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PostPosted: Thu April 8th, 2010, 03:00 GMT 

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A very nice way to start out Slow Train Coming. I've always loved this tune from the first listen. Last played live 11-12-1980. This song will never see the live stage from Mr Dylan again, I presume. However, there is always wishful thinking for The MEZ! Others like this track? How about a great live rendition or date to check out? MEZ

PostPosted: Thu April 8th, 2010, 03:22 GMT 
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I'm not sure what copy you have of Slow Train Coming, but mine doesn't start with precious Angel. Come on, Mez!

PostPosted: Thu April 8th, 2010, 03:44 GMT 
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Precious Angel is the only song that I really, really like on that record. There are other songs that I don't hate, but it's the only one I like. It's a beautiful song.

PostPosted: Thu April 8th, 2010, 04:16 GMT 

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A really awesome song. I like how it's styled as a love song but has some of the most intense, hardest hitting religious sentiments Bob ever expressed. How many love songs can get away with "you're covered in blood, girl"?

PostPosted: Thu April 8th, 2010, 07:55 GMT 

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Sumptuous and righteous - the only song on the religious trilogy to use "Christ" (in a conclusive, clinching rhyme with "enticed") - like Blind Willie McTell, a song that links African American and Jewish slavery.

PostPosted: Thu April 8th, 2010, 11:07 GMT 
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Never heard a bad performance of this gem. Would love for Bob to surprise the world with it on the 2010 Never Ending Tour. I think Charlie, Stu, Donnie, George and Tony would have a great time with this and God only knows what Bob would do... But I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be so up-tempo.

To have songs like this in your catalogue and NOT play them? Almost seems like a crime but then again, it is Bob and Precious Angel is just another one of hundreds of songs deserving of some live performances...

PostPosted: Thu April 8th, 2010, 11:32 GMT 
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One of my favourites from Slow train coming too.
You don't need to do heroïn to appreciate the Velvet Underground song that was named after it, you don't have to buy into the god hypothesis to appriciate religiously inspired music. :P

PostPosted: Thu April 8th, 2010, 11:33 GMT 
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Exactly. You only need a shot of love!!! :lol: :lol: :lol:

PostPosted: Thu April 8th, 2010, 12:26 GMT 
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Ah, fekk off! A shot of red wine is what this hot shot needs! :mrgreen:

PostPosted: Thu April 8th, 2010, 13:52 GMT 
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Folk & Blues Fan wrote:
Exactly. You only need a shot of love!!! :lol: :lol: :lol:
The world would be a better place if everyone had a Shot of Love!

Thanks for pointing out the obvious Folk & Blues Fan. :D

PostPosted: Sat April 10th, 2010, 06:48 GMT 

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'The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelled in the land of the shadow of death, light has dawned.'
Isaiah 9:1

A truly beautiful song which lovingly illuminates the singer's relationship with the woman who brought him to Christ. On the album, it shines due to Knopfler's velvety licks. Live, it was a far more fiery affair, especially in 1980.
One of the strongest being from Denver....

January 22 1980

PostPosted: Sat April 10th, 2010, 07:59 GMT 
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This verson is from Toronto 1980 :)

PostPosted: Tue October 18th, 2011, 01:34 GMT 
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Yeah. That's another one, it could go on forever. There's too many verses and there's not enough. You know? When people ask me, "How come you don't sing that song anymore?" It's like it's another one of those songs – it's just too much and not enough. A lot of my songs strike me that way. That's the natural thing about them to me. It's too hard to wonder why about them. To me, they're not worthy of wondering why about them. They're songs . They're not written in stone . They're on plastic.

Mojo 2005 Reader’s Poll #85

Michael Gray

In that fine Slow Train Coming track Precious Angel, Dylan sings a gentle rhetorical couplet that asks us to acknowledge that there’s a susceptibility to religious belief inside all of us: ‘. . . how be it we’re deceived / When the truth’s in our hearts and we still don’t believe?’

Regardless of how we may wish to respond to that, we can recognise that Dylan’s use of the phrase ‘How be it’ here is a pleasing echo of the rich plain-speaking of the King James Bible, in which, especially in Paul’s epistles, the phrase occurs with zen-like, majestic, repetitive effect.

Though Dylan’s official songbooks print it as a three-word phrase, as above, the Bible has it as a single word, ‘Howbeit’.

