's narrator is telling us that what looks like an ironic or smirking crack about our times is, in combination with the incorporated lines (and the world they bring with them), in fact a statement of a coming catastrophe or of a sense of a deep corruption, or a kind of loneliness that isn't possible to imagine in our times anymore.

This seems to come as close as possible to what we've called a "code." I give Mr. Warmuth considerable credit for a really astonishing discovery of Bob's sources, but, although he suggests that their use may amount to a code of some sort, his work--thus far--doesn't demonstrate it. I'm guessing, though, that he's not finished yet. And, neither, I hope, is this magnificent thread!


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PostPosted: Wed June 27th, 2012, 00:22 GMT 
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raging_glory wrote:
MMD wrote:


I'll keep this very brief here and say just this:
When our narrator is singing, we start in the present, the words have meaning for us in relation to our current social circumstances (e.g., High Water and September 11th). And we experience the statements of loneliness or anxiety or rebellion in that context. But, when we learn that the narrator is either speaking in Timrod's or Ovid's words, or has been replaced by Timrod or Ovid in the song, if we recognize that shift in narrator, and know the the overall sense of the original poem that the lines come from, and if we know the historical conditions in which the "quoted" lines were written, then we can overlap Ovid's or Timrod's experience as well as all the implications of the Civil War or the collapse of Rome onto our 21st century narrator. Suddenly, Dylan's narrator is telling us that what looks like an ironic or smirking crack about our times is, in combination with the incorporated lines (and the world they bring with them), in fact a statement of a coming catastrophe or of a sense of a deep corruption, or a kind of loneliness that isn't possible to imagine in our times anymore.


This is excellent.


Yes, it is excellent. And it ties in with MMD's first lines in that post about Norman Raeben: "The play with time that is such a big part of Dylan's experience and work after his apprenticeship with Raeben seems to me to have undergone a change in his late work -- Say LT, M&A forward." That to me has always been a very important turning point for Dylan - Sara no longer understood him. His world was different.


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PostPosted: Wed June 27th, 2012, 04:56 GMT 
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The more I read this thread the more I am convinced there is no code.


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PostPosted: Wed June 27th, 2012, 23:15 GMT 
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oldmanemu wrote:
The more I read this thread the more I am convinced there is no code.


Read it less , then.


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PostPosted: Wed June 27th, 2012, 23:16 GMT 
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I'm very much inclined to agree with you, oldmanemu. While Dylan's incorporation of older and contemporary texts has been very well documented, and while I can accept that Dylan likely hopes and intends that these incorporations be discovered, in order to constitute a code of some sort, it would have to be decipherable by, at least, the very well-read public at large, wouldn't it?

I think that we're looking for a Rosetta stone, of sorts. And, I think it's unlikely that one will be found--although, I'd be very pleased to be shown wrong!

MMD's formulation, which I and others have quoted, above, is, I think, a perfectly valid exposition of a possible interpretation of Dylan's use of incorporation--and, if true, it would definitely constitute a code of some sort.

But, I don't think that we can know that this is what Dylan intended. And, that's the key, isn't it?

Which is not to say that this thread isn't one of the most enjoyable, and educational, that I've read on ER! (Yes, I lurked awhile before becoming a member).


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PostPosted: Wed June 27th, 2012, 23:45 GMT 
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Train-I-Ride wrote:
oldmanemu wrote:
The more I read this thread the more I am convinced there is no code.


Read it less , then.
if you say so
By the way I saw your post in another thread that the code had been cracked.
That is good news and shows I am wrong .
Could you please enhance on that ?


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PostPosted: Thu June 28th, 2012, 11:23 GMT 
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Hi ReindeerArmies,

Your last post got me thinking about the term 'code' again. And I wonder whether we are using that term in the same way in this thread. My guess is that we are not. So, I'm going to offer up a couple of distinctions for discussion. I hope that, at least, it helps make discussion easier.

I'll go back to Warmuth. If you look at the early potions of the Bob Charlatan essay (73), you'll see that Warmuth explains that in an effort to come to terms with all the incorporations he was finding across Dylan's work (including interviews), he "studied cryptography" as well as puzzle solving in an effort to decipher 'something that Dylan might have hidden somewhere else." That is, Warmuth's approach to Dylan's incorporations is (or at least was) grounded in a conviction that (1) with these incorporations, Dylan was hiding something; (2) that this hiding was encoded; (3) and that he approached the possibility of there being codes in a formal and technical way. He studied cryptography.

