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PostPosted: Sun March 21st, 2010, 04:15 GMT 

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I've come to like this one more & more as time goes by. I initially thought this was one of the lesser tracks on the album. This last done live 5-23-76 & rehearsed in 1994. I'd love to hear that. Solid track! anyone feel strongly on this one? Comments, posts etc. MEZ


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PostPosted: Sun March 21st, 2010, 04:19 GMT 

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Funny, I always felt is was the greatest song on that album, right from the first listen. Sung in such a mysterious voice (did he ever use those tones again?) and with that 'Ironsides' reference, it has the most deeply 19th century feeling...and such devastating sadness. To be an immigrant, to hear such things said...to be American and have that feeling such a remorseless part of the story...it's powerful and truthful stuff.


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PostPosted: Sun March 21st, 2010, 12:32 GMT 
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It seems to allow the possibility of being an internal type dialog (though I guess it's not a dialog if only one person is speaking) dealing with our spriitual, higher selves as immigrants on this earthly plain.

Anyone else feel pity for that cruel and embattled immigrant who "falls in love with wealth itself and turns his back on me"?


I haven't heard the '94 rehearsal---I'm crazy about the '76 version from the Hard Rain movie, this very serious song becomes a hoot and a holler and a half. That's the drummer on piano and someone else just playing the hell out of the drums, right? And was that Joan Baez doing some kind of shimmy with her maracas? Great stuff.


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PostPosted: Sun March 21st, 2010, 15:28 GMT 
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i prefer joanies take on it tbh
i like the song, but for me its definately one of the weaker ones on JWH


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PostPosted: Sun March 21st, 2010, 22:09 GMT 

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It's pretty good.. middle of the pack for me on the album.


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PostPosted: Sun March 21st, 2010, 22:15 GMT 

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smoke wrote:
I'm crazy about the '76 version from the Hard Rain movie


Yeah, me too.

I've never thought that I will said that but I like...Bob's guitar playing on it (there is nice riff between verses). :D


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PostPosted: Mon March 22nd, 2010, 02:31 GMT 
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^
There's a really good quality version on the Joan Baez CD to accompany the PBS special.

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters ... ound/1185/

http://www.amazon.com/How-Sweet-Sound-J ... B002LIKM98

(And yes, it's my favourite version too)


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PostPosted: Mon March 22nd, 2010, 02:33 GMT 
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It is one of the Album's best tracks.
Dylan in his social comment role. The problems of migrants coming to a new country are over looked by many of us . Yet it must be hard to struggle for acceptance in a strange land , with new ways to adapt to , often a new language .


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PostPosted: Mon March 22nd, 2010, 04:28 GMT 

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The song is about the Jews in the desert during Exodus. It is directly taken from the Blessings of Obedience in the book of Leviticus. This has pointed out many times on numerous forums and again most recently by Seth Rogovoy in his recent book, "Bob Dylan: Mystic, Prophet, Poet."

To quote directly from Rogovoy's book:

Dylan: "Whose strength is spent in vain....."
Leviticus 26:19: "I will make your heaven like iron."

Dylan: Whose heaven is like Ironsides."
Leviticus 26:19: "I will make your heaven like iron."

Dylan: "Who eats but is not satisfied"
Leviticus: 26:26 "Though you eat, you shall not be satisfied"


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PostPosted: Mon March 22nd, 2010, 04:50 GMT 

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PSB wrote:
The song is about the Jews in the desert during Exodus. It is directly taken from the Blessings of Obedience in the book of Leviticus. This has pointed out many times on numerous forums and again most recently by Seth Rogovoy in his recent book, "Bob Dylan: Mystic, Prophet, Poet."

To quote directly from Rogovoy's book:

Dylan: "Whose strength is spent in vain....."
Leviticus 26:19: "I will make your heaven like iron."

Dylan: Whose heaven is like Ironsides."
Leviticus 26:19: "I will make your heaven like iron."

Dylan: "Who eats but is not satisfied"
Leviticus: 26:26 "Though you eat, you shall not be satisfied"


No offence, but the fact that Dylan is alluding to Leviticus does not mean the song is explicitly *about* the exact situation documented in Leviticus. The Exodus story is a foundational myth in western culture (some have even drawn parallels between its structure and the Marxist myth of secular salvation, for instance). Note, for instance, that Bob says 'heaven is like ironsides.' That is a conscious Americanizing of the referent and makes no sense in the Biblical context. No, this seems to be a song about the migrant experience and its correlate - the inevitable scapegoating that goes with it - and one with specifically American overtones. It uses the Exodus allusions poetically but not literally, I'd say.


