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PostPosted: Sun November 14th, 2010, 07:04 GMT 

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Upon recently hearing the extraordinary new cover of this song by The Dirty Projectors, i heard this song in a different way and it opened up to me after having been the one song on the album I never quite attached myself to. Part of it was the beautiful performance of these lovely words of deep guilt and an ever deeper faith and another was the way the song conveys a dream-like state where those feelings are brought forth from a very clear vision...

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine
Alive as you or me
Tearing through these quarters
In the utmost misery
With a blanket underneath his arm
And a coat of solid gold
Searching for the very souls
Whom already have been sold

“Arise, arise,” he cried so loud
In a voice without restraint
“Come out, ye gifted kings and queens
And hear my sad complaint
No martyr is among ye now
Whom you can call your own
So go on your way accordingly
But know you’re not alone”

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine
Alive with fiery breath
And I dreamed I was amongst the ones
That put him out to death
Oh, I awoke in anger
So alone and terrified
I put my fingers against the glass
And bowed my head and cried


For those that haven't heard it yet, here's the Dirty Projectors' version:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmDp0E904D8

And I also must post the Dylan version that captures the mysterious beauty of the original in his own uniquely perfect live way:
Boston Massachusetts
April 17 2005
http://www.sendspace.com/file/m7ney1

I'd love to hear others thoughts on what this song means for them. Or even more daringly, what y'all think it may mean for Mr. Dylan??


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PostPosted: Sun November 14th, 2010, 08:12 GMT 

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One of my all-time favorite Dylan songs! Here's a great reading from the hit or miss year 1987. This one, I think is a hit. BTW in case anyone has this boot, it's a different performance from that one and IMO much better.

1987-09-17 East Berlin, East Germany
FLAC: http://www.sendspace.com/file/kbt3ty
Apple Lossless: http://www.sendspace.com/file/nuldsh


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PostPosted: Mon November 15th, 2010, 00:12 GMT 
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I liked the Projectors' "Dark Eyes" better but at least we're resurrecting songs good as this


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PostPosted: Tue November 16th, 2010, 06:11 GMT 

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Gorgeous version Mighty Monkey...Thank you:)


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PostPosted: Tue November 16th, 2010, 10:10 GMT 
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The Baez duets in '76 were pretty special too.


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PostPosted: Tue November 16th, 2010, 10:51 GMT 

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I like this one from Waterbury '75. I know I've heard a couple that were a complete mess, though. (The MSG one might be one of the ones I'm thinking of, can't recall.)

1975-11-11 Waterbury, CT:
http://www.sendspace.com/file/439ijg (FLAC)
http://www.sendspace.com/file/siip7t (Apple Lossless)


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PostPosted: Tue November 16th, 2010, 10:55 GMT 
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The Mighty Monkey Of Mim wrote:
I like this one from Waterbury '75. I know I've heard a couple that were a complete mess, though. (The MSG one might be one of the ones I'm thinking of, can't recall.)

1975-11-11 Waterbury, CT:
http://www.sendspace.com/file/439ijg (FLAC)
http://www.sendspace.com/file/siip7t (Apple Lossless)


Yes, sorry - meant '75. The MSG one is pretty cool.


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PostPosted: Tue November 16th, 2010, 11:36 GMT 

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Upon further thought I think the particularly "off" one I was thinking of is from Providence. I do seem to recall that the whole MSG show he's hoarse as hell, though.

And the one '76 performance (from the unreleased Clearwater TV special) is quite nice as well. It was just the two of them without the band.


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PostPosted: Tue November 16th, 2010, 11:54 GMT 
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The Mighty Monkey Of Mim wrote:
Upon further thought I think the particularly "off" one I was thinking of is from Providence. I do seem to recall that the whole MSG show he's hoarse as hell, though.

And the one '76 performance (from the unreleased Clearwater TV special) is quite nice as well. It was just the two of them without the band.


The MSG show is a tour de force vocal from Dylan - sure he's a little hoarse, but he's giving it everything he's got and then some. Definitely in the top flight performances of all time.


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PostPosted: Tue November 16th, 2010, 12:57 GMT 

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anyone got a link for some of that MSG stuff then?


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PostPosted: Tue November 16th, 2010, 13:23 GMT 

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http://www.wolfgangsvault.com/the-rolli ... der-revue/


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PostPosted: Sun January 8th, 2012, 20:57 GMT 
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I'm bumping this thread up because I've just read an analysis of one of my all time favorite JWH songs,"I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine," that I've never seen anyone touch on before - searched back through the threads and no one's mentioned anything like this - although I do like Thickboy's posts on viewtopic.php?f=6&t=44610&hilit=Augustine
This article was first published in "Isis" - #120, May 2005, by James Dunlap - I think it's pretty cool.

