“Eternal Circle” (1963)

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Christopher Ricks calls this song an “entrancing dance of shadows” with “three pairs of partners.”  One is between a man and a woman, the other between the love of a woman and the love of singing, and the last one between the the song the listener hears and “the song we are hearing about.” I’ll add another: the lines that don’t rhyme and those that due.

The rhyming pattern is consistent in this song, perhaps what you might expect from a song with “circle” in its title.  Every fourth and eight lines rhyme in each of the five eight line verses (the rhyme in each as far away as the singer to the she “that stood in the shadows”?).  The song has 40 lines, both divisible by 4, and, and 5 for that matter.  And as Ricks also notes “n” plays a role in all the rhymes.  He associates this with the “nth” degree as an eternal circle.  I’d like to venture the “n” rhymes are there because “n” sounds like “end,” as in the end of each line, or as a counter to circles which never end, going round and round.

There are things that end and don’t end in this song.   The girl of the singer’s infatuation leaves; she’s gone by the end of the song:

As the tune finally folded
I laid down the guitar
Then looked for the girl
Who’d stayed for so long
But her shadow was missin’
For all of my searchin’

But the singing never ends, the never ending tour, the circle complete but never completed, the song long, and the longing persists:

So I picked up my guitar
And began the next song

Here’s the song, with Dylan always willing to step into the light, the spotlight, forever picking up his guitar and harp to play his next song.

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