Star(s)

In “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue,” Dylan tells us to take what we have gathered from coincidence, and sometimes I do.  One of my favorite short stories is “Powder” by Tobias Wolff.  It’s about a hopeless romantic, impulsive, “never plans ahead” father who takes his “anxious about everything,” “always thinks ahead” son out skiing on Christmas Eve during a snowstorm.  In one part of the story, the father starts humming, “Stars Fell on Alabama.”  It’s a poignant moment, the father driving his son in a blinding snowstorm, “breaking virgin snow between a line of tall trees” while humming this romantic ballad.

One night after sharing the story with my students, I drove home and popped in a Bob Dylan’s theme-time radio show CD that my brother-in-law had recorded for me.  On the CD, (I forget what the theme was–I’m thinking it was “stars”), Bob played that very song sung by Jack Teagarden.  Because of that coincidence, I will always associate Dylan and Wolff’s story with this song.  Here are the lyrics:

We lived our little drama
We kissed in a field of white
And stars fell on Alabama last night
I can’t forget the glamour
Your eyes held a tender light
And stars fell on Alabama last night

I never planned in my imagination
A situation so heavenly
A fairy land where no one else could enter
And in the center just you and me
My heart beat like a hammer
My arms wound around you tight
And stars fell on Alabama last night

And here’s Jack  Teagarden and the Chicagoans performing it live in Los Angeles in 1952:

This blog page will is dedicated to Dylan’s own use of the word “star.”  Starting with “Beyond Here Lies Nothin,” Dylan uses it as a rhyming word with “car”–just another thing I can gather from coincidence since for me this song, this story, stars, and cars all combine in meaningful ways.

I’m movin’ after midnight
Down boulevards of broken cars
Don’t know what to do without it
Without this love that we call ours
Beyond here lies nothin’
Nothin’ but the moon and stars

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Daniel Mark Epstein calls “If You Ever Go to Houston,” his personal favorite” off of Together Through Life.  He sees it as “a hip lecture on how to handle yourself in the hot towns of the Lone Star State.  The lone “star” in the song is not in the sky but worn by a man:

If you’re ever down there
On Bagby and Lamar
You better watch out for
The man with the shining star
Better know where you’re going
Or stay where you are
If you’re ever down there
On Bagby and Lamar

Dylan has always done imaginative rhyming with names of places and people.  One that comes immediately to my mind is from “Meet Me in the Morning“:

Meet me in the morning, 56th and Wabasha
Meet me in the morning, 56th and Wabasha
Honey, we could be in Kansas
By time the snow begins to thaw

Does rhyming get better than “Wabasha” and “thaw”?

In “Houston,” “Lamar” is one of the two words (“are” the other) rhyming with “star.”  Apparently, you don’t want to be a shooting star on Bagby and Lamar (leave any shooting to the man with the shining star–by the way, the star is not shiny but shining–a notch brighter?); it’s better to stay there unless you know where you’re going?  Better to stay there because the man with the shining star is often there–an authority figure for protection?  Or is it better to be on the lookout for him if you’re “ever down there,” in a duck and cover sort of way?  I guess that depends on who you are on Bagby and Lamar.

What’s on the corner of Bagby and Lamar?  Houston’s Heritage Society Museum.

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Things fleeting, things here and then not there, dominate “This Dream of You,” and maybe nothing captures that more in the song than in its last verse,
From a cheerless room in a curtained gloom
I saw a star from heaven fall
I turned and looked again but it was gone
All I have and all I know
Is this dream of you
Which keeps me living on

where a star has no rhyming value, but can last forever as if always there like Keats’ “Bright Star“:
Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art–
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors–
No–yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever–or else swoon to death.
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Wooing often results in promises we can’t keep, many including promises of possessing celestial entities.  In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Baily promises Mary the moon:
What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That’s a pretty good idea. I’ll give you the moon, Mary.
In “Tin Angel,” after his first threat doesn’t work, “the Boss” goes further in his efforts to get the wife who abandoned him to return
“Get up, stand up, you greedy-lipped wench
And cover your face or suffer the consequence
You are making my heart feel sick
Put your clothes back on, double-quick” (The Boss)”Silly boy, you think me a saint
I’ll listen no more to your words of complaint
You’ve given me nothing but the sweetest lies
Now hold your tongue and feed your eyes” (The Wife)”I’d have given you the stars and the planets, too
But what good would these things do you?
Bow the heart if not the knee
Or never again this world you’ll see” (The Boss)
Ah, but he undercuts the promise well–no romantic notion in this husband’s mind.  He knows they (the stars and the planets) would not do her any good.  “stars” does no rhyme good either in these lines, but the rhyming is in couplets, quite romantic even in this most unromantic Dylan tale.
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Mississippi” is one of my favorite Dylan songs.  I love the tone of his voice and the atmosphere it creates.  I somewhat playfully imagine that the speaker is Odysseus.  I think the song can be interpreted that way with a little stretching.  Odysseus has a knack for staying too long in places in The Odyssey, namely with Calypso and Circe:
Only one thing I did wrong
Stayed in Mississippi a day too long