The next song recorded was ‘I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine.’ Most critics attempt to address the possible significance, if any, of Dylan’s invocation of a particular historical figure, a bishop and philosopher from Roman North Africa who died in the fifth century. Paul Williams and Mike Marqusee feel there is no significance; Bob Shelton, Andy Gill, and Tim Riley each note that St. Augustine spent his youth as a carouser and that his book, “Confessions,” recounts his years of debauchery in a way that might have appealed to Dylan. Following his misspent youth, St. Augustine became the author of books of redemption that might also have been analogous to Dylan’s “conversion” from the life of a rock star to that of a modest family man.
It may be, however, that a key to understanding the personal aspects of this song is its first line (and its title), as well as the song’s melody, all of which evoke a 1936 song, “Joe Hill,” about a labour organizer and songwriter, who, in 1915, was executed in Utah on a phoney murder charge. The first line of the earlier song, “I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night, alive as you or me,” is, except for the proper name, identical to Dylan’s in “St. Augustine.” This provides clues to Dylan’s intent. In the earlier song, Joe Hill appears after his death to explain that he’s present (at least in spirit) wherever workers organize. In that regard, ‘Joe Hill' is very similar to the ending of John Steinbeck’s novel, “The Grapes of Wrath,” and Woody’s song derived from it, ‘Tom Joad.
Woody Guthrie, like Joe Hill, was an active labour union supporter, and his followers remained the leading participants in the protest song tradition when Dylan first arrived in New York. Indeed, Dylan’s first original songs were published in two magazines, Sing Out! and Broadside, which were sponsored by close associates of Woody. Dylan, however, had abandoned writing topical songs sometime in 1964. On the occasion of Guthrie’s death, Bob seems to be reflecting on his past. As the rest of the song indicates, he seems to regret his role in the death of the Joe Hill tradition, as well as the loss of fellowship and positive values that once adhered to that tradition. It’s a mood that Dylan would often evoke, beginning perhaps with 1963’s ‘Bob Dylan’s Dream’ (like ‘St. Augustine,’ another dream reference). Recalling his first friends and the days of his youth, Dylan concluded, “Ten thousand dollars at the drop of a hat/I’d give it all gladly if our lives could be like that.”
Like the liner notes, ‘St. Augustine’ can be understood as being about an “old” Bob Dylan, cast loosely in the role of a Guthrie-esque saint, and the “new” Bob Dylan who has the dream. In the song, Bob imagines his old self, successful and wealthy (“with a coat of solid gold”), but still searching for values and life’s meaning, presumably with integrity (like a vagabond, with a “blanket underneath his arm”). This “old” and originally prophetic Bob Dylan was “alive with fiery breath.” While he now seems almost wistful, the new Dylan recalls nonetheless that his former self was, like the drifter in the song recorded earlier that same day, “in the utmost misery.
In the dream, St. Augustine would like to address his former colleagues, probably other singer-songwriters (“gifted kings and queens”). He could, however, be looking for anyone who once turned to him for inspiration and guidance: “’Arise, arise,’ he cried so loud/In a voice without restraint.” Dylan may want to warn his friends about selling out and the evils of materialism. It’s probably too late though: he’s “searching for the very souls/Whom already have been sold.”
The key lines of the song, St. Augustine’s core message to his fans and former colleagues, are as follows:

No martyr is among ye now
Whom you can call your own,
So go on your way accordingly
But know you’re not alone.


Dylan has thus dreamt of a prior version of himself who then withdrew from public life and the discomfort it brought him. He wants to make it clear to those that he addresses, the “gifted kings and queens,” that they should not follow him: he says “go on your way accordingly.” At the same time, Dylan wants to encourage his listeners and let them know that, as some level, he still shares their concerns. Like both Tom Joad and Joe Hill, Dylan’s dream thus brings forth an image of a spiritual participation in the lives of others (“know you’re not alone”). Probably prompted by Guthrie’s death, Dylan seems nostalgic about his earlier days as a leader and part of a movement.
The song’s final verse tells us that the “old” Dylan (the St. Augustine character) no longer exists. The “new” Dylan, the author of the song, admits that he “was among the ones/That put him out to death.” This makes the new Dylan, upon waking, “alone and terrified.” He is isolated in Woodstock and about to change the direction of his musical career. In the concluding lines of the song, Dylan puts his fingers on a glass, most likely a mirror, and considers the alternatives that he has faced in his life. He weeps. Having already described himself as a martyr, there is considerable conceit in this closing. “Jesus wept” is among the most famous lines in all of the New Testament (John 11:35).


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PostPosted: Sun January 8th, 2012, 21:14 GMT 
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That was wonderful, doomed! Thanks for sharing it. That song always leaves me with such a sad feeling.


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PostPosted: Sun January 8th, 2012, 21:34 GMT 

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One of Dylan's most humbled vocal performances, and one of his best songs. As with the rest of JWH, it feels completely organic, spiritual, and like it was performed in the woods miles and miles from humanity. Coming after spectacular monoliths of swaggering ego in BIABH, H61R, and BoB, JWH sounds shocking in its humility. Only Dylan could play both sides of that coin so well.


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PostPosted: Sun January 8th, 2012, 22:54 GMT 
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Md23Rewls wrote:
Coming after spectacular monoliths of swaggering ego in BIABH, H61R, and BoB
:lol:


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PostPosted: Mon January 9th, 2012, 00:18 GMT 
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This is a fascinating song... full of complexity, yet, completely accessible to the 'listener'... per se... you and me... thus, this song is not complex at all.

It's a song that asks more questions than it answers... it's like a mystical, mysterious song... or is it?... it's paradoxical in it's complexity... and that is why it is a masterpiece.