Collins English Dictionary, 1994, says of this only that it is ‘archaic’ before mis-defining it as meaning either ‘however’ or ‘although’. In fact, of course, it means exactly what it says, ellipsed from the longer ‘How does it come to be that?’ What we shorten to ‘How come?’, the King James Bible shortened to ‘Howbeit?’.

It is archaic: meaning that it is language characteristic of an earlier period and not in common use. Yet its clarity and simplicity make it a model of effective rhetoric, and Dylan’s use of it here—in exact accord with its use in the scriptures—sounds to have arisen naturally from his inevitably meeting the word within the Word. That’s howbeit he’s in tune with it.

Oliver Trager

In January 1980, soon after inaugurating his gospel tour, Dylan introduced this song to his muse with the following rap, as recorded on a concert tape from 14 January 1980, at the Paramount Northwest Theater, Seattle, “I was stopped by somebody last night who travels around, and she said she was riding in a cab once in a big city and the cab driver turned round in the cab and said, “Did you hear Bob Dylan’s a Christian now?” and this woman said, “Yeah, I think I have heard that. How does that make you feel? Are you a Christian? And the driver said, “No, I’m not but I’ve been following Bob for a long time.” And the lady said, “Well, what do you think of his new things?’ He said, “I think they’re real good, but if I could meet that person that brought Bob Dylan to the Lord, I think I might become a Christian too.” This here is a song – this is all about that certain person.”

A love song to his delivering angel – or maybe, with its reggae lilt, just a love song – Precious Angel mixes the sacred and the profane with such lyrics as “You’re the queen of my flesh” and “You’re the lamp of my soul”. The composition is chock-full of enough Bible references to keep a divinity student divine and enough hot Mark Knopfler guitar licks to make any luthier proud. And the song is not without the vengeful, paranoid streak consistent with some of Dylan’s gospel-period material when he sings, “My s—called friends have fallen under a spell / They look me squarely in the eye and say, all is well / Can they imagine the darkness that will fall from on high / When men beg God to kill them and they won’t be able to die”. Simple scriptural musing, perhaps. Another Positively 4th Street, most definitely not.

Performed only during Dylan’s gospel shows of 1979 and 1980, Precious Angel was a fairly constant midset and always untensely passionate selection during the controversial era.

Clinton Heylin

Published lyric/s: Lyrics 85; Lyrics 04.

Known studio recordings: Muscle Shoals, Sheffield AL, 1 May 1979. [STC]

First known performance: Warfield Theatre, SF, 1 November 1979.

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

Precious Angel revisits personal revelation as a theme, now drawing on the full gamut of scriptural texts to illuminate the lyrics. In one of his more sophisticated uses of biblical imagery, Dylan conveys the Christ-like qualities of his own “precious angel” by applying to her qualities which the Bible applies to Him. In particular, she is described as “the lamp of my soul, and you torch up the night”, compelling evidence that Dylan had not lost the ability to poeticize his path to redemption, or convey desire. This final-verse evocation seals the special bond that now exists between Dylan, Christ and “her”. She is the lesser beacon who has brought Dylan to see “the light of the world”. And it is to both of them he sings the song's heartfelt chorus:

“Shine your light, shine your light on me / Ya know, I just couldn't make it by myself / I'm a little too blind to see.”

It is again Corinthians which has triggered a song-idea, contrasting the light of Christ with the permanent darkness that shall be the fate of all those deluded by the devil:

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians 4:6+4)

Another, direct source provides Dylan with the image of a man 'too blind to see'; the gospel according to John, in which Christ heals a blind man, who proclaims:

“Whereas I was blind, now I see” (9:25).

In Dylan's case, it was not a physical blindness but a blindness of the mind from which he was suffering. He communicated his then-frame of mind to Robert Hilburn, in his first post-conversion interview of importance: “Most of the people I know don't believe that Jesus was resurrected, that He is alive. It's like He was just another prophet or something, one of many good people.”

In Precious Angel, he continues to voice his concern for those friends who still think this way:

“My so-called friends have fallen under a spell
They look me squarely in the eye and they say All is well'
Can they imagine the darkness that will fall from on high
When men will beg God to kill them and they won't be able to die?”

Not surprisingly, Dylan's depiction of a fate worse than death has a direct scriptural source, Revelation 9:6:

“In those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.”

He also demonstrates a more nuanced reading of the Bible. “The darkness that will fall from high”, is its own commentary on an earlier foretelling of Judgement:

“The high places also of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us” (Hosea 10:8).

Not only is Judgement Day coming, but it has been since the original exodus: all “the way out of Egypt, through Ethiopia, to the judgement hall of Christ”.

