Bob Dylan's 'Long and Wasted Years' - an analysis - Part 2 (of 3)
Bob Dylan’s ‘Long and Wasted Years’ – an analysis – Part 2 (of 3) by Kees de Graaf.
In this part we continue where we left off part 1.
With the words ‘ Shake it up baby, twist and shout’ the poet seems to take us in an entirely different direction. ‘Shake it up baby, twist and shout’ reminds us of a song ‘Twist and shout’ written in 1961 by Phil Medley and Bert Burns. The original title of the song was ‘Shake it up, Baby’. It was covered by the Isley Brothers and later on by the Beatles. ‘Shake it up baby, twist and shout’ takes us back to social dancing in the 1960s. The ‘twist’ which involved the shaking of the hips and pelvis introduced a new style of dancing and replaced coupled dancing in youth clubs and gatherings. At the time this dance was even banned from television because by many it was seen as a provocative way of dancing. The dance caused an almost worldwide craze, mainly because of its simplicity and lack of restrictions.
After the words ‘Shake it up baby, twist and shout’ it says:‘you know what it’s all about’. Does this ‘you know what it’s all about’ refer to this dance, the ‘twist’ as if Dylan meant: ‘Baby you know all about this way of dancing’ or does it refer to the preceding or next verse()s?. To answer this question we first have to examine what follows next: ‘What you doing out there in the sun anyway? Don't you know the sun can burn your brains right out?’. It is obvious that these lines echo an African-American folktale called ‘Uglier Than A Grinning Buzzard’ in the version by Louise Anderson which can be found in the book ‘Talk That Talk’: An Anthology of African-American Storytelling. It is a tale about a trickster –an old buzzard - which had fooled a rabbit and a squirrel into taking a refreshing ride on his back which in the end led to the rabbit and the squirrel being eaten by the buzzard. In return we see that the buzzard is tricked by a clever monkey which is out there in the sun, about to give the buzzard his comeuppance. From the tale: "They said, What's the monkey doing out there in the sun? Oh, that monkey done lost his cool. The sun done burned that monkey's brains out’. So we see in this story that the trickster gets tricked. It is all about getting what one deserves.
If we now go back to the story of Eve and Adam just after they had fallen in sin we may see some of the same phenomena as described above come back. Because Adam had sinned God said to him: ‘By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”(Genesis 3:19). ‘Being out there in the sun,’ sweating and planting and harvesting what the earth brings forth, is not Eve’s territory but Adam’s. Therefore in that situation it is as if Adam says to Eve: ‘What are you doing out there in the sun anyway? Don't you know the sun can burn your brains right out, this hard labor in the fields in the burning sun will be much too much for you Eve, you have your own agony to bear Eve which is quite different from mine because God has said to you: ’I will make your pains in childbearing very severe, with painful labour you will give birth to children, your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 4:16).
The next verse dwells on the same subject. Not only Adam and Eve- representing mankind - had to bear the dreadful consequences of their downfall but also the serpent who had deceived Eve and Adam gets his comeuppance. We see this paraphrased in the next verse: ‘My enemy crashed into the dust. Stopped dead in his tracks and he lost his lust. He was run down hard when he broke apart. He died in shame, he had an iron heart’. Some commentators have argued that this verse deals with the struggle a reborn Christian is going through. When you surrender your heart to the Lord, you increasingly become aware of the fact that there is an enemy within you who continuously tries to crush your new way of living and continuously tries to drag you back into your old way of living. Some call this enemy within a Christian the ‘old man’ or the ‘old nature’ within you, as contrasted with the indwelling ‘new man’ or ‘new nature’ worked by the Holy Spirit (cf Ephesians 4: 22-24, Romans 6:6, Colossians 3:9,10). It reminds us of what Dylan once wrote in the song ‘Where are you tonight? (Journey through dark Heat)’: ‘I fought with my twin, that enemy within, till both of us fell by the way’. This verse ‘My enemy crashed into the dust. Stopped dead in his tracks and he lost his lust. He was run down hard when he broke apart. He died in shame, he had an iron heart’ would describe the final outcome of this struggle within a reborn Christian. In the end when a Christian dies physically, that enemy within him will also die suddenly but then in a spiritual way. It is now as if a Christian looks back on his life after he has died and is in heaven and now says: ‘The battle is over, ‘my enemy crashed into the dust, stopped dead in his tracks and he lost his lust, once my body had to return to dust when I died on earth but this enemy will remain in dust forever and this enemy is no longer capable to stir up lust within me, his downfall came suddenly and abrupt, he was run down hard when he broke apart , and had to let me go, I was raised to glory but he died in shame, I received new eyes and a new heart, not a heart of stone but a new heart of flesh but he had an iron heart, a heart harder than stone that can never be converted, he died in shame, for my enemy it has come true what it says it says in Psalm 83: 17 ‘Let them be humiliated and terrified permanently until they die in shame’ (ISV).