I have studied this song in great detail... and I have come to the conclusion that this is a song where Dylan explains that he had a dream where he met, avec toot... 'saw' St. Augustine.

I think that this is the song that steered Dylan towards 'christianity'... it was St. Augustine who made Bobby 'born again'!

In my opinion this is Dylan's most important work... this song is, in effect, Dylan describing his embracementnesslessness of 'christianity'... a pivitol song... historic.


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PostPosted: Mon January 9th, 2012, 00:28 GMT 
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thickboy wrote:
This is a fascinating song... full of complexity, yet, completely accessible to the 'listener'... per se... you and me... thus, this song is not complex at all.

It's a song that asks more questions than it answers... it's like a mystical, mysterious song... or is it?... it's paradoxical in it's complexity... and that is why it is a masterpiece.

I have studied this song in great detail... and I have come to the conclusion that this is a song where Dylan explains that he had a dream where he met, avec toot... 'saw' St. Augustine.

I think that this is the song that steered Dylan towards 'christianity'... it was St. Augustine who made Bobby 'born again'!

In my opinion this is Dylan's most important work... this song is, in effect, Dylan describing his embracementnesslessness of 'christianity'... a pivitol song... historic.



^^^This. embracementnesslessness. Leave it to Thickboy. Thank you, Tb.


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PostPosted: Mon January 9th, 2012, 02:16 GMT 
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I DREAMED I SAW ST AUGUSTINE

Robert Shelton

The first two lines paraphrase Joe Hill, the Earl Robinson / Alfred Hayes union hymn to the singing Wobbly organiser who became a martyr. A folk saint is eclipsed by a Catholic saint, but Dylan gently distains both houses. Preconceptions and ideology are dead – he hungers here for salvation, for answers. His isolation from a comforting faith is deeply felt. Augustine was not matyred, but died a bishop, an honoured church father. His Confessions and City Of God are visionary chronicles of his early wastrel life, subsequent conversion and search for grace. Stelzig sees the narrator “among those who put the biblical prophet of resurrection out to death. The realisation of his complicity and guilt is conveyed with a poignancy new in Dylan’s poetry. He wakes up alone, terrified – he bows his head and cries”. Carolyn Bliss – the singer awaking from his vision of himself as a saint and cries “for the futile self-sacrifice of sainthood, which precludes full understanding and insists on service to the unattainable. All that was a dream and Dylan is awake now”. Bliss thinks Dylan is saying, “Go with my compassion and my companionship, but not with my guidance. Go through your own darkness, go find your own light.” Dylan examines martyrdom and why people hunger for martyrs. But there remains much mystery in these three verses. What is “the glass” he touches before crying? A window, a telescope, or a mirror? He seems to identify simultaneously with the sinner-turned-saint and the lost souls beyond redemption by Leftist or Catholic saints.

Paul Williams

For myself, I am quite certain that most of the songs do not contain specific messages (in the way that most of the analyses, such as Scaduto's in his biography, imply); rather, they are meant to stimulate thoughts and (more importantly) feelings in certain the¬matic directions. Like the not-yet-written words of I'm Not There (1956), many of these songs are not-yet-written essays about history, spiritual¬ity, moral values and other subjects that the songwriter clearly has a sincere interest in. They sound like finished constructs, puzzles ready to be solved, but in fact they are for the most part unsolvable, because the songwriter either has not tried to or has consciously chosen not to resolve the contradictions arising from his spontane¬ous techniques of generating phrases and images.

For example, I doubt that he knew or cared that St Augustine was not a martyr; he needed a saint's name, and "Augustine" fit the tempo, as did "John Wesley Harding" when he needed the name of a historical outlaw. Various considerations do come into play – "Francis" would not work not just for metrical reasons but also because the associations Dylan and the public have with him are too clear and do not fit here – but in the end the point is that the song is not about Augustine, to Dylan, nor is it necessarily about martyrs. It is about the feelings that the tune and the performance and the lyrics evoke. Dylan may not know what those feelings are, even for him, let alone for the listener. But he knows when it goes thunk!, because that is his gift (and something he has experience in – something he has learned, gotten better at, over the years, even if he's forgotten some other things along the way).

This is not to say that we can never say what I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine is about, or judge whether or not it succeeds. It succeeds extraordinarily well, because of (not in spite of) its elusiveness; and one of things it unquestionably is about is guilt. We have the image of waking from a dream, guilty ("I dreamed I was amongst the ones who put him out to death"), angry, alone and scared, completed by this exceptional sentence, "I put my fingers against the glass, and bowed my head and cried."

What is the glass? It is a barrier, a feeling of claustrophobia, of being trapped, like Sylvia Plath's bell jar, although it can be a wall rather than an enclosing sphere or globe, simply depending on what fits the listener's own fears and imaginings. The words are so well chosen (and sung) that the image need not be imagined visually to be felt. And there is a powerful correlation with the penultimate line in I Pity The Poor Immigrant, later on in the album: "Whose visions in the final end must shatter like the glass." This glass, which is related though not the same in the two songs, is terrifying whether it is felt as unbreakable or as shattering. Dylan's economy of language leaves room for the rest of us to write volumes.

Regarding technique – John Cohen asked Dylan, in their sum¬mer 1968 interview, to "talk about some of the diverse elements which go into making up one of your songs."

