Rhyme

Jacques Levy, a theater director, who co-wrote songs with Dylan on the album Desire, spoke of Dylan’s passion for rhyme:

“One of the very nice nice things about working with Bob is that he loves rhyme, he loves to play with it, and he loves the complication of it.”

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One of my favorite passages about rhyme comes from Ricks’ book  Dylan’s Vision of Sin.  In his segment called “Rhyme,” Ricks refers to Arthur Hallam’s assertion that a “constant appeal to Memory and Hope” permeates rhyme.  Ricks writes,

“Rhyme contains this appeal to Memory and Hope . . . because when you have the first rhyme-word you are hoping for the later one, and when you have the later one, you remember the promise that was given earlier and is now fulfilled. Responsibilities on both sides, responsively granted” (38-39).

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“Rhyme” will have its heyday on this blog for sure, but in the meantime, collecting favorite moments when Bob uses the word “rhyme” or any form of the word has I think a certain symmetry for this blog.

So here’s  one of mine from “Bye and Bye”:

Bye and bye, I’m breathin’ a lover’s sigh
I’m sittin’ on my watch so I can be on time
I’m singin’ love’s praises with sugar-coated rhyme
Bye and bye, on you I’m casting my eye

Oh, and let’s get this one out of the way from “Mr. Tambourine Man” . . . I mean that in a good way:

Though you might hear laughin’, spinnin’, swingin’ madly across the sun
It’s not aimed at anyone, it’s just escapin’ on the run
And but for the sky there are no fences facin’
And if you hear vague traces of skippin’ reels of rhyme
To your tambourine in time, it’s just a ragged clown behind
I wouldn’t pay it any mind
It’s just a shadow you’re seein’ that he’s chasing

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I was just blasting Under the Red Sky when the word “rhyme” shot into my mind (no rhyme intended) from “T.V.Talkin Song.”  I wonder if this is the only negatively associated use of “rhyme” in Dylan, though it is found in the speech from the man in Hyde Park denouncing what T.V. does to “children when they’re young/Being sacrificed to it while lullabies are being sung”:

“The news of the day is on all the time
All the latest gossip, all the latest rhyme
Your mind is your temple, keep it beautiful and free
Don’t let an egg get laid in it by something you can’t see”

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Who else but Dylan would notice that crickets talk “back and forth in rhyme”?:

Flowers on the hillside, bloomin’ crazy
Crickets talkin’ back and forth in rhyme
Blue river runnin’ slow and lazy
I could stay with you forever and never realize the time

from -“You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”

And as Ricks says, “For all rhyme is a form of talking back and forth, something that crickets are in particularly good position to understand, rubbing back and forth, stridulating away” (VofS 42)

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Christoper Ricks helped me find “rhyme(s)” in “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” and in “Highlands,” two of Dylan’s longest songs.  Of its use in “Sad-Eyed, he writes, “Times,” “rhymes,” and “chimes”are rhymes because they are chimes that come several times” (VofS 41).  Here’s the lines he’s talking about:

With your mercury mouth in the missionary times
And your eyes like smoke and your prayers like rhymes
And your silver cross, and your voice like chimes
Oh, who among them do they think could bury you?

Here’s the stanza with “rhyme” that Ricks sees yearning realized, not hope:

Well my heart’s in the Highlands wherever I roam
That’s where I’ll be when I get called home
The wind, it whispers to the buckeyed trees in rhyme
Well my heart’s in the Highland
I can only get there one step at a time

The whole album, Time Out of Mind, is filled with yearning, especially the kind that comes from knowing the end is near (the Highland? getting called home?).  David Dalton says the album “uncannily anticipated [Dylan’s] own near-death experience”–a rare disease called histoplasmosis affected his heart in 1997.  Best to savor life’s details like observing the rhymes the wind and trees make when you’re yearning for more time.  Hard to get time out of your mind when you think you don’t have much of it left.

Here’s a live performance of Bob singing “Highlands” in 1999:

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