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PostPosted: Mon March 22nd, 2010, 04:58 GMT 

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It apparently took Bob 10 takes to get the one he wanted and it pays off on the final album. This and the next (Wicked Messenger) are the centerpieces of the album for me. I never heard the song as being about any immigrant's life and their hardships, but more about a specific immigrant in the most generalized context of a folk ballad.
From Webster's:

im·mi·grant
  –noun
1.
a person who migrates to another country, usually for permanent residence.

The immigrant is a wanderer, a stranger in a strange land, anyone can be an immigrant. In many ways, we're all immigrants.
The song is a cautionary song, one of deep sadness. The word 'pity' is a very strong word, an emotion that can yield both good and evil. Who is this singer who pities another? How does he empathize? Or does he see and pity himself and is he following this road himself as well?
A mysterious song on an album full of mysteries, the last verse is so very brutal it pains me to even read it...

I pity the poor immigrant
Who wishes he would’ve stayed home,
Who uses all his power to do evil
But in the end is always left so alone.
That man whom with his fingers cheats
And who lies with ev’ry breath,
Who passionately hates his life
And likewise, fears his death.

I pity the poor immigrant
Whose strength is spent in vain,
Whose heaven is like Ironsides,
Whose tears are like rain,
Who eats but is not satisfied,
Who hears but does not see,
Who falls in love with wealth itself
And turns his back on me.

I pity the poor immigrant
Who tramples through the mud,
Who fills his mouth with laughing
And who builds his town with blood,
Whose visions in the final end
Must shatter like the glass.
I pity the poor immigrant
When his gladness comes to pass.

The 76 versions are wonderfully performed, a radical re-invention and perhaps the finest duet with Joan he ever did. Those versions shifted my listening of the song to this more ambiguous, more internal self-reflexive impression forever. One can hear the more 'south of the border' arrangement and hear an added layer of commentary on this tragedy in the way of maybe satire. The song generally followed Deportees, Woody's very real, very tragic song of very specific immigrants...
But the song also generally came directly before the majestic 76 Shelter From The Storm. In both of these songs, I hear the tale of the immigrant in the first person, at a crossroads struggling to find his own direction in a confusing time, finding guidance in his own words and some damn fine cathartic singing...

The one I go to is from Fort Worth Texas:

May 16 1976
http://www.sendspace.com/file/0ife5c

The very best


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PostPosted: Mon March 22nd, 2010, 06:38 GMT 
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This song reminds me of one of my Miss Ex's...I hated her as much as I loved her !


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PostPosted: Tue January 31st, 2012, 06:08 GMT 
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I PITY THE POOR IMMIGRANT

Robert Shelton

Compassionate and doomladen, this lyric confounds me. Dylan may be having a tortured colloquy with himself, a love-hate debate between his own (everyone’s) good side and the acquisitive, opportunist, insatiable element. Alain Remond has suggested an attempt to balance fate and liberty. Remond saw us all as immigrants or exiles from The Gates Of Eden. Dylan was now outside New York City, city of immigrants, but sending down messages of how sick the city seemed to him. The singing is outstanding, to one of the most beautiful melodies in Anglo-Scots tradition. E must have remembered Bonnie Dobson’s singing of the Canadian Peter Amberley, which borrows from Come all Ye Tramps And Hawkers. The immigrant’s dreadful deeds are set against such caressing cadences that the harshness of the crimes recede. Perhaps the final line, “When his gladness comes to pass”, with its biblical serenity, offers hope of grace.

DS – Mojo 100 Greatest Dylan Songs #50

New England meets Old Testament in Dylan’s resigned but ambiguous hymn to the migrant’s lot. This oracular, gravely beautiful highlight of 1968’s ascetic album finds a sanctified Dylan at his most ancient-sounding. Borrowing an aching melody from an arcane Scottish ballad, Tramps And Hawkers, Dylan imparts lyrics of unflinching solemnity on which neither his rudimentary acoustic guitar, nor Spartan, 6/8-time bass and drums, intrude. A slow, quiet song with mighty reverberations, some see it as Dylan playing God, ironically rebulking the white American settler, “Who falls in love with wealth itself / And turns his back on me”. A cryptic, allegorical finger to the American dream disguised as an abstinent hymn.