Dylan: "Well, there's not much we could talk about – that's the strange aspect of the whole thing. (Notice that he's not being elusive here. He's simply saying what is true to him.) There's nothing you can see. I wouldn't know where to begin."

Cohen: "Take a song like I Pity The Poor Immigrant.' There might have been a germ that started it."

Dylan: "Yes, the first line."

When he does know where to begin, in other words, it comes to him whole cloth, and he makes a song of it. It is not always the first line, probably, although he has told us that for most of the John Wesley Harding songs it was not the tune, because he started, atypically, with words alone. So I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine could have been inspired when those words, followed by "alive as you or me," jumped into his mind, obviously as a reworking of the phrase that starts the most famous song from the Wobbly movement, Joe Hill. Indeed the melody of Dylan's song, whether it arrived then or later, is closely related to that of the IWW anthem. But the point is that Dylan took the phrase, which I imagine came to him unbidden, and went on to write the words that had to follow it, in terms of meter, tempo, rhyme, and implied subject matter, a set of words that turns out to be a vision of a passionate long-ago saint, running, searching, crying out to the people – and then becomes a song about dreaming, and how it feels to awaken from the dream.

The song that results is a work of art, extremely moving, totally original. What we need to understand about Dylan's tech¬nique in creating such a song, which he has explained over and over again in interviews and by example in his work, is that he lets it flow out of him from a point of inspiration, and what is in the song is what is left after the false starts, the lines that do not work, are discarded, and a successful course from starting point to felt con¬clusion is found. He knows the song is over when it sounds like it is over, and probably values a song like I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine more than a song like John Wesley Harding specifically because he can feel the former go thunk! at the end, with a certain resonance of great¬ness and a clear sense of completion, whereas the latter trails off adequately but with no sense of inevitability, no warm feeling of having fulfilled the original moment of inspiration.

In Lyrics the song I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine is accompanied by a full-page drawing by Dylan, dreamer lying on his back smoking a cigarette, huge image of a severe St Augustine, clutching a blanket, above him. The cigarette interestingly says this is a daydream rather than the kind that occurs in full sleep. Augustine looks like a priest, and one's attention is drawn to the blanket. But we must remember that this drawing is not from 1967, when the song was created, but, probably, from 1972. At best, it is the songwriter's own reinterpretation of the song, like a later performance of it.

And suppose we ask, what does the blanket symbolize? Why, in the song as well as the drawing, does he have "a blanket under¬neath his arm, and a coat of solid gold"? One can come up with very good answers, such as the blanket suggesting poverty and the gold coat material wealth, together in the same person, the para¬dox of the Christian church, etc – bullshit bullshit. Bullshit even if it's "correct interpretation," because if we think about it too much it takes us away from our experience of the song and seduces us into throwing a "meaning" matrix over it. The thing to keep in mind, without rejecting those images and feelings the blanket authentically stimulates for you, is that songs need words, stories and drawings need images, and therefore whatever else the blan¬ket is, it is primarily a prop, something for the character to hold, something that can be used by singer and listener to contain or further the action / motion of the song.

If the word "blanket" did not work, the songwriter would have tossed it out and just as quickly grabbed something else. It did work, so he kept it. That does not mean it does not symbolize poverty, but it does mean (to me) it was not consciously inserted with that in mind ("here's what I want to say, what image can I find to convey it?"). Instead it was tossed up by the subconscious and approved by the conscious, maybe in recognition of some specific connotation, maybe not, but certainly also because it sounded right, as a word, and looked right, as a visual image.

In any case, I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine is a lovely song, a thing of beauty, performed like most of the songs on the album with a certain tentativeness, a caution, that does not limit the album but rather is part of its expression of who Dylan was at the time, particularly in relation to his audience. It may be true, as Dylan seems to remember, that the words were typed out before he put a tune to them; but I suggest that this was less a radical break with his past song-creating techniques than a kind of trick played on Dylan's conscious mind by his unconscious (for the very good purpose of helping him past an obstruction) – because in fact the tune was there in the words as Dylan wrote them (especially in this case, given the Joe Hill inspiration, but also I think in every song on this album) whether Dylan knew he was feeling it, sensing it, not quite humming it, as he wrote, or not. We the listeners can hear this in the song (even just by reading it). It is a song, not a poem. The words flow to fill the tune, and they do their job extremely well.

Michael Gray

A flawless track on one of his best albums, John Wesley Harding – transcendant, visionary, dignified, unique.

Mike Marqusee

The wicked messenger is the artist, the prophet, the protest singer, seeking approval but being told clearly by the public what harsh terms that approval carries. As for the "faithful ambassadors," Dylan tells their saga in I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine, an adaptation of Joe Hill, a popular-front favorite, which opens:

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night
Alive as you and me
Says I, "But Joe, you're ten years dead,"
"I never died," says he, "I never died," says he.

