“Neighborhood Bully” (1983)

This song is exclusively a series of  terminal rhymed couplets, aa/bb all the way through, except for the end of the verse word “bully,” appearing 11 times, not once rhymed.  I see it as a thematic anti-rhyme, bullying its way through the song having the final say 11 times in conflict with the rhymes that dominate.  It’s tough being the misunderstood bully, Dylan expresses throughout it, and what’s so tough about it is echoed in the discordance of “bully” vs the world of the rhymes living in the song.

I also would like to give attention to the thematic rhyme in verse 10, “for”/”war” appearing in lines that label the bully as a cause for war:

What’s anybody indebted to him for?
Nothin’, they say. He just likes to cause war

Here’s the studio cut from Infidels with lyrics:

http://www.popmodal.com/video/17195/Neighborhood-Bully-Bob-Dylan-Regarding-Israel–30th-Anniversary

Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man
His enemies say he’s on their land
They got him outnumbered about a million to one
He got no place to escape to, no place to run
He’s the neighborhood bully

The neighborhood bully just lives to survive
He’s criticized and condemned for being alive
He’s not supposed to fight back, he’s supposed to have thick skin
He’s supposed to lay down and die when his door is kicked in
He’s the neighborhood bully

The neighborhood bully been driven out of every land
He’s wandered the earth an exiled man
Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn
He’s always on trial for just being born
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, he knocked out a lynch mob, he was criticized
Old women condemned him, said he should apologize.
Then he destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad
The bombs were meant for him. He was supposed to feel bad
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, the chances are against it and the odds are slim
That he’ll live by the rules that the world makes for him
’Cause there’s a noose at his neck and a gun at his back
And a license to kill him is given out to every maniac
He’s the neighborhood bully

He got no allies to really speak of
What he gets he must pay for, he don’t get it out of love
He buys obsolete weapons and he won’t be denied
But no one sends flesh and blood to fight by his side
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, he’s surrounded by pacifists who all want peace
They pray for it nightly that the bloodshed must cease
Now, they wouldn’t hurt a fly. To hurt one they would weep
They lay and they wait for this bully to fall asleep
He’s the neighborhood bully

Every empire that’s enslaved him is gone
Egypt and Rome, even the great Babylon
He’s made a garden of paradise in the desert sand
In bed with nobody, under no one’s command
He’s the neighborhood bully

Now his holiest books have been trampled upon
No contract he signed was worth what it was written on
He took the crumbs of the world and he turned it into wealth
Took sickness and disease and he turned it into health
He’s the neighborhood bully

What’s anybody indebted to him for?
Nothin’, they say. He just likes to cause war
Pride and prejudice and superstition indeed
They wait for this bully like a dog waits to feed
He’s the neighborhood bully

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

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“Mr. Tambourine Man” (1964)

Mr. Tambourine Man” is a treasure trove of rhyming, it is bathed in it; the sounds from it feel poured onto the page and when played they fill the air with a melody that charms while it summons the images the words from it create.  Pictures of “one arm waving free,” going under dancing spells, a sky with no “fences facin” remain emblazoned in my memory.  It is a  skipping reel of rhyme; no, not so much skipping as dynamo-ing. Terminal rhymes punctuate it and the internal and embedded rhymes drive it, casting indeed a spell that the listener can’t help but want to be and stay under.

Sequences like this rival “Subterranean Homesick Blues” in its rapid fire rhyming:

Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

Here is Dylan singing it live 1964, at the Newport Folk Festival, with a brief intro from Peter Seeger:

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Though I know that evenin’s empire has returned into sand
Vanished from my hand
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping
My weariness amazes me, I’m branded on my feet
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street’s too dead for dreaming

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin’ ship
My senses have been stripped, my hands can’t feel to grip
My toes too numb to step
Wait only for my boot heels to be wanderin’
I’m ready to go anywhere, I’m ready for to fade
Into my own parade, cast your dancing spell my way
I promise to go under it

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

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

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

“Moonlight” (2001)

The rhyme scheme in this song is like moonlight, steady and constant, and then suddenly not so, shadowy, ripple-like.  Verses 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8 of 8 use a/b/b, with all almost perfect rhymes rhyming with the word “alone.”  a/a/b/c/c/d patterns the fourth and seventh verses, with a bit more assonance added as  kicker to the final rhyming of verse 7: “sea”/”chief”/”thief”/”me.”