Mike Marqusee

Dylan's portrait of the "poor immigrant" is even less heroic. This is not one of Guthrie's deportees, but a cold and selfish man who lies and cheats. Driven by insecurity and acquisitiveness, he "passionately hates his life / And likewise, fears his death:" Lost in an alien land of competi¬tive individuals, the immigrant's very efforts to survive and thrive de¬humanize him. He "eats but is not satisfied," "hears but does not see," and "falls in love with wealth itself." It is a form of lifelessness, Dylan's long-standing enemy, but now it is pitied rather than scorned. Like other songs on the album, I Pity The Poor Immigrant deromanticizes the oppressed, but also disdains cynicism. The immigrant is a victim of history. The song also restates Dylan's critique of money-power, the suspi¬cion of Mammon that persists through all his metamorphoses.

Oliver Trager

Thematically related to I Am A Lonesome Hobo and Drifter’s Escape (other songs on John Wesley Harding depicting reviled outsiders), I Pity The Pooor Immigrant may be heard as an archetypical American story portraying the detestable state of the chronic and tortured user who paradoxically detests life yet fears death.

The roots of I Pity The Poor Immigrant in tune, sensibility and especially in Dylan’s singing of the song on the album, can possibly be traced to Come All Ye Tramps And Hawkers, a traditional Scottish ballad. It is one of the most beautiful melodies in Anglo-Scots tradition and Dylan uses it well, perhaps emulating Bonnie Dobson’s singing of the Canadian song Peter Amberley, which borrows from Come All Ye Tramps And Hawkers. Some have pointed out a similarity between the tune for I Pity The Poor Immigrant and that of Ewan MacColl’s Come Me Little Son. Dylan’s singing is in top form, in any case, and his contrast of the immigrant’s desperate actions against his soft delivery diminishes the harshness of the deeds – aided too by a hint of redemption in the final line, “When his gladness comes to pass.”

But there is a healthy dose of the Old Testament here too. John Wesley Harding has been called rock’s first biblical album and many references to the good book can be found sprinkled throughout most, if not all, of its songs. According to Dylan legend, a copy of the Bible lay open in his Woodstock, New York, study throughout this period. In specific regard to I Pity The Poor Immigrant, Dylan’s passages of choice seem to be drawn from Leviticus (26:19, 20, 26, 33, 38) and Deuteronomy (28:23, 28, 36) – books that Dylan would later, interestingly enough, reference in Jokerman. The essence of these references is that God punishes those who do not obey the Ten Commandments by turning them into immigrants and casting them into a threatening environment. The passages grom Leviticus (“And I will make your heaven as iron / And your earth as brass / And your strength shall be spent in vain / And ye shall eat, and not be satisfied”) could have been practically cut and pasted from the Bible’s pages and into Dylan’s song.

Showing sympathy to the character while the song itself is ominous in tone, I Pity The Poor Immigrant finds Dylan playing with the conflicting instincts driving his song’s title character – the desire to create a new, positive reality in a strange land is at odds with the materialistic elements of human nature. And it is the baser human qualities that characterise Dylan’s immigrant – a gluttonous, duplicitous and harsh man clearly out of control. Dylan wrote I Pity The Poor Immigrant in 1967 in Woodstock after his self-imposed recuperative exile following his motorcycle crash a year before. Perhaps the song was his way of sending a message from the wilderness of his upstate idyll of how ill the city and, by extension, American society (both defined by and composed of immigrants) seemed to him. It has also been suggested that the song’s theme relates to his father, Abraham Zimmerman, and / or Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman – both sons of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe.

While the studio release of I Pity The Poor Immigrant was an understated, slightly downcast western ballad (as if Dylan was running on musical fumes), his performances of it with Joan Baez during the 1976 leg of The Rolling Thunder Revue (an example of which may be seen on the Hard Rain video) were lively to say the least – full of vibrant gypsy swagger, and an underrated highlight of the second edition of The Rolling Thunder Revue.

Gordon Mills

In I Pity The Poor Immigrant, almost to the tune of Irene Good-night, Dylan suggests the immense sympathy he has for those who have dared to cut the rope and be free from the life of being one, "who lies with every breath / who passionately hates himself / and likewise fears his death." He realizes the trials of anybody who pushes through to the side of the Looking Glass. The immigrant, having seen through the enormous paradox of wealth and poverty on this earth, seeks another way The song ends with open tenderness for those who have made the journey.