Hill, the labor organizer and songwriter executed in Utah in 1915, as¬sures the dreamer that he still lives through the movement he served:

"From San Diego up to Maine
In every mine and mill
Where workers strike and organize,"
Says lie, "You'll find Joe [fill," says he, "You'll find Joe Hill:"

The song was composed in the summer of 1936 not by workers or organizers or itinerant balladeers but by two educated leftist intellectu¬als, Earl Robinson and Alfred Hayes, at the CP-organized Camp Unity in upstate New York, for a campfire program celebrating the legendary singer-martyr. By the end of the year, the new song had spread across the country and was being sung in Spain by members of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Dylan would have known the song and associated it with the survivors of the popular front he had met in New York City. He would have known that Joe Hill was a prototype for Woody Guthrie, and indeed for himself in an earlier incarnation. Hill was a full-time ag¬itator and organizer, and Guthrie, though he earned a living (off and on) as a musician and writer, was also in day-to-day contact with work¬ing people and their organizations. That experience gave both of them a very different, more immediate relationship to their musical audi¬ences than the one that Dylan enjoyed. This had become deeply prob¬lematic for him, and it forms one of the themes of John Wesley Harding.

Dylan replaces Joe Hill with St Augustine. There's no particular sig¬nificance in the choice; it was enough that it was a saint from long ago. The substitution enabled Dylan to throw his story back into history, and thereby suggest that the tale was eternally recurring. The modern¬day secular martyr was being recycled into a type from antiquity. Like Joe Hill, Dylan's St. Augustine "is alive as you or me," but he is not calmly reassuring, he is frantic: "searching for the very souls / who already have been sold:" In the second verse, the saint, like Joe Hill, steps forward to address his beloved but debauched democracy ("Come out, ye gifted kings and queens"). However, he does not stir the people to action; he merely asks them to "hear my sad complaint:" He then declares, with a lilting finality: No martyrs are among ye now, whom you can call your own. This ringing line repeals the substance of the Hayes-Robinson song. A striking statement from an artist who had mourned Medgar Evers and written poems about JFK, who wouldd lived through the Birming¬ham church bombing and the murders of Mississippi summer, not to mention the death of Che Guevara, announced weeks before he wrote the song. It seems the public world is now too inauthentic to sustain anything as morally grand as a martyr. The only consolation is to "go on your way accordingly / and know you're not alone:" But there's a further twist in this reconsideration of Joe Hill's mission and fate. The singer's dream ends with the realization that he himself is among those who have put the saint to death. (Having declared there are no martyrs, St. Augustine quickly becomes one.) Dylan himself is revealed as one of the distracted mob, one of the persecutors. Paradoxically, that bereaves him of the only consolation St Augustine has offered, and he finds him¬self "alone and terrified:"

This retelling of the legendary martyr-singer's tale is in part Dylan's reflection on his own democratic-prophetic vocation. The only proph¬ecy the artist can make with confidence is that he and his message will be rejected by a world that values all the wrong things. The movement's reassuring dream of redemption through history has been replaced by a nightmare of unqualified bleakness and failure. The true prophets of freedom (not the charlatans in the media) will always be rejected by those who fear freedom. The pathos of the song, however, lies in the ad¬mission of mutual complicity-one of the themes that ties John Wesley Harding together. We are all guilty, we all fear the truth, and if any of us were treated as we deserve, we'd all be in trouble. The facile dichotomy between them and us, between the hip and the straight, the in-group and the masses, the leader and the pack has been dissolved by humbling experience.

Joseph Arthur – Mojo 100 Greatest Dylan Songs #76

When I first heard this, it blew my mind.First it was the production, so stripped down and bare, so radically different to what he had done before. Then there was the lyric which revealed him to be so vulnerable. I took the St Augustine character to be a metaphor for Dylan himself, him feeling this immense guilt and this was killing him somehow. The song is so short, yet contains so much lyrical complexity, but then in contrast and out of necessity to house such a lyric, the melody is so sweet and simple. And the lyrics, they read like a psalm. “I put my fingers against the glass / And bowed my head and cried” – like he is trapped behind a window, maybe a comment on the trappings of fame, how he cannot escape it.

Oliver Trager

Drawing on labour history and Catholic history, Dylan’s allegorical song about messianic prophecy may be a tongue-in-cheek commentary on his role in contemporary society. But then again, he just may be taking his dreams way too seriously.

Dylan’s first two lines in I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine (“I dreamed I saw St Augustine alive as you or me”) paraphrase Joe Hill, the Earl Robertson / Alfred Hayes union hymn to the singing Wobbly organiser / martyr. Here, Dylan’s holy stand-in can be seen as gently deriding (or exaulting) both. The subtext is that ideologies are stale anachronisms as the singer thirsts for salvation and for answers, not mere dogma. In so saying, Dylan sounds isolated, berift of a comforting faith. But if Augustine could be martyred and die a bishop and a revered religious icon, than Dylan can too. For the Gnosticly inclined, Augustine’s visionary memoirs of his early profligate life, ensuing rebirth, and quest for grace, Confessions and City Of God are a must.

Literary types have had a field day with I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine. Perhaps Dylan glimpsed himself being transformed into a kind of pop saint and wrote this song in response to that distasteful predicament, realising that without full understanding of life, the self-sacrifice involved with the attainment of true sainthood is futile. In this examination of sinner-turned-saint, Dylan’s interest in the mass psychology of martyrdom (those who become martyrs and those who worship them) could not be more plain. Yet, in true Dylanesque fashion, he waxes mysteriously in specific regard to his reference to “the glass” mentioned in the lyrics. Window, mirror or even a barrier, it appears to aid in Dylan’s idea of spiritual transformation, be the objects leftist hobos or Catholic deities.