Six of the eight verses have terrific internal rhymes creating perhaps what Christopher Ricks recognizes as the song’s “melodious buoyancy.” “losing” with “Susan” and the best one, “crimson” with “limbs an” display an active rhyming mind, one in command of words and sounds.

All this is part poetry, part the way Dylan sings, it, breezy, light with just an edge of pleading, “Won’t you meet me out in the moonlight alone?” over and over again, to end this alone-ness once and for all, the incessant rhyming with “alone” echoing under the moonlight.

The seasons they are turnin’ and my sad heart is yearnin’
To hear again the songbird’s sweet melodious tone
Won’t you meet me out in the moonlight alone?

The dusky light, the day is losing, Orchids, Poppies, Black-eyed Susan
The earth and sky that melts with flesh and bone
Won’t you meet me out in the moonlight alone?

The air is thick and heavy all along the levy
Where the geese into the countryside have flown
Won’t you meet me out in the moonlight alone?

Well, I’m preachin’ peace and harmony
The blessings of tranquility
Yet I know when the time is right to strike
I’ll take you cross the river dear
You’ve no need to linger here
I know the kinds of things you like

The clouds are turnin’ crimson–the leaves fall from the limbs an’
The branches cast their shadows over stone
Won’t you meet me out in the moonlight alone?

The boulevards of cypress trees, the masquerades of birds and bees
The petals, pink and white, the wind has blown
Won’t you meet me out in the moonlight alone?

The trailing moss and mystic glow
Purple blossoms soft as snow
My tears keep flowing to the sea
Doctor, lawyer, Indian chief
It takes a thief to catch a thief
For whom does the bell toll for, love? It tolls for you and me

My pulse is runnin’ through my palm–the sharp hills are rising from
The yellow fields with twisted oaks that groan
Won’t you meet me out in the moonlight alone?

“Masters Of War” (1963)

 

I write this posting on Dylan’s 73rd birthday.  “Masters Of War” is one of the reasons Dylan is so beloved, for his breath of vision to “see through” things to get to the heart of who or what is really to blame for injustice, heartbreak, loss, indignity, etc.  Thanks, Bob, for opening up both our minds and hearts for over six decades.

After the first verse, “Masters Of War” follows a rhyming sequence of a/b/c/b/d/e/f/e.

The first verse is a summoning–it begins with an imperative, a command, Come here!–You, You, You, You, You, and then the “I” takes over, and the first rhyme kicks in “desks’/”masks”– words married in rhyme for a perfect image that will matter throughout the song.  It’s not the despot, not the government, not the soldiers who are to be blamed for the ghastly fallout of war. No, but those who make the bombs, those who design them, those who sign off on them behind the safety of their desks.

This is a song with biting invectives hurled with a velocity and capacity for sarcasm and irony that would define Dylan and still does.

It’s a song that should stay in people’s faces to continue to unmask the real faces of destruction, greed, and brutality.

Live, 1963, listen to what Dylan says before he sings it: “I do actually hope that the masters of war die tomorrow.”

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks

You that never done nothin’
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain

You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people’s blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

You’ve thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain’t worth the blood
That runs in your veins

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I’m young
You might say I’m unlearned
But there’s one thing I know
Though I’m younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die
And your death’ll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand o’er your grave
’Til I’m sure that you’re dead

“Man Of Peace” (1983)

 

The terminal rhymes in this song are consistent throughout; the pattern is a/a/b/cc.  The first is a wrenched rhyme, “catch”/”outstretched”–listen to how Dylan sings it to force a unity of sound.  The last two lines of each verse have words that rhyme with “peace,” so that word is sounded and echoed throughout; those rhyming words are “priest,” “grease,” “Police,” “least,” “feast,” “beast,” “cease,” and “East,” a collection that ebbs and flows between unrest and peace.

