Sometimes it feels like Bob Dylan says: "I practice a faith that's long been abandoned, ain't no altars on this long and lonesome road"

Translate this website

Visitors to this website today: 80Total number of visitors to this website: 677385
Welcome to the website of Kees de Graaf
Kees de Graaf

Bob Dylan's "Not Dark Yet" - an analysis by Kees de Graaf - Part 3.

Verse 3.
Well, I’ve been to London and I’ve been to gay Paree
I’ve followed the river and I got to the sea
I’ve been down on the bottom of a world full of lies
I ain’t looking for nothing in anyone’s eyes
Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.

“Well, I’ve been to London and I’ve been to gay Paree, I’ve followed the river and I got to the sea” first of all shows movement. Movement is thematic for the album TOOM. Almost all songs recorded during the TOOM sessions show some kind of movement.

We give you some examples of this movement: From “Love Sick”: “I’m walking through streets that are dead”, “Dirt Road Blues”: “Gon’ walk down that dirt road”;Standing in the Doorway”: “I’m walking through the summer nights”, "Trying to get to Heaven": “I’m walking down that lonesome valley, trying to get to Heaven before they close the door”, up to “Highlands”: “I’m gonna go there when I feel good enough to go”. And, most importantly, for the song that unfortunately did not make it to the final TOOM cut: “Marching to the City”: “Now I'm marching to the City and the road ain't long”.

“Well, I’ve been to London and I’ve been to gay Paree, I’ve followed the river and I got to the sea” must be read against the backdrop of Zechariah 9:10 : “He shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth”(KJV).

The “He” in this prophecy from Zechariah points forward to Christ who would bring the Kingdom of Peace to the ends of the earth. This prophecy is beginning to be fulfilled in Acts 1:8 where Jesus says: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”(BSB).

That “the ends of the earth” from Zechariah 9:10 and Acts 1:8  probably was in the back of the poet’s mind during the TOOM sessions is obvious from another TOOM song: “Make You Feel my Love” where it says: “Go to the ends of the Earth for you, to make you feel my love”

This connection is further worked out in Dylan’s “Marching to the City”. First we have to ask: which City is the poet referring to? Well, if you compare this city with the lyrics of Dylan’s 1980 song “City of Gold”, it can only be the City of Jerusalem.

It looks as if the poet is part of a pilgrimage (one could call this pilgrimage the Never Ending (Gospel) Tour). A Tour that according to Acts 1:8 starts in Jerusalem and goes – just like Zechariah 9:10 and Acts 1:8 prophesied - to the “ends of the earth” and which will in the end return to Jerusalem, to its final destination which is the City of Gold (Rev.21:21).“The ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) at the time stood for Europe, so one could say that this included cities like London and Paris.

As said, the poet is on this lonesome pilgrimage, worded in “Marching to the City” as “Go over to London, maybe gay Paree, follow the river, you get to the sea”. “Paree” is the French pronunciation of “Paris.” According to the Oxford Dictionary Paris was originally called “Gay Paree” with “gay” meaning “happy, joyful and lively”. The sexual connotation of “gay” is from a later date.

From the words “I’ve been down on the bottom of a world full of lies” it is apparent that this pilgrim is totally disillusioned, he is down and out. While he is marching to the City and is “hoping he could drink from life's clear streams” (cf. Rev. 22:1), he is instead confronted with a hostile world where lies rule the earth.

“I’ve been down on the bottom of a world full of lies” echo in Dylan’s “Things Have changed”: “All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie”. These words show that in the view of the poet something is fundamentally wrong with this world and humanity is unwilling and uncapable to repair this.

Dylan once wrote “ Life is more or less a lie, but then again, that’s exactly the way we want it to be”(From “Chronicles” 2011 p. 57, Simon and Schuster). It all happened when in the beginning man chose to believe the biggest lie ever produced by Satan, namely that man could become independent from God. Ever since that time we have lived in a“ World Gone Wrong” situation, to quote the title of one of Dylan’s albums. And now the poet feels the pain and the full impact of what it means “to be at the bottom “of such a world, he has gone through all of the pain.