The song’s title subject, St Augustine, is considered one of the Roman Catholic church’s early fathers. Born in 354 in Carthage, he spent his early years as a carouser, even fathering an illegitimate son. After hearing St Ambrose, bishop of Milan, however, Augustine decided to convert to Christianity and was baptised on Easter in 387. From that point, he used his considerable intelligence to explore his own faith and nature of Christianity – to enormously influential effect, perhaps second only to that of St Paul.

On the other side of the coin, the song’s opening couplet is a direct paraphrase of Joe Hill, the personification in body and in song of American radical politics. Born Joel Hagglund (later to be known as Joe Hillstrom) on 7 October 1879 in Gavle, Sweden, Joe Hill immigrated to the US, played piano in a saloon on New York’s Bowery, was a manual labourer on the west coast, and in 1910 joined the Industrial Workers of the Word – the IWW, most commonly known as the Wobblies. Over the next few years, he campaigned for working-class causes, becoming a popular songwriter with a gift for capturing the meaning of these causes in song. His most famous titles include The Preacher And The slave, Casey Jones, The Union Scab, Scissor Bill, Mr Block and The Tramp.

Hill’s songs gained currency among workers, and they were sung at rallies and on picket lines and were eventually published by the IWW in 1913 in The Little Red Song Book. Though Hill’s colloquial, class-conscious compositions are uncomplicated and metrically simple (he often merely refilled popular songs and hymns with new lyrics), he was one of the premier leaders of the early, pre-Woody Guthrie, 20th century political folksong movement in America.

In 1914, during bitter struggles over labour organising and free speech in Utah, Hill was arrested and convicted for allegedly murdering a prominent Salt Lake City man – a charge that, given the political climate of the era, especially with regard to unions, appears to have been a frame-up. Despite appeals from President Woodrow Wilson and the Swedish government, he was executed by firing squad in Salt Lake City on 19 November 1915. His body was taken to Chicago, where more than 30,000 people attended his funeral procession and eulogies were read in nine languages. The following May Day, his ashes were scattered in every state (except utah) and numerous countries abroad. His description of his approach to songwriting, as recorded in The Little Red Song Book, could just as well be chiselled on his tombstone, “If a person can put a few cold, commonsense facts into a song and dress them up in a cloak of humour to take the dryness out of them, he will succeed in reaching a great number of workers who are too unintelligent or too indifferent to read a pamphlet or an editorial on economic science.”

Dylan’s performances of I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine are pretty uncommon. After recording it for John Wesley Harding and performing the song at the famous 1969 Isle of Wight show with The Band, Dylan joined Joan Baez for memorable duet renditions during both phases of The Rolling Thunder Revue in 1975 and 1976. Dylan returned to the song with Tom Petty and crew in 1986 and 1987 and included it in shows in the early years of The Never Ending Tour through 1992 as a special rarity.

Gordon Mills

In I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine, some parallels are found with the bent track of all our lives. St Augustine, who also sought an answer in a life of deprivation, of spiritual and physical agony, ("with a blanket, underneath his arm" as he went "searching for the very souls that already have been sold,") found in the end a similar humility to that expressed by Dylan here. The two concepts of Saint and Devil blended here. "There is no martyr amongst you now"; compared to Mozart, so "Come out you gifted Kings and Queens" and do your thing. And "know you're not alone." The immense compassion Dylan feels is shown only too clearly: he tells us that "He put his finger to the glass and bowed his head and cried."

There is hope for those still on the other side. With a delicate rippling harp-ending, Dylan tells us with all his gentleness how easy it is to break once and for all the clouded glass.

Clinton Heylin

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

Known studio recordings: Studio A, Nashville, 17 October 1967 – 4 takes [JWH~tk.4].

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

The third and last song recorded at the first John Wesley Harding session, I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine was also the first to place a real historical character in circumstances that failed to resemble any previously documented (a dry run for Chronicles'?). Like Tom Paine (in As I Went Out One Morning) and John Wesley Harding, St Augustine finds himself in a most incongruous setting. Attempting to dispense good advice (“Go on your way / And know you're not alone”), he is “put to death” for his troubles.

The song's martyr is clearly neither Augustine of Hippo nor the St Augustine who brought the Word to the heathen Brits, and Dylan knows it. He is a cipher, serving to inform Dylan's audience that nothing on John Wesley Harding is as it seems. Neither early Christian father was put '”out to death.” Nor would either have ever adopted as a catch-phrase, “No martyr is among ye now.” So Dylan has another martyr in mind, one who was “put out to death,” and whose dying words were meant to offer hope and solace.

Not one inclined to mention martyrs at the drop of a hat, Dylan did enthuse about one such person who was a bit of a songwriter, in a September 1978 interview, shortly after discussing the merits of his 1967 LP: “Now those were good songs that Joe Hill wrote. He wrote some real good songs, but in those days martyrs were easy to find. Things were pretty simple.”

Joe Hill was a union organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) who was convicted of the motiveless murder of a complete stranger on the grounds that he had sustained a bullet wound he could not explain. He was executed in November 1915. Some 15 years later, Alfred Hayes wrote a poem about Joe Hill's fate, which Earl Robinson duly set to music. The poem, which was called I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night, contained the following opening verse:

“I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night,
Alive as you and me.
Says I “But Joe, you're ten years dead”
“I never died” said he.”