2 Corinthians provides another subtext here:

“For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (5:10)

Throughout the lyrics, Dylan brings poetic distillations to bear on his message of salvation. 'Now there's spiritual warfare, flesh and blood breaking down,' takes a passage from 2 Corinthians:

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh” (10:3)

and introduces it to Ephesians 6:12:

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

No wonder it was the first Slow Train Coming song he leaked to the media.

The lady who had shone on the songwriter was already the subject of much media speculation. Various journalists reported that she was a black girlfriend, Mary Alice Artes – hence, “both our forefathers were slaves”.

Artes, having been converted by the Vineyard Fellowship herself, subsequently set Dylan on the same path to salvation (all this came after he had received his own vision of Christ back in November 1978). Artes remains a shadowy figure biographically, which allowed Dylan to make fun of those fascinated by the minutiae of his life in a rap that preceded Precious Angel at a show in snowy Portland in January 1980:

“I was talking with someone last night who was riding in a cab once and, it was in a big city. Cab driver turned around in the cab and said, “Did you hear Bob Dylan's a Christian now?” And this girl said. “Oh, I think I have heard that. How does that relate to you? Are you a Christian?” And the driver said, “No, but I been following Bob now for a long time.” And the lady said, “Well, what you think of his new thing?” And he said, “Well, I think they're real good [songs]. But I tell you I think that if I could meet that person who brought Bob Dylan to the Lord, I think I might become a Christian, too”. And this here song is all about that certain person.” (14 January 1980)

Any sense of gratitude did not ensure the song's retention in the live set beyond fall 1980. Its last performance (12 November 1980 at the Warfield) was hardly typical. Playing harmonica over the girl chorus, Dylan sings the verses in a hard, insistent style, almost forcing himself to believe in the power of the words. The same night he also sang for the first and last time Caribbean Wind, another valedictory to this precious angel and one of his greatest-ever love songs.

Christopher Ricks

Heavenly Graces – Faith

A true thing was said about art by the arty old fraud Jean Cocteau, that if artists have a dream, it is not of being famous but of being believed. Dylan's Christian songs ask to be believed. This is not to say that the personal faith of the artist, which is a matter of biography and of change, and which might not become artistic creation, is the point. No, an artist is someone who is especially good at, generous about, imagining beliefs that he or she does not hold.

A lot of Dylan-listeners, though, persist in treating the Christian songs as if they were a personal affront, rather than as achievements to meet with flexibility; as if such songs only have either the passive low-level interest of a biographical report (one, moreover, that has become superseded) or the actively repellent fascination of an allegiance we do not share, thank you. Yet to trust that these songs, like others of Dylan's, ask to be believed is quite different from concluding that if you do not share or do not come to share their beliefs, then there is nothing really in them for you. To take this party line is to curtail what we have art and imagination for at all. Art becomes then only a matter of preaching to the converted, a rally for the faithful, instead of being a magnanimous invitation, myriad-minded.

One of the ways in which art is invaluable is by giving us sympathetic access to systems of belief that are not our own. How else could it enlarge our sympathies? It is our responsibility not only to believe but to learn how to entertain beliefs. In the words of William Empson:

“It seems to me that the chief function of imaginative literature is to make you realise that other people are very various, many of them quite different from you, with different "systems of value" as well.

The main purpose of reading imaginative literature is to grasp a wide variety of experience, imagining people with codes and customs very unlike our own.

It strikes me that modern critics, whether as a result of the neo-Christian movement or not, have become oddly resistant to admitting that there is more than one code of

morals in the world, whereas the central purpose of reading imaginative literature is to accustom yourself to this basic fact. I do not at all mean that a literary critic ought to avoid making moral judgements; that is useless as well as tiresome, because the reader has enough sense to start guessing round it at once.”

Argufying, ed. John Haffenden (1987), p.13, a letter from Empson; Argufying, p. 218; Using Biography (1984), p. 142, from an essay on Fielding published in 1958.

