Bob Dylan's 'When the night comes falling from the sky'- an analysis - Part 2
Lyric analysis of Bob Dylan’s “When the night comes falling from the sky’ – Part 2.
‘I can see through your walls and I know you're hurting. Sorrow covers you up like a cape. Only yesterday I know that you've been flirting with disaster that you somehow managed to escape’. The poet sees his beloved in hell. She cannot see him but he can see her, he ‘can see through her walls’, he experiences a vision which you normally cannot see on earth with your natural eyes. It is as if the camera now zooms into a scene which is very much reminiscent of the parable of poor Lazarus and the rich man as written in the gospel of Luke (16:19-31).It is as if we are invited to 'look into the fiery furnace and to see the rich man without any name'. If there is any place where you are covered with sorrow and where suffering fits you like a glove, this place is in hell. The tormented rich man in hell begs: 'send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue for I am tormented in this flame’. The rich man may add: ‘All I see is heat and flame' But it is as if Abraham says: 'there ain't no going back when the foot of pride comes down' Communication is no longer possible: 'Don’t look for me, I see you, there is this great gulf fixed between you and me' Oh yes, it was only yesterday, in this life on earth that everything seemed quite the opposite, but the rich man had been 'flirting with disaster' when he did all this injustice to the poor Lazarus. It looked as if the rich man somehow 'managed to escape’ judgement and disaster when after his luxurious life, he had that exuberant funeral but it is now time to face the bare facts. Elsewhere Dylan writes: ‘God knows you ain’t gonna be taking nothing with you when you go’. Whether you are rich or poor in this life, in the end it does not matter anymore. The same thing the rich man has experienced now seems to have happened to the poet’s beloved. That is why the poet goes on to say ' Well, I can't provide for you no easy answers. Who are you that I should have to lie? You know everything, my love. Down below and up above, when the night comes falling from the sky’. Jesus once said: “For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all” (Mat 10:26). There is no need to beat around the bush any longer, the time for easy solutions has passed, the truth has to be faced. There is no sense in telling lies anymore because when the night comes falling from the sky, the truth will be known to all. Here on earth, ‘down below’- just like the rich man- you were able to keep up appearances, you thought you had it all and - just like the rich man did to poor Lazarus, even here in hell ‘up above’, you think you can order me to do things for you, but you have to keep in mind that now there is a large gulf between you and me, there is nothing left I can do for you , now is time for your tears, the night has fallen from the sky.
“I can hear your trembling heart beat like a river and recently you thought you'd seen it all. But you're disappointed now in those who did not deliver, but it was you who set yourself up for a fall”. In this episode the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus (Luke Chapter 16) still lingers in the background. There is a wall between the poet and his beloved. He can not only see but also feel her pain, fear and agony; he can even feel her troubled heart beat like a wild river. Only yesterday she was living a life full of wealth and luxury and she thought she had everything under control, she needed nothing from anyone, she had seen it all and apparently was in a position to order people to do things for her. But now, up above here in hell, she has lost the high position which she recently had on earth. Also the rich man in hell was no longer in a position to give orders to poor Lazarus. Abraham repudiated the rich man and said to him: “Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish” (Luke 16:25). It is as if Abraham says: ‘you have no reason to be disappointed that Lazarus no longer delivers. During your lifetime you had all the opportunities and all time in the world to help and to do justice to poor Lazarus but you refused to do so. Your contempt for poor Lazarus and your continuous refusal to help him is the reason for your downfall and that is entirely your own fault; it was you and no one else who set yourself up for a fall”. You cannot go on for ever defying doing justice on earth, when you do that you set yourself up for a fall and the outcome will be that ‘one day you open up your eyes (in hell), and you’ll see where you are’, but then it will be too late.
“I've seen thousands who could have overcome the darkness, for the love of a lousy buck, I've watched them die. Stick around, baby, we're not through, don't look for me, I'll see you, when the night comes falling from the sky”.
It is said that ‘Achluophobia’, or the fear of the dark, puts many children and even some adults into terror. While many children grow out of it, some 28% of adults still have some sort of anxiety-related disorder. True as this may be, it is not this kind of darkness and fear, which the poet has in mind here. ’Darkness’ here reflects what is said in Colossians 1:13 “For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son”. The kingdom of darkness represents hell. I Tim 6:10 says: 'the love of money is the root of all evil'. Ultimately, the love of money, the love for a lousy buck caused the rich man to end up in hell. Nowadays the poet sees the same thing happening all around him. Many people could have been saved but the love of money prevented them from overcoming the kingdom of darkness and entering into the kingdom of love and light. It is true what Dylan wrote many years earlier: ‘he not busy being born is busy dying’. ‘The love of a lousy buck’ seems to be inspired by a film called ‘On the Waterfront’. ‘On the Waterfront’ is a 1954 American drama film about union violence and corruption among longshoremen. There is a dialogue in the film in which Karl Malden says: "You want to know what's wrong with our waterfront? It's the love of a lousy buck. It's making love of a buck---the cushy job---more important than the love of man!"
‘Stick around’ means “Stay put in the corner here!"; "Stick around and you will learn something!, we’re not through, we are not finished yet. Over here in hell, the tables are turned. You cannot bully me any longer like you once did when we were on earth, I can’t hear you anymore, and from now on you have to listen to what I say. Don’t look for me I’ll see you, is again a quote from the Humphrey Bogart film "Maltese Falcon" here it means that there is a large gulf between you and me, I can see you in hell but you cannot see me, you cannot communicate with me, for all eternity you’re completely stuck. This is exactly what is going to happen ‘when the night comes falling from the sky’.
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