A way this song works is that Dylan does not give us any details of his wife’s hometown or any of his depictions of hell. Instead, he invites us to picture either or both from our own sentiments and thoughts. Dylan had several marriages, some on the sly, but the one to Sara Lowndes went quite public despite the couple’s efforts to live an undisturbed private life. Sara was born in Wilmington, DE. Is that the target of Dylan’s disgust? I don’t think so; again, I think it’s whatever our own wives’ hometowns are and whatever visions of hell we want to associate with them. My wife’s hometown is quite hellish, especially during rush hour. In other ways these hometowns have been hell for us Dylan wants us to bring to the song, so we can feel what he means, full of both comedy and tragedy.
Like many of the songs on Together Through Life, it has a see-saw sway to it brought to our ears by way of David Hidalgo’s accordion. In that it has a bluesy sound, and the couplet rhyming maintains the cadence and the blues effects. Some of the ending rhymes tell there own story within whatever story that the lyrics are weaving, as in, “run/someone/down/town” and “dry/eye/around/town.” And maybe this is relevant because our associations with home towns and hell are equal to whatever the narrator’s story is. We are together in this, whatever it is, together through life.
The most puzzling line of all is the second one, “I just came here to hear the drop of cymbaline,” with its vague “o” rhyme “doggone” with “drop,” and “cymbaline” with “thing.” The rest of the rhyming (my favorite “worse”/”curse”) is perfect and simple. “hear” and “hear” are homonyms and they provide an internal echo rhyme, but Dylan brings place and sound together with the phrase. The spelling of “cymbaline” with the “a” is peculiar, perhaps tied to a Pink Floyd song with that title, but not to Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. This but not that–“there’s reasons for this and reasons for that,” “plenty to remember, plenty to forget,” . . . but some things are certain, like the day they met, and his love for her. Sneaky romantic Bob; those lines seem hidden among the heavy deteriorating morass the town is and has become, hell and in a broke state and a dry county.
Home town, home town . . . the final fading words like a lingering invitation or goodbye, her home town or his, its ours, and all that our memories bring to them.