Decades later, in Chronicles, Dylan admitted that the idea of writing a song about Joe Hill had long appealed to him:

“Protest songs are difficult to write without making them come off as preachy and one-dimensional. You have to show people a side of themselves that they don't know is there. The song Joe Hill doesn't even come close, but if there was someone who could inspire a song, it was him.”

And that song is? 'I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine is, in fact, written from the point of view of a member of the jury who “put him out to death” and now sees the terrible error he has made. The parallels are clear. Just not exact. One should be wary of overstating Joe Hill's resemblance to the august saint, for St Augustine is as much a cipher for Dylan as he is for Hill. Having been cast as a messiah of sorts himself, Dylan recognized the importance of telling any obvious believers that “[no] martyr is among ye now.” After all, here was a man who had already written a number of epitaphs, including one that read, “here lies bob dylan / murdered / from behind.”

Not only is I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine a eulogy of sorts, it is exquisitely sung (even if Dylan and his fellow Americans do not know how to pronounce the saint's name, rhyming it with “mean,” not “sin”). I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine also seems to have been one of the few John Wesley Harding songs he could bring himself to play, applying a slow waltz arrangement at the Isle of Wight, thus providing a possible insight into what a Band-embellished John Wesley Harding might have sounded like. It also became a regular feature of The Rolling Thunder Revue as a Dylan / Baez duet (Baez having covered Joe Hill and I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine). In the 1980s it enjoyed another welcome revival at the hands of tThe Heartbreakers, but in the 1990s, just as the rest of the album returned to the fold, our martyr fell from grace.


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PostPosted: Thu January 26th, 2012, 20:04 GMT 
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Here's a link to a recent live version, Cork 2011.

http://www.bigozine2.com/TRKS4/BDmilan/BDmilan213.mp3


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PostPosted: Fri January 27th, 2012, 18:45 GMT 
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“I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” is one of the songs on John Wesley Harding which I like quite a lot. I have never really tried to decipher the meaning of this song (if there actually is any) but doomedtoloveyou and Nellie have posted some interesting explanations. For instance, I did not know that Dylan had “adopted” the first line from a song about Joe Hill. It is always nice to find such little clues. (By the way, Joan Baez used to sing the song about Joe Hill during the RTR every now and then.)

What makes this song so captivating for me is the final stanza. In the first two stanzas you do not really know what is going on, who St. Augustine is and why he is in the utmost misery; and what is up with the coat of solid gold and the blanket? You do not know who the gifted kings and queens are … and so on. It is actually quite a mystery.

At the end, however, the narrator suddenly awakes and is struck with grief and terror and you cannot help but feel sympathy for him. I like that this twist (i.e. the shift from dream to reality) comes so sudden and out of the blue.

Oh, I awoke in anger, so alone and terrified
I put my fingers against the glass and bowed my head and cried


Personally, I think those lines are among Dylan’s best. He paints quite picture with a few simple words. You wake up from a nightmare and cannot help but get out of your bed; you walk up and down in your darkened room, lost in thought, and eventually end up looking out of your window, touching the glass with your fingers and tears in your eyes. This is such a powerful image.

With regard to live versions, I definitely would like to hear the '69 performance of "St. Augustine" which Dylan did on the Isle of Wight. I have not heard this one yet. I guess I’ll have to take a look at the bootleg list.

What I have listened to, on the other hand, are a couple of duets with Joan Baez from the '75 RTR. I think I have listened to approximately ten performances of "St. Augustine" from that tour. As pointed out by The Mighty Monkey Of Mim, the one from Providence '75 was not really good and it was probably the weakest performance of this song I have heard. Having said that, I don't really like the one from Waterbury '75 either. Even though it is a nice, melancholic performance and Joan's singing is nice, Dylan's contribution seems to be pretty lackluster to me. Personally, I prefer the versions of "St. Augustine" from Boston '75, Montreal '75 and most of all, Niagara Falls '75 where Dylan seems to be more committed and his singing is quite powerful (the sound quality sucks, though). I have not listened to any versions of that song from the NET except for the one from Cork '11, which is all right in my opinion. It's not a performance which blows your mind but it is nice that he played this song again after so many St. Augustineless years.

All in all, I think none of the live performances comes even close to the studio recording of “St. Augustine”. I cannot put my finger on it, but there is just something missing when Dylan does this song live.


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PostPosted: Fri January 27th, 2012, 21:54 GMT 
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I like the comments everyone is making regarding this song. Thickboy's complexity in simplicity observation is especially apt. The lyric is one of the most straightforward Dylan has written, completely essential language with no ornament; what few adjectives appear are necessary for the full impact of the images and meaning.

XRayload makes the observation that no live versions live up to the original studio version, and while this may be personal preference, I have the same experience in comparative listening. Presumably the studio version is also live, no instrumental or vocal overdubs. I think it benefits from the absence of an audience, just as other songs may from the presence of one. The mood of isolation, of the privacy of dreams and the piercing grief of consciousness so present throughout the album, reaches a climax in this song. Pulling it out of its album context and performing it before thousands breaks something of the spell. I've heard good live versions, but none give me chills the way the studio track does.