So, when Warmuth uses the term 'code' he is, very likely, using the term in a technical sense -- that is, using it in the way that cryptographers do. In cryptography, the term 'code' refers to a specific kind of secret writing. If we are using 'code' in the technical way that Warmuth seems to intend the term, we are making very strong claims about what is happening in Dylan's writing, claims that I don't think most posters on this thread mean to make. It involves the following elements:

(1) the substitution for the linguistic elements of an original (plain text) message of a different, second set of linguistic elements -- i.e., for "American civil war" (original) we would get a complex system of substitutions -- e.g., for 'America' we might have 'the road', and for 'civil' we might have 'coffee' and for 'war' we might have '1912'. So the encoded text would be 'The road coffee 1912' for the original 'American civil war'.

(2) a system, algorithm, formula for replacing the second set of linguistic elements with the original linguistic elements (a code book or key). Here, it is not a question of inventing or interpreting the code. Rather, there is a real, and fully developed method for reversing the substitution of words for one another.

(3) A code could be broken if the formula or method of encryption is discovered. Once this is done, the exact original message would be available to anyone with the code. Again, there is no question of interpretation. Only by discovering the key (or enough of the key) to decode the message can the real and actual original message be known.

We are talking here about the kind of thing that is used in warfare.

So, taking Warmuth at his word, it appears that he believes that the incorporation sentences and words of authors like Jack London, Ovid, Twain, Timrod, Henry Rollins, etc., are in fact substitutions for another, original, set of words of sentences. Warmuth must also believe (to continue the hypothesis) that there is, in principle, some kind of a key or code book that would allow a decoding reader to break the code and know, for a fact, the original and secret, hidden meaning.

This is to say that these incorporations (at least, possibly many other elements in Dylan's work)
(a) don't mean what they say on their face
(b) mean a different, but very specific and exact other thing (the secret message).

Just as an example: that would mean that when Dylan says that he is at the "last outback at the world's end", he doesn't mean what Ovid said there (it's an exact quotation of a passage in a translation of an Ovid's Black Sea Letters). Instead, elements of that phrase stand in for some other, different phrases -- perhaps, "my bus is stalled on the Ponte Vecchio".

That seems both far-fetched (but not impossible) and essentially unresolvable. Warmuth would need to cryptanalyze Dylan's work, break the code, and prove that his "code" or "key" was in fact Dylan's. Originally, I assumed that Warmuth was not using the term 'code' technically, but that he meant something like hidden and meaning-creating. But, the more I work through his claims, the more I think he meant 'code' in the strong, technical sense (in the Bob Charlatan essay, at least).

Contrary to this technical sense, I think most posters on this thread, mean something like 'intertextuality' or 'metaphor' or allusion when they say 'code'.

In the post in which I discussed how I thought the incorporations might help intensify meaning in Dylan's work, I described what I mean by 'intertextuality'. And I'll just clarify that in this context:

In Ain't Talkin', Dylan incorporates 13 passages from Ovid (12 of which are from the poems Ovid wrote decrying his exile from his home and family as well as his anger about being abandoned and betrayed by those he thought loved him). 11 of the 13 incorporations are word for word incorporations from translations of Ovid into English.

For what are these Ovid passages code? Are they meant to stand out (as different from the rest of the text because by Ovid), and so to suggest themselves to a smart reader of Dylan as encoded phrases? Let's say that is why Dylan chooses Ovid lines (the fact of being from Ovid is a signal). Are these 11, 12 or 13 Ovid lines to then be analyzed until a secret code emerges to the analyst? Then, having found the decoder key, is the aim then to replace those Ovid lines with the secret actual message from Bob Dylan?

I think not.

Nor does 'code' mean 'metaphor' -- in the sense that we could use a word outside it's common context in order to transform its meaning. To say "Christ is a chronometer" (a classic example in the philosophy of language) is not to say that Christ is a chronometer necessarily, but to cause both major terms to be transformed in the relation through the equating of the two.