There is no great religious poetry that does not raise – as crucial to its enterprise – the question of whether it is open to the charge of blasphemy, even as there is no great erotic art that does not raise the question of whether it is open to the charge of pornography. And it is true, too, as TS Eliot said, that blasphemy is possible only to a believer – or at least only to someone who half fears he may be a believer, and who kicks against the pricks. For Eliot, the decay of blasphemy is a symptom of the decay of belief. "Genuine blasphemy, genuine in spirit.and not purely verbal, is the product of partial belief, and is as impossible to the complete atheist as to the perfect Christian." (Baudelaire (1930); Selected Essays (1932, 1951 edition), p.421)

This last, it may be added, explains why the possibility of being accused of blasphemy is essential to Christian poetry, since without such a possibility the poetry would announce itself as that of a perfect Christian, something no good Christian would claim. Eliot in 1927 saw "the 12th century anomaly – and yet the essential congruity – of the finest religious verse and the most brilliant blasphemous verse. To the present generation of versifiers, so deficient in devotion and so feeble in blasphemy, the 12th century might offer an edifying subject of study." (TLS 11 August 1927).

“God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son"
Abe says, "Man, you must be puttin' me on"
God say, "No." Abe say, "What?"
God say, "You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin' you better run"
Well Abe says, "Where do you want this killin" done?"
God says, "Out on Highway 61"
(Highway 61 Revisited)

I am not myself a Christian believer, being an atheist. One delight of Dylan's Christian songs can arise from finding (to your surprise and not chagrin) that your own system of beliefs does not have a monopoly of intuition, sensitivity, scruple, and concern. Most Dylan-lovers are presumed to be liberals, and the big trap for liberals is always that our liberalism may make us very illiberal about other people's sometimes letting us all down by declining to be liberals. The illiberal liberal has a way of pretending that the page that he would rather not read is illegible: "he's not talking about one of his most illegible back pages: that conservative, born-again-Christian phase that blindsided his liberal, secular fan base some 15 years ago". (Newsweek, 6 October 1997, on Dylan)

Blindsided? But Dylan shows perspicacity when he imagines someone who concedes "I'm a little too blind to see" (Precious Angel). I'm a little on the blind side. Blindsided? “Everybody's shouting / Which Side Are You On?”

Dylan has left the side of free-thinking, socially aware, sometimes cynical humans trying to make ethical choices in a modern world ripped apart by war and hate and prejudice. For him, all is solved in one simple act: accepting God. Where are the de-programmers when we really need them? (Michael Goldberg, New Musical Express, November 1979)

Sorry, I did not quite catch that – who is it who is doing the oversimplification? And who is it who is colluding with hate and prejudice exactly?

"Rip down all hate, I screamed" (My Back Pages).

You can believe whatever you like so long as it is liberal: this is not any less dogmatic than Christianity, and has its own way of being menacingly coercive.

The gratitude that I feel for the best of Dylan's Christian songs arises from my finding them among his supreme acts of gratitude. His songs of faith are continuous with all his other gratitudes, to singers and to songs, to loved ones and respected ones. "I've been saved / By the blood of the lamb":

“And I'm so glad
Yes, I'm so glad
I'm so glad
So glad
I want to thank You, Lord
I just want to thank You,
Lord Thank You, Lord”

Those last three words do not just say something yet again, for the third time, because what had been something I want to do has become my doing it: "Thank You, Lord". Not a curtailment of what had first been said and then slightly expanded ("I want to thank You, Lord / I just want to thank You, Lord"), but an expansion of it, though (strangely) in fewer words, an expansion into doing it, a consummation of the two lines that lead into it. "Thank You, Lord": this, which is lovingly performed by Dylan, is a performative utterance, in the sense of the philosopher JL Austin. Like "I promise", the words are not a statement that could be true or false (though the promise might be kept or broken): the words simply do what they say. "I thank you", or "Thank You, Lord".

My own thanks come to this: that it is inspiriting to meet a heartfelt expression of faith that would constitute – if, say, you were ever to find yourself converted – so true an example as to become a reason. If I were ever to become a Christian, it would be because of the humane substantiation that is to be heard in many a poem by George Herbert. And in many a song by Dylan.

Words ask trust, and they can keep faith. They are built upon faith, the faith that people will tell the truth – or at any rate that people may betray themselves when they are failing to do so. The distress of lying is sharply evoked in Fourth Time Around and Ballad In Plain D. "The truth is true whether you wanna believe it or not, it doesn't need you to make it true...That lie about everybody having their own truth inside of them has done a lot of damage and made people crazy." (Biograph's ellipsis)

Social life could not exist if it were not believed that people are to be believed. Sometimes this faith is misplaced, but this is not as corrosive as it would be for us not to place faith at all. And language itself is built not only upon but of faith. A language is a body of agreements and acts of trust. A word is not a matter of fact or a matter of opinion, it is a social contract. Like all contracts, its life is a pledge and a faith. (And, like all contracts, it can be dishonest, suspect.) Songs and poems likewise keep faith alive. They "strengthen the things that remain" – words of the Book of Revelation, the force of which is revealed anew in When You Gonna Wake Up?