The verse with the “star“/”are” rhyme works with The Odyssey as well if you want to let it.  Though Odysseus crosses the “wine-dark sea” to wind up with Nausicaa, a river is impressive enough to get to where you want to be with someone:
Well I got here followin’ the southern star
I crossed that river just to be where you are

That southern star also could be someone like Charlie Patton or Jimmie Rodgers, but if it’s a celestial one it could be the one over Ithaca, south of many of the places Odysseus stayed too long.
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Under “car(s)” I gave attention to the “star” rhymes in “Summer Days” and “Po Boy,” but here they are again to be thorough:
Well I’m drivin’ in the flats in a Cadillac car
The girls all say, “You’re a worn-out star

Poor boy in a red hot town
Out beyond the twinklin’ stars
Ridin’ first-class trains—making the rounds
Tryin’ to keep from fallin’ between the cars

On Time Out of Mind‘s “Standing in the Doorway,” “stars” is not a rhyming word, but they are colored by the speaker’s state of mind:
The light in this place is so bad
Making me sick in the head
All the laughter is just making me sad
The stars have turned cherry red

Bad light, feeling sick, and laughter that makes you sad all can add up to make you see the stars with cherry red glasses.  Cherry?  Well maybe needed to keep the 7 syllable second line in each of these two rhyming couplets alive.  The speaker is sick, melancholy, yes?  But not enough to keep those cherry red producing eyes away from lines that rhyme and balance.
Don Weiss in”Echoes of Incense: A Pilgrimage in Japan” writes, “Everything born will someday die. Even stars. Even worlds. Even cherry blossoms,” which by the way kind of look like stars:
Cherry Blossoms
Time Out of Mind has that Keatsian quality of how fleeting all of life is–“a song cycle,” Daniel Mark Epstein says, “about aging, love, and loss, where the lyrics of one ballad of angst bleed into the lyrics of the next.” Perhaps  someone who can see sadness in laughter has a strenuous enough tongue to “burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine” or even turn stars cherry red.
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Make You Feel My Love” uses “stars” not quite as a rhyme, but then again . . .:
When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love

Something sneaky to the ear is going on here.  When I first heard that line I thought “shadows” was a verb, as if the evening shadows something, but “and” joins “shadows” to “the stars” making that impossible. “appears”/”tears”/years” are the rhyming words.  But “stars appear” with “your tears” does something else for the ear.  I think it’s the t in “stars” as well as the r that accompanies the r in “your” and the t in “tears” that gives it a sing-ability, a tonal unity good for the singer, good for the listener, and distant for the reader.  As Ricks says, “Every song, by definition, is realized only in performance.”  I think this can be said of this verse–listen closely to the way Dylan sings it and I think you’ll hear  the sounds from those letters mesh into words to create a tone that echoes throughout the song and perhaps the entire cd.
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Stars are far, unbelievably so. This comes across in “Unbelievable” when “star” and “far” pair up for the rhyme in the first verse:
It’s unbelievable, it’s strange but true
It’s inconceivable it could happen to you
You go north and you go south
Just like bait in the fish’s mouth
Ya must be livin’ in the shadow of some kind of evil star
It’s unbelievable it would get this far

Unbelievable, too, is the notion that you could be living under an evil star, unless superstition is your thing.  But if it is, Dylan undercuts it beginning the next verse:
It’s undeniable what they’d have you to think
It’s indescribable, it can drive you to drink