More likely, the lines from Ovid are meant to transform the meaning of the song as a whole, but also the other lines of the song, and finally, the Ovid poem as well. Not by being replaced with a different, secret, original message, but by causing the meaning of the various parts of the song to interact with one another. As I said in the previous post: Ovid's exile at the hands of a country, and a ruler and a government that is changing from Ovid's time into something new, the experience of desolation and isolation, the loss -- all of that is brought to bear on a early 20th century bluegrass song (Highway of Regret, source of the chorus) recorded as America itself was transforming into something new (late 50s, Early 60s), a song that is probably based on an older still Irish song (As I Roved Out). Two senses of exile, isolation, decay, loss are made to interact with one another -- Roman and American. We need to know not just that it is Ovid, but something about the poems as a whole, about their context. Once we know that, the song takes on new significance. Each time Ovid speaks for Dylan's narrator, Ovid's isolation (so much more complete than what is possible to experience today) is made our own, but so too is the relationship between Rome and the U.S., the sense of betrayal by the country both Dylan and Ovid are committed to. It is possible to push this much, much further.

But, what is clear is that this is not an algorithmic code to be broken.


Last edited by MMD on Thu June 28th, 2012, 11:35 GMT, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu June 28th, 2012, 11:32 GMT 
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Thank you for clarifying that, MMD! I have been quite frustrated because I was sure that the aim of this thread was not to say that there is a code in the songs, but I couldn't figure out how to express that. Nor do I feel that it is any sort of game Bob is playing.


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PostPosted: Thu June 28th, 2012, 11:44 GMT 
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raging_glory wrote:
Thank you for clarifying that, MMD! I have been quite frustrated because I was sure that the aim of this thread was not to say that there is a code in the songs, but I couldn't figure out how to express that. Nor do I feel that it is any sort of game Bob is playing.


Yes, the more I think about Warmuth's (very strong) claims about 'codes', the more outlandish they seem.

More an more, I am seeing these incorporations as part of a double strategy:
-- a new way of pursuing his insights about time and art (via his apprenticeship with Raeben).
-- a way of enacting a kind of fluidity of identity whereby the narrator ('Dylan' as andrea75 has it), cycles through identities through these incorporations, thereby transforming the significance of the setting and action of the song/book/film. 21st century 'Dylan' recalls a lost US and lives 'out of time' in his/ours; when he cycles into Timrod, the anxieties and loneliness, the love and loss of the 21st century narrator are now reconfigured by both actually being, but also being implicitly compared to the Civil War era (in the South); if it is Ovid, the same transposition of identity of the narrator without the loss of either identity or context (both Rome and the US) occurs.
Unlike the masks or costumes which have the effect of replacing one persona for another, the (silent, unremarked) incorporations allow both (or more) to exist at the same time, to intensify, multiply meanings around a common point/theme.

The two are obviously intertwined, but address different aspects of the experience.


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PostPosted: Thu June 28th, 2012, 12:02 GMT 
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To push the issue of the effect of incorporations on the meaning of Dylan's work a little further:

What do incorporations do that reference or implication doesn't?
If we take the work of Kees de Graaf, which is I think a kind of literary criticism, we see that he looks for themes, resonance of word usage, common terms in order 'recognize" the relationship between the song "Ain't Talkin'" and certain Biblical themes. http://www.keesdegraaf.com/index.php/17 ... art-5-fina
There is no doubt that de Graaf finds common themes and resonance in the language, but ultimately, his interpretation remains speculative, a bit weak. It may be the case that the 'garden' and 'cool crystal fountain' refer to the Garden of Eden; it may be that Dylan's toil and exhaustion imply that he is a stand in for Adam after the fall. But, the case is broad and general. This is true of most textual interpretations. Even the most authoritative are often grounded in reference and implication. Often the speculative or uncertain character of interpretive works are obfuscated by their acceptance over time.

But incorporations change the way that the songs can be interpreted. The connection between any of Dylan's works and the texts from which he has incorporated passages is not speculative (at least not once we reach a certain level of certainty about the source). It is not a question of building a case for the connection between Ovid's Tristia and Dylan's Ain't Talkin'. The texts are connected. Ain't Talkin doesn't 'refer' to Tristia. It lets Tristia speak in it.

We instead have to ask what does it mean that Tristia speaks in Dylan's song?


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PostPosted: Thu June 28th, 2012, 12:30 GMT 
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I really enjoyed Kees de Graaf's analysis of Ain't Talkin' but I am really hoping that you tackle it as well and share it with us, especially so we can compare the differences in your approach. I think it would really help clarify that there is something larger at work here than simply just borrowing or quoting to bring attention to other writings.