However, this verse may also be interpreted as relating to the state of fallen mankind. Not only Eve and Adam were held accountable but also the trickster, the devil, the serpent is cursed. So in this interpretation, this verse echoes Genesis 3:14,15: ‘So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel’. It is clear that this serpent, the devil will not only eat dust, he will also crash in the dust. When he will be crashed into the dust, his head will be crushed as well. In order words: he will be ‘stopped dead in his tracks’. It will al happen suddenly in the twinkling of an eye, like a flash of lightning as it says in Luke 10: 18: ‘I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning!’. Falling from heaven is the same as being ‘run down hard’ and ‘to be broken apart’, like it says in Romans 16:20 ‘then the God of peace will soon crush the Satan under your feet’. In the end the serpent, Satan, will lose his power to deceive nations and individuals which means that he will lose his lust and he will be consumed by fire and thrown in the lake of fire and sulphur (Revelations 20:10) and this way he will die in shame. This may be called the second death (Revelations 20:14). The serpent, the devil has ‘an iron heart’ a heart which is harder than stone and can never be converted.
The words ‘I wear dark glasses to cover my eyes, there're secrets in them that I can't disguise’ again echo the ‘Battle of Angels’ from Orpheus Descending. In the ‘Battle of Angels’ Sandra says to Valentine Xavier: ‘I wear dark glasses over my eyes because I've got secrets in them’. This line ‘I wear dark glasses to cover my eyes, there're secrets in them that I can't disguise’ expresses shame, fear and embarrassment. For the first time, paradise lost caused shame to be introduced into the fallen world as we read in Genesis 3:7: ‘Then the eyes of both (Eve and Adam) were opened , and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons’. It was the moment that man fell into sin that the big masquerade started. Eve and Adam – and through them mankind - lost their innocence and capacity to communicate with an open-mindedness in which there are no hidden secrets. For the first time now they had entered into a situation in which ‘saying things you shouldn't say’ is a mistake which should be avoided. Eve and Adam started to wear aprons to disguise their physical nakedness and vulnerability and the words ‘I wear dark glasses to cover my eyes, there're secrets in them that I can't disguise’ is just another modern metaphor to express this feeling. The poet makes it clear that if he would not wear those dark glasses, compromising secrets which are very harmful to him or to other people, would be disguised and made public. Ever since the downfall into sin the human mind is so defiled, depraved and corrupted that man needs to deploy all kind of means – in this case ‘dark gasses to cover his eyes’ - to disguise all the wicked things that are going on in his mind. If man would not wear clothes or dark glasses to disguise his real intentions, all wicked thoughts and plans would come out into the open and man would become so vulnerable that it would be impossible to have a livable society.
However, no matter how defiled and depraved the human mind may have become, even today there are still some remnants left in the human condition of the original good an uncorrupted state of mind which man once had when he was in paradise. It is the reason why these words ‘I wear dark glasses to cover my eyes, there're secrets in them that I can't disguise’ are followed by the words: ‘Come back baby, if I hurt your feelings, I apologize’. These words express a certain sense of responsibility, regret and remorse for the things that have gone wrong in a love relationship and prove that accepting responsibility, and showing regret and remorse is still part of the human condition. At the same time this oasis of good will worked by the Spirit holds a promise for the future that one day all evil will be wiped out and that the paradisiac open mindedness, innocence and honesty will be restored. The feeling which the words ‘Come back baby, if I hurt your feelings, I apologize’ expresses, very much resembles what Dylan wrote in his song ‘Never gonna be the same again’: ‘Sorry if I hurt you, baby, sorry if I did, sorry if I touched the place where your secrets are hid’. We may conclude that in a fallen world it is sometimes better that secrets remain secrets.
Please comment on this article by pushing the button ‘reacties’ below.
Will be continued……….