“Love Minus Zero, No Limit” (1965)


Image result for bringing it all back home cover

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!).

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