Each middle line of each five line verse has no rhyme.  Here’s how they’d be together as one verse:

Could be the Führer

Good intentions can be evil

Nobody can see through him

He could be standing next to you

I can smell something cooking

He’ll put both his arms around you

Wanna get married? Do it now

And he’s following a star

What I like from doing this is how the variety of pronouns stand out for me more: the silent “He” in the first line (lots of imperatives opening each line–“YOU Look out your window . . .” the song begins), nobody, him, he, you, I, he, you, silent “You” in the seventh line, he.

He’s everywhere, this man of peace, and we’re all involved.  Sometimes with Dylan what doesn’t rhyme matters as much as what rhymes, or both or neither.  The pleasure in this is that Dylan is playing with words and sound, and we can play, too, his songs, and with him.

Here”s Dylan singing it with The Grateful Dead in 1987.

Look out your window, baby, there’s a scene you’d like to catch
The band is playing “Dixie,” a man got his hand outstretched
Could be the Führer
Could be the local priest
You know sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace

He got a sweet gift of gab, he got a harmonious tongue
He knows every song of love that ever has been sung
Good intentions can be evil
Both hands can be full of grease
You know that sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace

Well, first he’s in the background, then he’s in the front
Both eyes are looking like they’re on a rabbit hunt
Nobody can see through him
No, not even the Chief of Police
You know that sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace

Well, he catch you when you’re hoping for a glimpse of the sun
Catch you when your troubles feel like they weigh a ton
He could be standing next to you
The person that you’d notice least
I hear that sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace

Well, he can be fascinating, he can be dull
He can ride down Niagara Falls in the barrels of your skull
I can smell something cooking
I can tell there’s going to be a feast
You know that sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace

He’s a great humanitarian, he’s a great philanthropist
He knows just where to touch you, honey, and how you like to be kissed
He’ll put both his arms around you
You can feel the tender touch of the beast
You know that sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace

Well, the howling wolf will howl tonight, the king snake will crawl
Trees that’ve stood for a thousand years suddenly will fall
Wanna get married? Do it now
Tomorrow all activity will cease
You know that sometimes Satan comes as a 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

“Love Minus Zero, No Limit” (1965)

 

The title of this song is a mathematical equation (Dylan himself called it a “sort of fraction”), and the rhyming in it parallels the symmetry and order of math.  The first, a/a/b/c/d/d/d/c (love that “fire”/”buy her” rhyme). The following verses show variation  with an a/a/b/c/d/e/f/b pattern, and with their own variations of that. The second verse begins a/a/a, and in verses three and four, “another”/”bother” and “rainy”/”raven” join in on the rhyming, imperfect as they are. But this can be a song about perfection and imperfection (like as Christopher Ricks observed, the silence of Cordelia’s love for her father King Lear),  a lover like a raven with a broken wing, so I enjoy seeing where there is rhyming perfection with some brokenness of it.  Perfect love, impossible, perfect in one’s imperfection, oh yeah, quite possible. Lovely, in fact, in how human that is. And watch for the words that don’t rhyme in this song; as Ricks says, “It is a lovely touch, this not rhyming.”

 

My love she speaks like silence
Without ideals or violence
She doesn’t have to say she’s faithful
Yet she’s true, like ice, like fire
People carry roses
Make promises by the hours
My love she laughs like the flowers
Valentines can’t buy her

In the dime stores and bus stations
People talk of situations
Read books, repeat quotations
Draw conclusions on the wall
Some speak of the future
My love she speaks softly
She knows there’s no success like failure
And that failure’s no success at all

The cloak and dagger dangles
Madams light the candles
In ceremonies of the horsemen
Even the pawn must hold a grudge
Statues made of matchsticks
Crumble into one another
My love winks, she does not bother
She knows too much to argue or to judge

The bridge at midnight trembles
The country doctor rambles
Bankers’ nieces seek perfection
Expecting all the gifts that wise men bring
The wind howls like a hammer
The night blows cold and rainy
My love she’s like some raven
At my window with a broken wing

Here’s a beautiful 1965 cut from a Bringing It All Back Home studio session (thanks ralfsu!).