If I start believing that I’m living under an evil star, I think I will have a drink, indeed it would mean I’ve taken bad things that happen to me a bit too far, maybe as is done when we think of those lovers in Romeo & Juliet as “star-crossed.”
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Something masterfully pleasing to the ear is happening in “Shooting Star.” The song consists of four verses, four of which have a shooting star,  six because the verse with “star” appears at the beginning and end of each verse.  In each verse with a shooting star, “shooting star” shoots through each rhyme.  In the first verse, it breaks the “u” rhyme pattern: “you”/”knew”/”through”/”you,” breaking “into another world” in a sense; in the second, the “e” rhyme from “me”/”be”/”see”/”me”/; in the fourth, the “a” in “away/”day”/”say”/”away.”  In each, the first and last words of each rhyme are repeated.  What’s with the star-less third verse?  Well, in it the speaker asks us to “Listen.”  The only sight is of people praying.  Otherwise, it’s all about what can be heard:
Listen to the engine, listen to the bell
As the last fire truck from hell
Goes rolling by
All good people are praying
It’s the last temptation, the last account
The last time you might hear the sermon on the mount
The last radio is playing

an engine, bell, the sermon on the mount, a radio.  No sighting, just what can be heard.  In three out of four verses, a shooting star was seen (“Seen a shooting star tonight”), but in each verse with a shooting star, we are invited to hear the rhymes that “shooting star” frames.
If you’ve never seen a shooting star, which by the way you can’t hear, here’s a video of one with a full moon:
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In “Brownsville Girl,” “stars” refers to celebrities. Dylan recalls Gregory Peck, playing a character in a movie,  shot in the back:
There was a movie I seen one time, I think I sat through it twice
I don’t remember who I was or where I was bound
All I remember about it was it starred Gregory Peck, he wore a gun
and he was shot in the back
Seems like a long time ago, long before the stars were torn down

Dylan had his share of being torn down by fans and the media, and the 80’s may very well have been his time to recover from feeling beat down.  But this verse,  not totally rhyme-less, “bound”/”down” keeping it from being all prose, comes only five years after John Lennon was killed in front of his apartment in NYC, shot in the back by Mark David Chapman.  The allusion to it gives the song a mournful feel or rather assists the mournful feel throughout.   The mourning continues; forgetting that day is impossible. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be his friend . . . can’t . . . Imagine . . .
Roll On, John.
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Clean Cut Kid” says Robert Shelton “tells of the savaging of American youth by the Vietnam War.”  It’s also a story of what could have been:

He could’ve sold insurance, owned a restaurant or bar
Could’ve been an accountant or a tennis star

The songs pummels the listener with rhymes (my favorite is “choir”/”wire”), and with a hard c sound that underscores the k in kill in each chorus:

They took a clean-cut kid
And they made a killer out of him
That’s what they did

Yes, they did, but based on the lyrics the only one we know he killed for sure was himself:
He was wearing boxing gloves, took a dive one day
Off the Golden Gate Bridge into China Bay
Are the rhymes made to battle alliteration in this song?  Something’s at war.  But if the only killing in the song is a suicide then it’s a battle inside that’s raging.  Perhaps Dylan was telling us back then that a wall like this one would only grow and grow if we don’t stop sending our clear cut kids off to war:
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Jokerman” houses what might very well be the most Romantic (with a capital r) scene in all of Dylan and “stars” plays a role in it:
In the smoke of the twilight on a milk-white steed
Michelangelo indeed could’ve carved out your features
Resting in the fields, far from the turbulent space
Half asleep near the stars with a small dog licking your face

