“Spanish Harlem Incident” (1964)

The second and fourth lines of the three verses in “Spanish Harlem Incident” end in rhyme.  But it’s after the fourth lines of each where each verse parts ways with a consistent pattern.  In the first verse, internal rhymes take over:

Your flaming feet burn up the street
I am homeless, come and take me
Into reach of your rattling drums

In the second verse, the lack of terminal rhymes is what’s remarkable.

The night is pitch black, come an’ make my
Pale face fit into place, ah, please!
Let me know, babe, I’m nearly drowning
If it’s you my lifelines trace

The internal rhyme, face/place stretches the medial rhyme label by having those words rhyme two lines later with “trace” at the end of the line, another kind of tracing from “face” to “place” to “trace.”

“I” begins the third verse and “me” is the center of a barrage ushering in the return of terminal rhymes, much emphasis on assonance in the process:

You have slayed me, you have made me
I got to laugh halfways off my heels
I got to know, babe, will you surround me?
So I can tell if I’m really real

The scheme here is the cross-rhyme alternating lines of rhyme ending abab.

The poetry is gypsy-like in its unpredictability.

Predictable was the Byrds doing a cover of a Dylan song.  Here’s their version of “Spanish Harlem“:

“Spanish Harlem Incident”

Gypsy gal, the hands of Harlem
Cannot hold you to its heat
Your temperature’s too hot for taming
Your flaming feet burn up the street
I am homeless, come and take me
Into reach of your rattling drums
Let me know, babe, about my fortune
Down along my restless palms

Gypsy gal, you got me swallowed
I have fallen far beneath
Your pearly eyes, so fast an’ slashing
An’ your flashing diamond teeth
The night is pitch black, come an’ make my
Pale face fit into place, ah, please!
Let me know, babe, I’m nearly drowning
If it’s you my lifelines trace

I been wond’rin’ all about me
Ever since I seen you there
On the cliffs of your wildcat charms I’m riding
I know I’m ’round you but I don’t know where
You have slayed me, you have made me
I got to laugh halfways off my heels
I got to know, babe, will you surround me?
So I can tell if I’m really real

 

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