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PostPosted: Thu June 28th, 2012, 13:33 GMT 
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MMD wrote:
We instead have to ask what does it mean that Tristia speaks in Dylan's song?


I think that in Dylan’s case, while the sentiments expressed may well be Ovid’s, the words are taken directly from Peter Green’s translations (I think I’m correct, there’s no other source) and I believe this distinction is too often elided - therefore it may be helpful to refer to “Green’s Ovid” from time to time in the same way we refer to “Golding’s Ovid” in a Shakespearian context.


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PostPosted: Thu June 28th, 2012, 17:51 GMT 
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Hi MMD,
One day, in another thread i said that in the future students will have to learn Bob Dylan as we learn Shakespeare or Rimbaud. So we are agree for that.
I think that the only things Bob has hidden are about his personnality, about himself.
For the other side, i really don't think that he has "hidden something" because Bob always wants to transmit his american culture. He always wants that we know the others artists or people who have inspired him. I think he wants that we appreciate and enjoy his poetry, that we understand what he means and that we have very good pleasure time with him. So i think that if there is something to find it is not a "code" or a "key" but something else...


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PostPosted: Thu June 28th, 2012, 19:52 GMT 
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charlesdarwin wrote:
MMD wrote:
We instead have to ask what does it mean that Tristia speaks in Dylan's song?


I think that in Dylan’s case, while the sentiments expressed may well be Ovid’s, the words are taken directly from Peter Green’s translations (I think I’m correct, there’s no other source) and I believe this distinction is too often elided - therefore it may be helpful to refer to “Green’s Ovid” from time to time in the same way we refer to “Golding’s Ovid” in a Shakespearian context.


Yes, that's sensible, CD. Speaks to the important but under appreciated role of the translator. It's largely a thankless task.


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PostPosted: Thu June 28th, 2012, 19:59 GMT 
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raging_glory wrote:
I really enjoyed Kees de Graaf's analysis of Ain't Talkin' but I am really hoping that you tackle it as well and share it with us, especially so we can compare the differences in your approach. I think it would really help clarify that there is something larger at work here than simply just borrowing or quoting to bring attention to other writings.


I enjoyed de Graaf too, and I see that, late at night as it was, I didn't qualify my sense of his work properly. I think de Graaf has done a compelling and careful reading of a number of songs including Ain't Talkin'. I enjoyed reading it.

I was trying to mark the difference between his (or anyone's) arguments that certain passages refer to or imply Biblical ones or that there are Biblical themes, on the one hand, and the fact that (Green's) Ovid appears in Dylan's song, on the other. It changes what we are allowed to say. These incorporations make certain readings, simply speaking, invalid (and I don't have any particular de Graaf passage in mind at all).


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PostPosted: Fri June 29th, 2012, 00:03 GMT 
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We have had this sort of thing with other matters .
Who remembers the Bible Code ? A clever piece of writing which in the end was proved ti have no foundation.
The Paul is dead rumours in 1969 an very detailed supposed set of clues involving album covers , song words, songs played back wards and a re construction of Revolution #9 to tell a story of him dying in a car crash . In the end a very carefully planned hoax.
And of course the excitement generated by the Da Vinci code where a fiction writer used a set of clues which had been the basis of rumours among some Christians for centuries . These have always been regarded as dubious claims .
Most likely Warmuth's work will in the end not stand up to detailed scrunity.


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PostPosted: Fri June 29th, 2012, 04:37 GMT 
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^^^
I absolutely agree with Old Man Emu.


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PostPosted: Fri June 29th, 2012, 04:42 GMT 
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oldmanemu wrote:
Most likely Warmuth's work will in the end not stand up to detailed scrunity.

With this, I agree. Unless Mr. Warmuth states his conclusions, defines exactly what he means by "code," and can in fact show how Dylan's incorporations are intended to affect the meaning of his work. And, I do keep in mind that he most likely hasn't finished his work, is probably following this thread avidly, and will (hopefully!) provide his input, either here or on his blog, at some point. Of course, he is the subject of this thread, and I'd not really be expecting him to participate until some later time.