The role is also a rhyming one, hidden, embedded, internally so with “carved” and “far.”
At the moment that the line with “stars” is sung by Dylan on the official video of the song, an image of Chief Joseph, Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt, appears.  Below is his story:
https://i0.wp.com/expectingrain.com/dok/jokerman/images/jokerman50.gif
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In “Neighborhood Bully” the word “bully” bullies the rhyming couplets that proceed the ending line of each verse.  The last verse, with the rhyme of “stars” with “scars” is no exception:
What has he done to wear so many scars?
Does he change the course of rivers? Does he pollute the moon and stars?
Neighborhood bully, standing on the hill
Running out the clock, time standing still
Neighborhood bully
So the obvious answer to these questions is a resounding NO!  But “bully” is in the neighborhood in this song, ruining the sounds of rhymes, 14 times to be exact, 6 in the first 3 stanzas.   If he would just go away, right?, and leave the harmony of rhyming alone?  Stop polluting words that just want to be left alone in their own little rhyming world?  Well, as Christopher Ricks reminds us, words rhyme only by coincidence and “bully” is only discordant in this song because Dylan, not by coincidence, wants it to stand out even more from its lack of rhyming power.  All this choice of words is behind Dylan’s efforts to play with structure to enhance the neighborhood bully metaphor.  In this song, “bully” is the star with the scars.
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So it was bound to happen that Dylan would refer to the North Star during his Christianizing phase.  Here it is in the last stanza of “Man of Peace“:
Somewhere Mama’s weeping for her blue-eyed boy
She’s holding them little white shoes and that little broken toy
And he’s following a star
The same one them three men followed from the East
I hear that sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace
star” shines in the middle of the verse, unrhymed at the end of the middle line, like many end of middle line words in this song.  Perhaps it shines that much brighter being unrhymed where rhyming is expected.  According to EarthSky it, the North Star aka Polaris, is only about the 50th brightest star in the sky, but the organization admits, it “has gladdened the heart of many a lost traveler,”
the traveler in this song being the blued-eyed boy.  Dylan, by the way, has blue eyes:
Johnny Cash’s were brown:
In 2003, when Cash died, Dylan called him the North Star, “you could guide your ship by him–the greatest of the greats then and now.”
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Michael Gray says that “Covenant Woman” may be “an address of private gratitude to Mary Alice Artes.”  If this is the case, she then would be the one who is like a “morning  star” in the opening verse:
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Covenant woman got a contract with the Lord
Way up yonder, great will be her reward
Covenant woman, shining like a morning star
I know I can trust you to stay where you are
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Interestingly enough, if you play around with the arrangement of the letters in Artes you’ll find a star in it.
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Gray sees a “fusing of spiritual and earthly passion” in the song.  I think the reference to “morning star” supports this view.  The morning star is Venus who represents love, a love beyond platonic, an erotic love even, tied to fertility and beauty.  Artes as the target of gratitude in the song is a figure of love of a different kind, a kind perhaps associated with a passion for “the Lord.”  The “Lord”/reward” rhyme is followed by the “star“/”are” one.  But all four of those words are linked by the r sound accentuated, too, by the surrounding words “contract,” “her,” “morning,” and “where.”  Gray’s word “fusion” is perfect here as these words are fused together by the r sound enhancing a fusion of different kinds of passion.
Venus de Milo at the Louvre.
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“A pathway that leads up to the stars” is suggestive of a stairway to heaven, yet “Where Are You Tonight,” which includes that reference to stars offers no easy ticket to paradise, reach for the stars but expect scars:
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There’s a white diamond gloom on the dark side of this room
And a pathway that leads up to the stars
If you don’t believe there’s a price for this sweet paradise
Remind me to show you the scars
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By rhyming “stars” with “scars,” Dylan conveys that one cannot be achieved without the other.  The song goes like that.  The forbidden fruit that results in the erotic juice running down his leg is paid for by meeting her boss.  Beauty fades while he watches her undrape.  A woman he longs for drifts like a satellite.  Doubling, the this but that, the at what cost that ties to every pleasure, captured with a rhyme, “stars“/”scars.”  There may be no other rhyme in Dylan so riveted to the theme of a song than this one.
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The first verse of “One More Cup of Coffee” always has reminded me of James Joyce’s “The Dead,” and “stars” has a helping hand in it.  When someone has to compete for someone’s affection life is hard–it’s worse when that competition involves  stars:
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Your breath is sweet
Your eyes are like two jewels in the sky
Your back is straight, your hair is smooth
On the pillow where you lie
But I don’t sense affection
No gratitude or love
Your loyalty is not to me
But to the stars above
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In Joyce’s story, Gabriel Conroy has to compete with the likes of his wife’s dead paramour, Michael Furey.  “It was a person I used to know in Galway,” . . . “He died when he was only seventeen,” . . . “I think he died for me.”  With all that revealed,
“a vague terror seizes” Gabriel, and by the end of the story “[h]is soul swooned slowly,” with “both the living and the dead” united by the falling snow.
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By the end of “One More Cup,” the speaker feels the same distance from his lover:
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And your pleasure knows no limits
Your voice is like a meadowlark
But your heart is like an ocean
Mysterious and dark
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As “mysterious and dark” as the “evocation of [a] figure from the dead,” who is as permanent in his lover’s eyes as stars in the sky.