Clinton Heylin

Published lyrics: Writings and Drawings; Lyrics 1985; Lyrics 2004.

Known studio recordings: Studio A, Nashville, 6 November 1967 – 10 takes [JWH-tk.10].

First known performance: Isle of Wight, 31 August 1969.

At what exact point did Dylan outline the architecture for this, his most perfectly realized album? By the end of the second session, he was already two-thirds into the process, with an album opener, a big ballad and a potential single (which he refrained from releasing, resulting in an argument with new Columbia president Clive Davis, who pointed out the commercial realities of AM airplay). All that really remained was for him to hit the home stretch of that path, “thick beset wi' briars which leads from retribution to salvation.” Simple.

Before that, though, he required one more parable-in-song, focus ing on the fate of tenants, hoboes, tramps, and hawkers. The latter two formed the subject of a traditional ballad Dylan knew well, which he may or may not have learned from Scottish folksinger Jean Redpath. As she told Radio Scotland in 2001, “Bob and I were out-of-towners in the back end of the summer of 1961,” we had the same roof over our heads, thanks to the generosity of a woman called Mikki Issacson. I know I had Tramps & Hawkers and Davy Farr, of course the same tune, and The Bonnie Lass Of Fyvie in my own active repertoire about that point. But who can tell what damage that did.”

The last of these served as the original for Pretty Peggy-O, a song Dylan put on his debut platter (and donated in kind to The Grateful Dead), while Tramps & Hawkers was another simple song that did not quite suffice for Dylan's polemical purpose, but had a tune that did. The song itself was a jaunty celebration of life on the road, not the tortured tale of a “poor immigrant / who wishes he would've stayed home”:

Sometimes noo I laugh tae mysel'
when dodgin' alang the road
Wi' a bag o' meal slung upon my back,
my face as broun's a toad
Wi' lumps o'cheese and tattie scones
or breid an' braxie ham
Nae thinking whar' I'm comin' frae
nor thinkin' whar I'm gang.

It had been a while since Dylan allowed himself to put a traditional tune to the words he was spinning (a process he then carried back to Woodstock). As with the equally jaunty I've Been A Moonshiner, which he transformed into the wrist-slashing Moonshine Blues for The Times They Are A-Changin’ sessions, he again turned a fine traditional tune to a darker purpose – writing the John Wesley Harding equivalent of Tears Of Rage, a song written within a couple of weeks of I Pity The Poor Immigrant.

I Pity The Poor Immigrant, though, relies more on the language of Milton's Paradise Lost or the King James Bible than ballads of a similar vintage. Not just the language but also the specific follies the song details can be found scattered across the Old Testament, whether it be Leviticus (“Your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase” – 26:20; “Ye shall eat, and not be satisfied” – 26:26) or Deuteronomy (“Thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth” - 8:17). Of a piece with The Wicked Messenger, which follows it on the album (and may have already been written), I Pity The Poor Immigrant took Dylan ten takes to sing and be satisfied.

One of three John Wesley Harding songs to receive its live debut at the Isle of Wight, I Pity The Poor Immigrant is blessed with another sympathetic Band treatment, a wash of accordion overseeing its stately procession. However, Dylan's attempt to blend Nashville Skyline and John Wesley Harding voices makes for one of the least effective vocals on that strange evening. Seven years later, the song was redeemed by the glorious honky-tonk arrangement it received on the second leg of The Rolling Thunder Revue, this time delivered by a Dylan who almost snarls the lyrics, while Joan Baez gamely tries to hold her own. This last, sardonic reincarnation, also a highlight of the Hard Rain concert film, seemingly sufficed.


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PostPosted: Tue January 31st, 2012, 11:08 GMT 
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I Pity The Poor Immigrant


Little has changed in society's attitudes towards immigrants and the song's relevence today is as significant as ever. It needs to come back into the set rotation for a new hearing and for this generation.


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PostPosted: Tue January 31st, 2012, 11:47 GMT 
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I have completed considerable research on this song... focusing on the influences that compelled Dylan to write the song.

My research was long and arduous, over many, many years... with very few clues that would point me to the trigger that caused Dylan to compose this track.

Like all great research, the answer was stumbled upon accidently... I was recently watching Kevin Cosner in Robin, Prince of Thieves, when it all became clear.

The song is not about 'immigrants' per se... if you replace the word 'immigrant' with the word 'sheriff' in the song, then the answer is there for all to see.