But there is another layer beneath those words; behind this human suffering from the poet we also see divine suffering shining through. During the Last Supper (Matt. 26:30) Jesus sang with his disciples Psalm 116:11 “I said in my haste, All men are liars”. They sought false witnesses- liars- against Jesus to put Him to death (Matt. 26:59).

Jesus is the only One who has really felt what it meant “to be at the bottom of a world full of lies”. He, in our place, went to the bottom of a world full of lies to set us free from the devastating consequences of Satan’s original lie. He set us free on the Day when Innocence died.

To have a better understanding of the words “I ain’t looking for nothing in anyone’s eyes” we have to have a look again at the draft “Marching” to the City” where we find similar words in the following context: “Well I'm sitting in church, in an old wooden chair, I knew nobody would look for me there, sorrow and pity rule the earth and the skies, looking for nothing in anyone's eyes”. In his desperation the poet is looking for answers.

For answers he takes refuge in a church, in an old wooden chair. Nobody would ever have imagined that he would -for all places- go to a church looking for answers. It was and it is not trendy to find answers in church, the place where heaven and earth meet.

It says: You will find “nothing” there in “anyone’s eyes”. In “anyone’s eyes” practically means in nobody’s eyes. Everybody around him feels that you cannot find anything in such a place, in church, which may offer you solace.

These words remind us of a line in Dylan’s “False Prophet” where the False Prophet- alias Satan- says to the believers: “Put out your hand - there’s nothing to hold”. Satan tries to convince people that when you will reach out for help to God, He will leave you empty-handed, you will find nothing. The poet has to deal with the same reproach here: he is “looking for nothing in anyone’s eyes”.

Although it is true what Dylan once wrote in his song “God Knows”: “God knows you can rise above the darkest hour of any circumstance”, it does not make this statement: “Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear” any less poignant.

It seems obvious that the poet is deliberately downgrading the poignancy of this statement by saying that sometimes his burden “seems” more than he can bear. This must be because he is aware of what the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it”(NJKV). But almost invariably it does not feel that way.

When you are in the middle of a crisis in life, you feel there is no escape at all and that your burden is more than you can bear. Just like the poet says in “My Own Version Of You”: when “I get into trouble, then I hit the wall, no place to turn, no place at all”. It may feel that way, no matter whether you are an infidel or a believer. It may even go further than that. A trauma may be so overwhelming that it pushes a man to the limit, just like what Dylan wrote in his song “Honest With Me”: “Some things are too terrible to be true”.

But yet again, there is at the same time a deeper spiritual layer under the words “Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear” because, severe as the suffering of e.g. Job once was, nothing compares to the burden Jesus had to bear. On his way to Golgotha, Jesus literally collapsed under the burden of his Cross and therefore they forced a man from Cyrene, named Simon, to carry the Cross for Him (Matt. 27:32).

But excruciating as his somatic suffering on the Cross was, nothing compares to the burden Jesus had to bear when He was forsaken by God the Father(Matt. 27:46). “Darkness at the break of noon” (cf. Matt. 27:45) led to the absolute low point, when complete darkness was not “getting there” but had gotten there. He reached the absolute low point when he was forsaken by God and man, and He knew what it meant for Him: “my burden is more than I can bear”.


 Go back
Published on: 17-05-2023 13:29:51

Click this link to respond to this article

Likewise, Psalm 116 gives thanks to the merciful God(Lord), { not the-yet-to-be-born Jesus of future times}, for delivering the Hebrew slaves from their suffering in Egypt.

The suffering of the New Testament crucified Christ, the 'Messiah', (for the sins of others), be a superimposed interpretation on the Old Testament hymn.


Larry Fyffe25-05-2023 14:56

Surely a 'misinterpretion' based on the benefit of New Testament Christian hindsight.

Joshua, the High Priest, gets a mention in Old Testament Zechariah, but there is none of the future Jesus.

The Babylonian-ousting Persians allow the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, taken as a sign that God is going to reunite northern and southern Israel .... but only if the Hebrews cease their wicked ways.


Larry Fyffe25-05-2023 09:55

Write your response in the box below