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Here’s the moment when Michael Furey returns to Gretta’ memory when she is at the top of a staircase listening to “The Lass of Aughrim,” from John Huston’s film version of “The Dead”:
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In his chapter called “The White Goddess, Desire,” from No Direction Home, Robert Shelton sees “Black Diamond Bay” as a song that deals with the myth of “life as a movie,” that asks of us the questions, “Are we all global village idiots whom television has reduced to voyeurism, and are we “so deadened . . . to catastrophe that we can’t tell a real crisis from a fictional one”?
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In “Black Diamond Bay” the catastrophe happens in the fifth of seven verses:
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Then the volcano erupted
And the lava flowed down from the mountain high above
The soldier and the tiny man were crouched in the corner
Thinking of forbidden love
But the desk clerk said, “It happens every day”
As the stars fell down and the fields burned away
On Black Diamond Bay
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stars” has no say in the rhyming matter, but they do seem to be part of the fallout from the catastrophic volcano eruption, no a romantic falling on Alabama this time.
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In the last verse, the significance of this event is minimized when it is made to fit into the size of a T.V. screen:
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I was sittin’ home alone one night in L.A.
Watchin’ old Cronkite on the seven o’clock news
It seems there was an earthquake that
Left nothin’ but a Panama hat
And a pair of old Greek shoes
Didn’t seem like much was happenin’,
So I turned it off and went to grab another beer
Seems like every time you turn around
There’s another hard-luck story that you’re gonna hear
And there’s really nothin’ anyone can say
And I never did plan to go anyway
To Black Diamond Bay
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Deadened we are, too, to the fall of stars of the celebrity kind, that also seems to happen every day.  We forget though that such a fall is the fall of a man or women, a human being (“O, what a fall was there, my countrymen!).  When we become dead to each other we are no longer human, Dylan seems to say in many songs.  Maybe Shelton caught on quick to how Dylan keeps us human when are open to the questions his songs ask of us.  Why then were we so obsessed with asking questions of the celebrity falling kind when he was always the one with the good questions of the uplifting, humanity elevating kind (“How many road . . .”).  Dylan is master at asking questions or rather getting his songs to.  His songs read us, his songs listen to us; sometimes we are too busy reading and listening to his songs that we miss how much they ask of us.
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Christopher Ricks, in Dylan’s Visions of Sin, comments on Dylan’s love for rhyme– “he loves to play with it, and he loves the complication of it.”  Not to be missed is the comedy of it.  Ricks’ examples of Dylan’s most amusing rhymes includes one from “Goin’ to Acapulco,” “what the hell/Taj Mahal,” a rhyme that mutters itself, Ricks says, what the hell.
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“stars” is found in the verse that includes this “what the hell” rhyme:
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It’s a wicked life but what the hell
The stars ain’t falling down
I’m standing outside the Taj Mahal
I don’t see no one around
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It’s a verse that captures the purpose of The Basement Tapes.  The whole album smacks of , “What the hell?”   Yeah, life sucks, but it could be worse–the stars are still where we want them to be–up in the sky, not falling down.  So go have some fun:
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Goin’ down to see fat gut–goin’ to have some fun
Yeah–goin’ to have some fun
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Put on this song, or any of them, “What the hell?” And what the hell–here it is to listen to to have some fun:
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I like Carrie Brownstein’s observation that Dylan’s voice in “Idiot Wind” grows “stronger and more dangerous with each line.”  “stars” is used twice in the song, at the midway point and late, and this increasing danger is present in the lines with “stars”–the danger being the speaker’s increasingly damning finger pointing that paints him as the victim. The first time it appears is in the fourth verse:
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I woke up on the roadside, daydreamin’ ’bout the way things sometimes are
Visions of your chestnut mare shoot through my head and are makin’ me see stars
You hurt the ones that I love best and cover up the truth with lies
One day you’ll be in the ditch, flies buzzin’ around your eyes
Blood on your saddle
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Here “stars” is a rhymed word with “are.”  Stars are not shooting here, the visions are, and they are sexual (chestnut mare, bare chest, or lower . . .  chestnut hair?).  These physical visions are tough to escape, but later in the song what hounds him is more abstract, more profound, harder to overcome:
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Down the highway, down the tracks, down the road to ecstasy
I followed you beneath the stars, hounded by your memory
And all your ragin’ glory
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It’s her memory, all of her, not just the attraction of her body, that he follows, and the stars are comprehensive–blanketing the world above him and around him, not relegated to his head, making him see stars.  In this verse the stars are real. Real, too, was how he “came pretty close” to revealing his “personal life, he admitted to Bill Flanagan.
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Dylan sang this song in a memorable performance at Colorado State University with Sara Dylan in the audience.  The song becoming that much more dangerous:
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Dylan wrote “Forever Young” in Tucson, AR around the time he was working with Sam Peckinpah on Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.  He hoped to avoid sentimentality in the song, admitting he was, “thinking of one of [his] boys (Jakob?) and not wanting to be too sentimental.  Christopher Ricks feels Dylan gets his wish since the song can’t avoid”sensing something dark that is in the air.”  In the first verse, one such line with that sensing includes “stars”:
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May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young
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Ricks argues that the William Blake poem “For Children” (which may or may not have been familiar to Dylan) contains the “dark sensing” that Dylan’s song alludes to.  In the Blake poem, “A tiny man mounts a ladder propped against a quarter moon,” and in the background are seven stars, the caption under the illustration at this moment in the poem reads, “I want, I want.”
Better to build ladders directly to the stars, yes?  And do it with some humility–Dylan’s song after all is about granting, not wanting (no “I want you” or any one or thing for that matter in this song).  It’s about wishes, may you, may you, may you over and over again, and you will never want, in the sense of lack, for nothing.
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An epithalamion is a wedding poem, and Dylan’s “Wedding Song” is no exception.  More specifically it is a poem written for a bride on her wedding day.  It can be written by someone else for a bride and groom on their wedding day or by a groom for his betrothed as is Edmund Spencer’s “Epithalamion.”  The speaker will use hyperbole to praise his bride above all other things on earth and urge the time to pass so that bride and groom can consummate their love.  Dylan’s song is for Sara, though they had been married for some time when he wrote it.  Still what he pledges sounds like vows, freshly cut ones even, as if a page has been turned and the marriage will start anew.
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stars” assists that exaggerated language of praise in the song, though not in a rhyming role:
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I love you more than ever, more than time and more than love
I love you more than money and more than the stars above
Love you more than madness, more than waves upon the sea
Love you more than life itself, you mean that much to me
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Likewise, Spencer uses stars to exaggerate his lover’s eyes:
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My love is now awake out of her dreames,
And her fayre eyes like stars that dimmed were
With darksome cloud, now shew theyr goodly beames
More bright then Hesperus his head doth rere.
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Brighter than the evening star (Hesperus) her eyes are.  In Dylan’s song, his love for Sara is greater than than the stars, more than love and even life itself.
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This photograph captures the kind of doting needed to write “Wedding Song”:
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In No Direction Home, Robert Shelton informs us that “Time Passes Slowly” was written by Dylan for Archibald MacLeish’s play, The Devil and Daniel Webster, which Dylan later backed out of.  Ricks says it’s a song whose “rhymes refuse to stay right.”  This may be true, but “stars” has no part of any such refusal.  The word appears away from any rhyming action in the second verse:
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Once I had a sweetheart, she was fine and good-lookin’
We sat in her kitchen while her mama was cookin’
Stared out the window to the stars high above
Time passes slowly when you’re searchin’ for love
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Ricks gives the example of the rhyme “daylight/”stay right as one with tension:
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Time passes slowly up here in the daylight
We stare straight ahead and try so hard to stay right
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Ricks made me stare so much–or rather strain to here it that I noticed starring and star-ing have something going with the sounds in the song.  “Stared” begins the line with “starts” in it.  “stare is the second word in the line Ricks aims at.  But look!  Stare even . . . “stars” rhymes with “hard” and “high” rhymes with “right.”  What happens when those lines become neighbors?
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Stared out the window to the stars high above
We stare straight ahead and try so hard to stay right
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Not much in the rhyming vein, but the s-sounds become more prominent.  s . s . s . s . s . s . s . s .  Something’s ticking in this song, namely the s alliteration–time passing slowly.  I should have been a pair or ragged claws/ Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.  Yes, Eliot . . . time passes slowly and we fade away.
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What Dylan does with the “not right” rhymes and alliteration is worth a listen:
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Robert Shelton says “One More Night” from Nashville Skyline has the feel of an old Bill Monroe song which turned out to be Elvis’s first recording.   “Stars” appears in the first line of Dylan’s song,
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One more night, the stars are in sight
But tonight I’m as lonesome as can be
Oh, the moon is shinin’ bright
Lighting ev’rything in sight
But tonight no light will shine on me
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
In Bill Monroe’s tune it “stars” appears in the bridge:
It was on a moonlight night,
The stars were shining bright.
And they whispered from on high,
Your love has said goodbye.
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Neither has a rhyming role, but in both the brightness of stars are in opposition to the darkness the singer feels inside.  The real light of their lives is missing or has gone away.  They yearn for the return of the light in their lives that has gone out.   In both, too, stars take a backseat to the moon.  In Dylan’s song, the light in it won’t shine on him–or at least it won’t affect him, or worse, he’s resolved that he won’t feel the light of his lover, at least for one more night (but you know tomorrow can be a long time).  In Monroe, there’s more hope, the light may be able to shine on his lover and bring her back.  Listen to the quickening pace Monroe uses in this live version to inspire that hope.
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The third verse in “Desolation Row” begins with the moon and stars:
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Now the moon is almost hidden
The stars are beginning to hide