Faith in Dylan: this needs to encompass his having faith and our having faith in him. There are sure to be occasions when we are not sure. For he has written very many songs, has sung them very variously, and has lived thoroughly in the world of an art the nature of which is that it reaches its particular heights by not being "high art". By being, rather, an intensely popular art – where anything might (sometimes) go? Was that weird wording of his a slip of the lip or was it his speaking in tongues? Did he make a dextrous move, or am I – when I exclaim at how intriguing some turn of phrase is – just going through the critical motions? The choice can be stark.

“Now there's spiritual warfare, flesh and blood breaking down
Ya either got faith or ya got unbelief and there ain't no neutral ground”
(Precious Angel)

Faith or unbelief: Dylan characteristically places the words in a pair of scales that we must ponder. For there is not any longer a noun "unfaith" to match "faith" (despite unfaithful/faithful], and though Dylan's word "unbelief "does have an antithesis, "belief", and although the opposite of a believer is an unbeliever, the word "belief" would not make the true fit that he needs, for to have belief is something very different from having faith.

OED, "unfaith": lack of faith or belief, esp. in religion. From 1415, and including Tennyson: "Faith and Unfaith can ne'er be equal powers". But there is no instance since 1870, and the word would now feel strained.

Again and again, confronted with one of Dylan's quirks of wording or phrasing or cadencing or sentencing, you find yourself having to choose between having faith and having unbelief, and there is no neutral ground. For the words insist that either Dylan is a sloven or he is up to something, something unexpected, diverting.

On Planet Waves, the song Going, Going, Gone goes like this:

“Grandma said, "Boy, go and follow your heart
And you'll be fine at the end of the line
All that's gold isn't meant to shine
Don't you and your one true love ever part"

At the Budokan concert in 1978, he can be heard to slide a slyness into this:

“You'll be fine at the end of the line
All that's gold wasn't meant to shine
Just don't put your horse in front of your cart”

What was that? We should not take this from Dylan unless we take it as seizing a double-take. For in front of your cart is exactly where you had better put your horse. Straightfacedly in blinkers, with equine equanimity Dylan does not nag you about putting the cart before the horse. This is comically preposterous of him. Preposterous: before / after, "Having or placing last that which should be first" (The Oxford English Dictionary).

Or there is the mid-stride footing in Trouble In Mind as it moves:

“You think you can hide but you're never alone
Ask Lot what he thought when his wife turned to stone
Take this with a pinch of salt, or a column of it.”

For Dylan has a great ear for these swerves and shifts that keep a mind – and a language – not only alive but up to the mark. TS Eliot praised as the accomplishment of Jacobean drama "that perpetual slight alteration of language, words perpetually juxtaposed in new and sudden combinations, meanings perpetually eingeschachtelt [compactly ordered] into meanings, which evidences a very high development of the senses, a development of the English language which we have perhaps never equalled". (Philip Massinger (1920); Selected Essays, p.209)

One development of the English language has been American English: its licence and liberties and liberty. Don't follow leaders? But you cannot lead yourself, except perhaps by the nose. And as to trust: Trust Yourself urges you to be vigilant about the very thing that you are listening to, but he does sing it trustworthily, whatever it may say:

“Trust yourself
Trust yourself to do the things that only you know best
Trust yourself
Trust yourself to do what's right and not be second-guessed
Don't trust me to show you beauty
When beauty may only turn to rust
If you need somebody you can trust, trust yourself”

"Don't trust me to show you beauty" – except insofar as Keats (or his Urn) is right to hope that beauty is truth, truth beauty. Philip Larkin: "I have always believed that beauty is beauty, truth, truth, that is not all ye know on earth nor all ye need to know." (Further Requirements, ed. Anthony Thwaite (2001), p.39)

"If you need somebody you can trust, trust yourself". But do not be too trusting even there, or particularly there. For if you really never trusted anyone or anything other than yourself, you'd not in fact be in any position to trust yourself.

Should you ever be visited by an angel, first make sure that a fallen one has not befallen you, and then trust yourself as to its trustworthiness. Precious Angel yearns to express immediately its gratitude to a loved woman who is loved moreover for having brought the singer to the love of God. Perhaps he can enfold these double thanks, human and divine, by calling her an angel. So at once, "Precious angel": words upon entering that are sung by Dylan with a tauntingly expressive flat-tongued unexcitement, as if doing no more than giving her her due.