“Long Time Gone” (1963)

 

 

The first verse in “Long Time Gone” has terminal single rhyming with the second, fourth, and sixth lines. The final word in the verse “gone” is an illogical rhyme–“gone” looks like it should rhyme with the other terminal rhymes, but doesn’t. The rest of the verses have only the single rhyme ending the second and fourth lines, “plains”/”age” a bit of an assonance stretch.  The rest of the rhyming energy appears internally (“around”/”towns”/”somehow”, “times”/”tried”/”eyes”) but mostly centered at the end of the bridge line, also the title, with the word “gone.” But most are words that look like they should rhyme but don’t–more printers or illogical eye rhymes: “belong,” “one,” “long,” “done,” “son.” Only the third and last verse end in rhyme, “on”/”gone”, “upon”/”gone.”  That last one indeed, a long time gone.

My parents raised me tenderly
I was their only son
My mind got mixed with ramblin’
When I was all so young
And I left my home the first time
When I was twelve and one
I’m a long time a-comin’, Maw
An’ I’ll be a long time gone

On the western side of Texas
On the Texas plains
I tried to find a job o’ work
But they said l’s young of age
My eyes they burned when I heard
“Go home where you belong!”
I’m a long time a-comin’
An’ I’ll be a long time gone

I remember when I’s ramblin’
Around with the carnival trains
Different towns, different people
Somehow they’re all the same
I remember children’s faces best
I remember travelin’ on
I’m a long time a-comin’
I’ll be a long time gone

I once loved a fair young maid
An’ I ain’t too big to tell
If she broke my heart a single time
She broke it ten or twelve
I walked and talked all by myself
I did not tell no one
I’m a long time a-comin’, babe
An’ I’ll be a long time gone

Many times by the highwayside
I tried to flag a ride
With bloodshot eyes and gritting teeth
I’d watch the cars roll by
The empty air hung in my head
I’s thinkin’ all day long
I’m a long time a-comin’
I’ll be a long time gone

You might see me on your crossroads
When I’m a-passin’ through
Remember me how you wished to
As I’m a-driftin’ from your view
I ain’t got the time to think about it
I got too much to get done
Well, I’m a long time comin’
An’ I’ll be a long time gone

If I can’t help somebody
With a word or song
If I can’t show somebody
They are travelin’ wrong
But I know I ain’t no prophet
An’ I ain’t no prophet’s son
I’m just a long time a-comin’
An’ I’ll be a long time gone

So you can have your beauty
It’s skin deep and it only lies
And you can have your youth
It’ll rot before your eyes
Just give to me my gravestone
With it clearly carved upon:
“I’s a long time a-comin’
An’ I’ll be a long time gone”

Here’s a haunting of Odetta singing it from her album, Odetta Sings Dylan:

A Turn in the Dylan Rhyming Study Road

 

 

This blog will take a decidedly different turn.  My focus on the “me” rhyme in Dylan sent a clear message that I was taking on too much, and that a better approach was needed so I could actually accomplish something with Dylan and rhymes within a normal life span.  So from here on out, I plan to examine the rhyming pattern in each of his songs and try to draw some conclusions, some grounded, some farfetched, but all with the intention of having some literary fun with Dylan’s rhyming words and patterns.  I plan to continue this quest with a little help from my scholarly brethren like Christopher Ricks, Michael Gray, Robert Shelton and the like, and the actual Dylan concordance will grow and at a faster rate.  Stay tuned, friends, and I hope you follow me down this new path, and thanks for reading.