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PostPosted: Sat January 28th, 2012, 01:25 GMT 
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XRaylroad wrote:
“I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” is one of the songs on John Wesley Harding which I like quite a lot. I have never really tried to decipher the meaning of this song (if there actually is any) but doomedtoloveyou and Nellie have posted some interesting explanations. For instance, I did not know that Dylan had “adopted” the first line from a song about Joe Hill. It is always nice to find such little clues. (By the way, Joan Baez used to sing the song about Joe Hill during the RTR every now and then.)

What makes this song so captivating for me is the final stanza. In the first two stanzas you do not really know what is going on, who St. Augustine is and why he is in the utmost misery; and what is up with the coat of solid gold and the blanket? You do not know who the gifted kings and queens are … and so on. It is actually quite a mystery.

At the end, however, the narrator suddenly awakes and is struck with grief and terror and you cannot help but feel sympathy for him. I like that this twist (i.e. the shift from dream to reality) comes so sudden and out of the blue.

Oh, I awoke in anger, so alone and terrified
I put my fingers against the glass and bowed my head and cried


Personally, I think those lines are among Dylan’s best. He paints quite picture with a few simple words. You wake up from a nightmare and cannot help but get out of your bed; you walk up and down in your darkened room, lost in thought, and eventually end up looking out of your window, touching the glass with your fingers and tears in your eyes. This is such a powerful image.

With regard to live versions, I definitely would like to hear the '69 performance of "St. Augustine" which Dylan did on the Isle of Wight. I have not heard this one yet. I guess I’ll have to take a look at the bootleg list.

What I have listened to, on the other hand, are a couple of duets with Joan Baez from the '75 RTR. I think I have listened to approximately ten performances of "St. Augustine" from that tour. As pointed out by The Mighty Monkey Of Mim, the one from Providence '75 was not really good and it was probably the weakest performance of this song I have heard. Having said that, I don't really like the one from Waterbury '75 either. Even though it is a nice, melancholic performance and Joan's singing is nice, Dylan's contribution seems to be pretty lackluster to me. Personally, I prefer the versions of "St. Augustine" from Boston '75, Montreal '75 and most of all, Niagara Falls '75 where Dylan seems to be more committed and his singing is quite powerful (the sound quality sucks, though). I have not listened to any versions of that song from the NET except for the one from Cork '11, which is all right in my opinion. It's not a performance which blows your mind but it is nice that he played this song again after so many St. Augustineless years.

All in all, I think none of the live performances comes even close to the studio recording of “St. Augustine”. I cannot put my finger on it, but there is just something missing when Dylan does this song live.


I agree - I prefer the studio recording. Although I do like the RTR duets with Joan, the studio version is my preferred version. Thanks for the input, XRaylroad and harmonica albert.


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PostPosted: Sat January 28th, 2012, 10:48 GMT 

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XRaylroad wrote:
With regard to live versions, I definitely would like to hear the '69 performance of "St. Augustine" which Dylan did on the Isle of Wight. I have not heard this one yet.

here you go: http://www.sendspace.com/file/8pdk1i
Unfortunately the song is cut on the best-sounding tapes from this show, so this is from an alternate source that sounds a bit distant from the PA. Still listenable though.

While I'm at it, here are refreshed links to what is still my favorite and most-highly-recommended performance of this song:

1987-09-17 East Berlin
taper: Legendary Taper D
http://www.sendspace.com/file/xs7qgh (FLAC)
http://www.sendspace.com/file/q4ot1o (Apple Lossless)

Also, here's the video of last (and maybe best) duet performance with Joan and the only one from 1976:
http://www.youtube.com/embed/PT3NOzEXW3M


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PostPosted: Sat January 28th, 2012, 11:46 GMT 
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Thank you for the links, The Mighty Monkey Of Mim!

I liked the performance from ’69 (Isle of Wight), in particular the beginning. I thought, “not bad, really not bad”. (Besides, I like Dylan’s Nashville Skyline voice. Thus, it is always nice to hear some of his performances from that era.) However, as Dylan came closer to the end of this song the performance lost its magic. It began quite melancholic and sad but Dylan obviously could not keep up this mood. At least, that’s what I felt when I listened to this performance.

The one from East Berlin ’87 was great, indeed. No complaints with regard to this performance.

The duet with Baez from ’76 was probably the best performance of “St. Augustine” during the RTR which I have heard. One reason for this may be the fact that the rest of the band is not involved in this performance (... or maybe it is because it is always nice to see a video of the RTR). Be that as it may, I still think that this song does not work very well as a duet, simply because the theme of “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” is a mixture of loneliness, isolation and helplessness.

I think harmonica albert nails it when he says,

harmonica albert wrote:
The mood of isolation, of the privacy of dreams and the piercing grief of consciousness so present throughout the album, reaches a climax in this song. Pulling it out of its album context and performing it before thousands breaks something of the spell. I've heard good live versions, but none give me chills the way the studio track does.


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PostPosted: Wed February 1st, 2012, 01:24 GMT 
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The Mighty Monkey Of Mim wrote:
Also, here's the video of last (and maybe best) duet performance with Joan and the only one from 1976:
http://www.youtube.com/embed/PT3NOzEXW3M

Whoa. Thanks Mim! That was awesome!


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