“Precious angel, under the sun
How was I to know you'd be the one
To show me I was blinded, to show me I was gone
How weak was the foundation I was standing upon?”

But does this grateful paean have a strong foundation? Are not "precious" and "angel" too weak as words, too usual, to be the ones?

A century ago, Gerard Manly Hopkins, disapproving of his friend Dixon's lines of verse ("Each drop more precious than the gems that stud / An angel's crown"), said that this "strikes me as poor, indeed vulgar; I think angels are the very cheapest things in literature."

To Dixon, 23 October 1881; The Correspondence of Gerard Manley Hopkins and Richard Watson Dixon, ed. Claude Colleer Abbott (1935, 1955 edition), p.77.

How, then, does Dylan redeem this from cheapness, and justify our faith in him and in bandied words like "precious" and "angel"? By a simple profound stroke of imagination, this sequence: "Precious angel, under the sun". The Oxford English Dictionary, "under the sun": on earth, in the world. Her angelhood is in no respect diminished by being "under the sun", for she can descend to earth without condescension, and this is very endearing of her. It is not so much that the phrase humanizes her as that she humanizes herself. (As, within Christian history, did a spirit greater even than the angels.)

Moreover, "under the sun" gives to her something superlative, unique, and complete, without ever having to trumpet it. For you do not ordinarily say "under the sun" without a large explicit claim. As the instances in The Oxford English Dictionary show, "under the sun" invites the superlative (no braver soldier under the sun), or the unique (the only honest man under the sun), or the complete (every single nation under the sun). "Using all the devices under the sun" (Solid Rock). "Don't you know there's nothing new that's under the sun?" (Ain't No Man Righteous, No Not One).

Don't you know? This should not be news to you, given Ecclesiastes 1:9: "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done, is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun."

But make it new, as when a form of words succeeds in invoking a superlative that it need never mention, a supreme praise yet understated to the point of being unstated. Tact tucked into the tacit. Word perfect. No one under the sun can create these felicities better than Dylan.

Yet, as the word "felicities" implies, and as is true of any artist who seizes an opportunity, the effect is not one that is of his making alone, or such that it could simply be willed into being. For the line "Precious angel, under the sun" has something else stirring under it: the interplay of this unspoken superlative that informs under the sun (with its particular preposition, "under") against a different preposition and so a different stationing of the angel in relation to the sun: "And I saw an angel standing in the sun" (Revelation 19:17).

The song asks with insistence "Sister, lemme tell you about a vision that I saw", and this chapter 19 of Revelation is a vision of the evil forces "gathered together to make war against him". Gather from this what may underlie the song's conviction that "Now there's spiritual warfare".

Precious angel, shine your light on me. Revelation 21:11: "and her light was like unto a stone most precious". "I believe in the Book of Revelation," Dylan said. (Interview with Kurt Loder, Rolling Stone, 21 June 1984).

The terms that most matter are those of his art, not those of proselytizing, for his mission has never been that of a missionary. Even songs of conversion (his, he believed, and others', he hoped) are converted by him from faith healing to art healing. So that his believing in the Book of Revelation comes to include comprehending that his revelations will need to make manifest some quite other vista. Hear how differently he delivers his opening line, "Precious angel, under the sun" (in utter quietude), from how the line from Revelation evoked its ensuing voice: "And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice."

Precious Angel, being voiced, enters us through our ears, not our eyes, and all the more insinuatingly because it is of the eyes that it persistently elects to sing. This vision will be heard and not seen – except that the human imagination (a visual word, "imagination": "Can they imagine the darkness that will fall from on high") is amazingly able to gather one sense under the aegis of others. Faith, which resists sin, welcomes synaesthesia. The Oxford English Dictionary:

“1c. Production, from a sense-impression of one kind, of an associated mental image of a sense-impression of another kind: [including] "when the hearing of an external sound carries with it, by some arbitrary association of ideas, the seeing of some form or colour" (1903).”

“2. The use of metaphors in which terms relating to one kind of sense-impression are used to describe sense-impressions of other kinds: [e.g.] "loud colours" (1901).”

The OED citations include EH Gombrich, Art and Illusion (1960): "What is called “synesthesia”, the splashing over of impressions from one sense modality to another, is a fact to which all languages testify."

"Whatever colors you have in your mind / I'll show them to you and you'll see them shine": not "arbitrary" when within art. The artist is not arbitrary but is an arbiter.