The inspiration for this song is the villainous, evil, cruel, nasty, loathsome and sickening Sheriff of Nottingham... listen to the lyrics... read the lyrics... and you will see the truth abouth this song.

I now fully believe that the whole John Wesley Harding album was inspired by that film... the whole album screams out "Robin Hood"... the JWH is Dylan's only known concept album... and it celebrates the man, the myth, and the maiden... avec toot, Robin, Prince of Thieves!


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PostPosted: Tue January 31st, 2012, 15:17 GMT 
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here is the 1976 hard rain version,Totally different vibe to the album version.
joan is all smiles and does a funny dance, and bob goes "fills his mouth with laughing: ha ha"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzGkQK3Ro98


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PostPosted: Mon November 26th, 2012, 20:24 GMT 
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so beautiful. it's about all Americans, isn't it?


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PostPosted: Tue November 27th, 2012, 04:03 GMT 
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marker wrote:
I pity the poor immigrant
Who wishes he would’ve stayed home,
Who uses all his power to do evil
But in the end is always left so alone.
That man whom with his fingers cheats
And who lies with ev’ry breath,
Who passionately hates his life
And likewise, fears his death.

I pity the poor immigrant
Whose strength is spent in vain,
Whose heaven is like Ironsides,
Whose tears are like rain,
Who eats but is not satisfied,
Who hears but does not see,
Who falls in love with wealth itself
And turns his back on me.

I pity the poor immigrant
Who tramples through the mud,
Who fills his mouth with laughing
And who builds his town with blood,
Whose visions in the final end
Must shatter like the glass.
I pity the poor immigrant
When his gladness comes to pass.

The 76 versions are wonderfully performed, a radical re-invention and perhaps the finest duet with Joan he ever did.
The one I go to is from Fort Worth Texas:

May 16 1976

http://www.sendspace.com/file/0ife5c

The very best

Fort Worth, baby!


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PostPosted: Tue November 27th, 2012, 04:14 GMT 
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I Love this song. The entire John Wesley Harding had to grow on me to be honest, it was a little off-putting at first, but at this point I thoroughly recognize it's genius and this song is certainly a magnificent addition to it. A wonderful, wonderful song.


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PostPosted: Tue November 27th, 2012, 05:31 GMT 
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^
what turned you off? the harmonica?


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PostPosted: Tue November 27th, 2012, 09:17 GMT 

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This is one of my absolute favorits, if not the one I cherish the most of all Dylans songs. And I go with those that see it as a song commenting on the spiritual state of men, rather than immigrants in the outer world. To say that it just relates to the exodus is also a bit short, even considered the use of expressions from that source. It is not "then", it is "here and now".

It reminds me of poems and storys of Rumi and other sufi poets, who saw the core of men, which is related to its devine heritage, imprisoned or exiled from its true origin.

The search for redemption seems to be the one ongoing theme in Dylans life, apart from his art, and it has always been feeding his art.

For that reason I prefer his versions to that of Joan Baez, because she never really ventured out from the hear and now and the unjustices of people against each other to the injustices that a person does onto himself.


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PostPosted: Tue November 27th, 2012, 10:06 GMT 
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Nice take ^.

This metaphorical immigrant is a stranger... a stranger to love of everything and everyone, including himself, and thereby a stranger to loving acts and deeds. Importantly, he's also a stranger to the prevailing good of man. The internal hope that springs from this parable is that by casting him as the immigrant/outsider his evil ways will not ultimately prevail, and that he himself may be the one who finally sees the light shining in his rear-view mirrors, who turns to face the warm glow of love for the first time in his life, and finds that redemption. Dylan's unspoken saving grace message seems to be that there's a lot more good than evil in this world.


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PostPosted: Tue November 27th, 2012, 10:54 GMT 
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I agree it's Voice of God. Brilliant call back to St Augustine at the end (shatter like the glass). I think Ricks has a bit to say about that final line - does he really mean when his gladness comes to pass, or rather when his gladness passes away?


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PostPosted: Tue November 27th, 2012, 12:17 GMT 

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Could someone repost this?

Fort Worth Texas:

May 16 1976
http://www.sendspace.com/file/0ife5c


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PostPosted: Tue November 27th, 2012, 12:20 GMT 
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Trev wrote:
does he really mean when his gladness comes to pass, or rather when his gladness passes away?

The former. He pities one who is made glad by the sorry way he conducts his life, as checklisted by the preceding lines of the song.


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