“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:

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