Not since King Lear has there been so tensile a tissue of eyes and seeing (of being blinded or blind, of the bodily and the spiritual) as is woven through Precious Angel. "To show me I was blinded": this should not be seen as the same as being blind ("I was blinded by the devil", Saved), anymore than "to show me" should be seen as the same as, say, "to tell me". "Shine your light, shine your light on me": this should not be seen as the same as shining it for me. (For I understand the risk of shame in the prospect that who I am and what I am will be seen in the naked light.) "I'm a little too blind to see": this should be seen as enlisting the understatement with which stoicism understandably keeps its courage up.

Understatement has two cousins in the dictionary, meiosis ("A figure of speech by which the impression is intentionally conveyed that a thing is less in size, importance, etc., than it really is") and litotes ("A figure of speech, in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of the contrary"). Both of these relate to the sort of laconic admission that puts something aside, or puts it mildly: "Ya know I just couldn't make it by myself / I'm a little too blind to see". Not precisely Shine your litotes on me, but Shine your light on meiosis.

There are, out there, some terrible casualties of spiritual casualness. The song eyes them.

“My so-called friends have fallen under a spell
They look me squarely in the eyes and they say, "Well, all is well".”

Complacency could not be better caught than in that "Well...well" self-satisfaction, where the final assurance – "Well, all is well" – is reduced to little more than the lubricating "Well" of facile conversation. (As printed in Lyrics 1962-1985 (1985), simply, singly, "they say, “All is well”.”

The Oxford English Dictionary:

“well: Employed without construction to introduce a remark or statement, sometimes implying that the speaker or writer accepts a situation, etc., already represented or indicated, or desires to qualify this in some way, but frequently used merely as a preliminary or resumptive word.”

"They look me squarely in the eyes": square eyes are what you get from watching too much television,2 and it is intriguing that in TV Talkin' Song the scene in Hyde Park – "where people talk / 'Bout all kinds of different gods" – should have the soap-box orator seeing things in quite the way that he did:

OED, "square-eyed": "jocular, affected by or given to excessive viewing of television" (1976). One of the television reviewers in Private Eye bears the name Square Eyes.

There was someone on a platform talking to the folks About the TV god and all the pain that it invokes "It's too bright a light", he said, "for anybody's eyes If you've never seen one it's a blessing in disguise"

Don't shine your light, don't shine your light on me. Or in my eyes. Or in "anybody's eyes". Fortunately, blessedly, there is in Precious Angel the benign counterpart to too bright a light: "You're the lamp of my soul, girl, you torch up the night"

Dylan sings "torch"; as printed in Lyrics 1962-1985 "touch".

– and then, immediately following this faith in her, there comes the recognition of what such faith is up against, with "the eyes" frighteningly unspecified (whose, exactly? we don't know where to look):

“But there's violence in the eyes, girl, so let us not be enticed
On the way out of Egypt, through Ethiopia, to the judgment hall of Christ”

Precious Angel, "so let us not be enticed"; TV Talkin' Song, "It will lead you into some strange pursuits / Lead you to the land of forbidden fruits". TV Talkin' Song, "His voice was ringing loud"; Revelation, "And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice." The phrase "There's violence in the eyes" swerves from the expected body-parts: "The violence of your hands" (Psalms 58:2); "the act of violence is in their hands" (Isaiah 59:6).

"Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall stretch out her hands unto God. Sing unto God" (Psalms 68:3 1-2). And so he does. "Lo, he doth send out his voice, and that a mighty voice" (says the next verse).

It is in its way a violent and yet enticing rhyme, enticed / Christ, by way of being a judgement hall itself, and a judgement call. Choose between these two words that rhyme, the one the temptation to sin, the other the overcoming of sin in the face of judgement. There is .a poem by George Herbert called The Water-Course.

"An artificial channel for the conveyance of water. The alternate rhymes in lines 5 and 10 suggest the turning of the pipes “up” or :down”." John Tobin, George Herbert: The Complete English Poems (1991).

“Thou who dost dwell and linger here below,
Since the condition of this world is frail,
Where of all plants afflictions soonest grow;
If troubles overtake thee, do not wail:
For who can look for less, that loveth”
(Life? Strife?)

“But rather turn the pipe and water's course
To serve thy sins, and furnish thee with store
Of sov'reign tears, springing from true remorse:
That so in pureness thou mayst him adore,
Who gives to man, as he sees fit”
(Salvation, Damnation)

We are to wonder for a moment whether there are before us ten lines or 12 lines: does the insistence that there are two very different destinations mean that we should hear the last line of each verse ring twice in our ears until it arrives at the choice that it sets before us?