And, MMD, I want to thank you for reminding me of something that all Dylan fans know (Led Zep fans, too), which is that "you know sometimes words have two meanings." I can accept that there are what we might call "artistic" codes, as well as technical. And, while I don't believe that the existence of such a code in any artist's work can be proven "beyond a reasonable doubt," they can certainly serve as a springboard for awfully interesting discussions of the artist! Again, much thanks!


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PostPosted: Fri June 29th, 2012, 06:14 GMT 
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ReindeerArmies wrote:
oldmanemu wrote:
Most likely Warmuth's work will in the end not stand up to detailed scrunity.

With this, I agree. Unless Mr. Warmuth states his conclusions, defines exactly what he means by "code," and can in fact show how Dylan's incorporations are intended to affect the meaning of his work. And, I do keep in mind that he most likely hasn't finished his work, is probably following this thread avidly, and will (hopefully!) provide his input, either here or on his blog, at some point. Of course, he is the subject of this thread, and I'd not really be expecting him to participate until some later time.

And, MMD, I want to thank you for reminding me of something that all Dylan fans know (Led Zep fans, too), which is that "you know sometimes words have two meanings." I can accept that there are what we might call "artistic" codes, as well as technical. And, while I don't believe that the existence of such a code in any artist's work can be proven "beyond a reasonable doubt," they can certainly serve as a springboard for awfully interesting discussions of the artist! Again, much thanks!

Thanks from me . This has been a well conducted debate and I think we have all learnt a lot.


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PostPosted: Fri June 29th, 2012, 14:11 GMT 
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First we had the discovery of these "lifted" lines. Now we are at the next stage - what is their purpose and why were they used? MMD and Scott are providing us with great insight and possibilities. There is zero doubt that they are there, so there's no mystery with that.

It could be that Bob felt these lines said exactly what he wanted to say - in a better way. In his many interviews over the years, Bob has been famous for not divulging any meanings to his songs, and even denying they had meaning. I think it's more a case of him trying to do so much(with his words), that he doesn't dare admit it.

In Chronicles, there are numerous statements by him regarding meaning and a game changing nature to his writing. He gives plenty of hints that he wanted to take things to a whole new level and do totally new things with his writing.


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PostPosted: Fri June 29th, 2012, 15:43 GMT 
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I'm not sure if this has been posted here in full, but this is the original article penned by New Zealand poet Cliff Fell (pity his surname isn't Face, but hey, you can't have it all) and published in the Nelson Mail just 6 weeks after the release of Modern Times. Apparently, it was Fell's article that first led Warmuth to the Ovid 'lifts' in MT, and then on to uncover more. What I like is the serependitious circumstances that Fell describes, that brought about the discovery. He also flags up the fact that Dylan clearly gives notice of what he's up to, and what the listener can expect over the course of the album, with the signposting couplet ‘‘I’ve been sitting down and studying The Art of Love/I think it’s gonna fit me like a glove’’ that comes in the opening song, Thunder on the Mountain. He could only have been clearer if he'd stuck 'Ovid's' directly in front of 'The Art of Love'. In fact the 'I think it's gonna fit me like a glove' line is a devilish little piece of showboating, that's saying "Just see if you can spot me slipping into my Ovid for the next 45 minutes or so." Well done Mr. Fell, who got there first. The final paragraph is also a spot-on rebuke towards those that might try and reduce this exercise to mere plagiarism, and a reminder that artistic endeavour continually revisits and draws on its past, and an unspoken reminder that the album's title is freighted with typically Dylanesque irony, given the homage paid throughout to a fellow artist that plied his craft two millennia earlier.


http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/iiml/bestnzpoems/BNZP06/nelson_mail.pdf

'AN AVID FOLLOWER OF OVID

The legendary American songwriter and rock star, who is known to many of his fans as ‘‘the poet laureate of rock’n’roll’’, released Modern Times in August and saw it shoot straight to No 1 in CD charts around the world, his first album to meet such public acclaim in 30 years. This success was swiftly followed by controversy, when it was shown that some of the lyrics in Modern Times bear a strong resemblance to lines by an obscure 19th century American poet, Henry Timrod. That sort of thing fascinates many Dylan fans, though the controversy initially passed me by because, by pure chance, I was slowly uncovering other, more ancient influences in the new album.