“hidden” and “hide” don’t rhyme though they look like they want to.  “moon” and “stars” seem to always want to do something together in song and poetry, but the moon is always closer to the poet; stars are far away.  So distance matters.  In these two lines, “stars” is closer to the rhyme and gets bragging rights over the moon for being in the line that forces the first rhyme:
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The fortune-telling lady
Has even taken all her things inside

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The rhyme jumps over the moon.  “stars” has the inside track with the rhyme “hide”/inside” (Hide inside Desolation Row?)  Not a rhyming starring role for “stars” but it shares the line with “hide.”
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Both the moon and stars will be hidden soon (by clouds?, dawn?), but the moon is acted upon–“hidden”–“stars” get to hide of their own volition–they “are beginning to hide.”
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Thematically, this fits with “Desolation Row.”  Dylan refers to people throughout the song whose ultimate fate is a result of being acted upon (Ophelia) or an action taken (Einstein, Cinderella).  I love things hidden by Dylan; I love when Dylan lets things hide.
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What is Bob Dylan’s finest love song?  Christopher Ricks, under the category of “Faith” (one of the “The Heavenly Graces”) in his book Dylan’s Vision of Sin, thinks it’s “Boots of Spanish Leather.”  So I assume he’d give it four stars.  The song though has only one:
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Oh, but if I had the stars from the darkest night
And the diamonds from the deepest ocean
I’d forsake them all for your sweet kiss
For that’s all I’m wishin’ to be ownin’
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It’s the fourth verse, one of the four that begin with “Oh,” and it may be the most heartfelt expression from the, shall I say, male lover who does not want his beloved to depart.  Ricks is right that this song is doesn’t ask for anything, and in this verse, the lover would even give up great possessions like stars and diamonds if he had them for just one of her sweet kisses.  They’d also be the shiniest stars since they’d be from the darkest night–perhaps the one coming once the Dear John letter arrives in verse seven:
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I got a letter on a lonesome day
It was from her ship a-sailin’
Saying I don’t know when I’ll be comin’ back again
It depends on how I’m a-feelin’

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It’s Dylan’s voice that captures just the right tone that makes this a legitimate pick for his finest love song.  Always worth a listen:
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3 Comments

  1. I like Doris Day’s version. I listened to Teagarden’s, Ella F and Louis A’s, and Sinatra’s, too. It is a nice song. My wife and I went to see the jazz singer Kurt Elling a few nights ago playing in Cambridge, MA (maybe technically Boston, but if so just across the line), and he told a driving through the North Woods story as a preface to I only have eyes for you, a great song with stars. I googled Dylan songs with stars and came up with his first tv appearance in years back circa September 2010 being on an episode of the tv show Pawn Stars

    Reply
  2. Mike, Speaking of Doris Day, Michael Gray observed that Dylan mentions her twice in Tarantula.

    Reply
  3. otoole74@aol.com

     /  October 28, 2012

    A beautiful vision while we all prepare for a horrible storm… Nice!

    Ken

    Reply

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