Threading through Precious Angel, we may wonder about its arrival at "the judgment hall of Christ" as its destination and destiny, and in particular about the inescapability of judgement. Might there be a memory of a twofold saying of Christ, of promise and of threat?

"And Jesus said, For judgement I am come into this world, that they which see not, might see; and that they which see might be made blind" (John 9:39). This chapter of John, on the miracle that heals the blind man, is one that gained Dylan's attentive respect, even if his memory could not then place it:

“I get very meditative sometimes, and this one phrase was going through my head: "Work while the day lasts, because the night of death cometh when no man can work." I don't recall where I heard it. I like preaching, I hear a lot of preaching, and I probably just heard it somewhere. Maybe it's in Psalms, it beats me. But it wouldn't let me go. (New York Times, 29 September 1997).

“And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9: 1-5)

Shine your light, shine your light on me, who am a little too blind to see; even as Christ – the light of the world – once did on him, the man who was from birth too blind to see. "To show me I was blinded": these are words heard elsewhere with a difference:

“I was blinded by the devil
Born already ruined”

I was blinded; the eye was blind. To the ear, although not to the eye, I and eye are as indistinguishable as l and I. "How was I to know", "I was blinded", "I was gone", "I was standing upon": the first four lines of the song will lead to the thought that there's violence in the I’s.

The sinner in Herbert's Love tries in his shame to disown the generosity gently offered by Love:

“Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked anything.
A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?”

(Hear, within this sweet questioning, how "eyes" in this verse is three times preceded by and then succeeded by "I".) The shamefaced sinner tries to avert his eyes, but Love looks him squarely in the eyes, and says – not "Well, all is well" – but rather, in the words of Julian of Norwich that TS Eliot made his own and everyone's, words recalling that although sin is inevitable we must not despair:

“Sin is Behovely, but
All shall be well, and
All manner of thing shall be well.”
(Little Gidding)

PostPosted: Sat December 3rd, 2011, 02:10 GMT 
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hollis1960 wrote:
This verson is from Toronto 1980 :)

An amazing tune! I actually prefer the studio version to this. Rare that I say that.

PostPosted: Fri June 21st, 2013, 08:50 GMT 

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Sure it’s schmaltzy and features the word “angel” in the title, but Dylan never had a better love song during his religious period than Precious Angel.
I would love to have been at one of those very first Christian concerts at the Warfield in 1979. They sound like they are so full of fire and energy that to be there, must have been electric....

Here's this one after they've been there a full week and are starting to really get into the groove:

November 8 1979
San Francisco CA

PostPosted: Fri June 21st, 2013, 10:41 GMT 
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marker wrote:
Sure it’s schmaltzy and features the word “angel” in the title, but Dylan never had a better love song during his religious period than Precious Angel.
I would love to have been at one of those very first Christian concerts at the Warfield in 1979. They sound like they are so full of fire and energy that to be there, must have been electric....

Here's this one after they've been there a full week and are starting to really get into the groove:

November 8 1979
San Francisco CA

Thanks for that one, marker!

This is actually one of my top 10 songs. I just like it that much. As with almost every song, it's hard to give a good explanation for it. I've just always smiled when I heard this song and I probably always will.

You're the queen of my flesh, girl, you're my woman, you're my delight,
You're the lamp of my soul, girl, and you torch up the night.

PostPosted: Fri June 21st, 2013, 10:45 GMT 
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Viktor123 wrote:

You're the queen of my flesh, girl, you're my woman, you're my delight,
You're the lamp of my soul, girl, and you torch up the night.

This could go in the sexiest song thread.

PostPosted: Fri June 21st, 2013, 11:40 GMT 
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Easily the most sensational track on Slow Train Coming, laden with feelings I have envied and desired to feel almost my whole life... which perhaps is what really drew me to Dylan in the first place...

PostPosted: Fri June 21st, 2013, 19:58 GMT 
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TheGunfighter wrote:
Easily the most sensational track on Slow Train Coming, laden with feelings I have envied and desired to feel almost my whole life... which perhaps is what really drew me to Dylan in the first place...

That's a great response.

PostPosted: Sat June 22nd, 2013, 03:39 GMT 
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One of my personal favorites. I used to play it fairly regularly on acoustic guitar. For some reason I remember that dylanchords version didn't do it justice and an official Dylan chord book (with the funky empire era picture) had a version that was easier to play and sounded closer to the album version.

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