When I got my copy of Modern Times, I had just started reading Tristia, a book of poems by the Latin poet Ovid. It’s the book of laments he wrote when he was sent into exile from Rome, about 2000 years ago. I was trying to read it in Latin, but my Latin’s a bit rusty, so I was also reading it in the Penguin, Peter Green translation. I sat down with the book one evening, and the Dylan CD on the stereo, and then this uncanny thing happened - it was like I was suddenly reading with my ears. I heard this line from the song Workingman’s Blues 2: ‘‘No one can ever claim/That I took up arms against you.’’ But there it was singing on the page, from Book 2 of Tristia: ‘‘My cause is better: no one can claim that I ever took up arms against you.’’ It was weird, though it didn’t entirely surprise me, because in Thunder on the Mountain, the album’s first song, Dylan sings: ‘‘I’ve been sitting down and studying The Art of Love/I think it’s gonna fit me like a glove,’’ and I knew that The Art of Love was the book Ovid was most famous for and one of the reasons he was sent into exile. I was vaguely bemused by the similarity, but thought little more of it. In fact, I put it down to a simple coincidence, and kept on with Tristia. But I’m a slow reader, and it was only a couple of nights ago that I came to the final sections of the poem, and there I discovered enough lines from Modern Times to know that Dylan really had been there before me.

So which lines are they, then, that have worked their way into Modern Times? Apart from the ‘‘take up arms’’ line, they come from the last three sections of Book 5 of Tristia - and relate to two of the record’s best songs, Workingman’s Blues 2 and Ain’t Talkin’, the last song on the album. Section 13 of Tristia begins with Ovid sending greetings from ‘‘his outback’’, and section 14 speaks of Ovid’s wife being known ‘‘to the world’s end’’. In Ain’t Talkin’ Dylan closes the song, ‘‘Heart burnin’, still yearnin’/In the last outback at the world’s end.’’ While that similarity might also be put down to coincidence, there are other lines that are much closer to Ovid. They all come in the song Workingman’s Blues #2 and put the connection beyond doubt. For example, in Tristia, Book 5, Section 12, Ovid writes: ‘‘Or Niobe, bereaved, lead off some cheerful dance,’’ where Dylan sings: ‘‘I’m expecting you/To lead me off in a cheerful dance.’’ Or, in Section 13, line 18, of Tristia, Ovid has: ‘‘That I’m wrong in thinking you have forgotten me,’’ while Dylan has: ‘‘Tell me now, am I wrong in thinking/That you have forgotten me?’’ Finally, Ovid starts Section 14 of Book 5 with: ‘‘How great a monument I’ve built you in my writings, /wife, dearer to me than myself, you yourself can see,’’ where Dylan has, in one of his most beautiful lyrics: ‘‘My cruel weapons have been put on the shelf/Come sit down on my knee/You are dearer to me than myself/As you yourself can see.’’ There may be more, for all I know.

I’ve only just started reading the Black Sea Letters, the verse epistles published in the same Penguin volume. Not that I’ll be counting. Anyone who knows anything about Dylan knows that he’s frequently been a magpie, a bricoleur - an artist who picks up tunes, lines, ideas and images from all over the place. That’s part of his process as a writer. What I find much more intriguing about this discovery, is that the more you listen to Modern Times, the more you sense that Dylan’s cast the songs as a modern lament, in the mask of a new Ovid, a kind of modern exile in the modern world. And that’s what Dylan is, in a way - With the mystique that surrounds him, he’s the ultimate exile, a voice that seems very close to us, but that also speaks from far away, across an unbridgeable divide, alone in that ‘‘last outback at the world’s end’’.

This issue is bound to raise further flutterings of controversy and charges of plagiarism. I would hope not. That’s not the point. People who talk like that are simply missing it. This is homage, not plagiarism. It’s not something to bemoan, but celebrate. A great artist is forging new work, and as he intimates himself, the lines are ‘‘gonna fit me like a glove’’. Besides, think what it’s going to do for Ovid - it’ll keep his work alive for another 2000 years. No artist works in an artistic vacuum. Anything original must go back to the origins. Dylan’s in good company. Ovid, himself, stole lines and stories from Homer, as did Virgil. And Dante, Chaucer and Shakespeare all stole ideas and lines from Virgil and Ovid. It goes on. It’s a part of the poetic process. In fact, to be frank about it, I was only reading Ovid in the first place, to snaffle up a line or two myself.'


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PostPosted: Fri June 29th, 2012, 16:08 GMT 
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Thanks Train-I-Ride. I hadn't run across that before.


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