“Let Me Die in My Footsteps” (1963)

This is a song with 7 verses and a strict rhyming pattern of couplets and a refrain ending each verse.  Some internal rhyming sounds abound, but the striking rhyming feature is the anti-illogical eye rhymes, or rhymes of words that look like they would not rhyme but do.  Examples are “been”/”wind”, “word”/”heard”, and perhaps the best “sea”/”history.”

The third verse contains an extended semantic rhyme with the words “see,” “me,” “around,” underground” ending the first four lines and expressing almost a full sentence.  This is counter to the refrain’s message of wanting to “die in my footsteps/Before I go under the ground.”

“Footsteps” and “ground” impress upon the listener from beginning to end–even the first line of the song ends with “ground.”  You can here the footsteps, and whether he dies or not or however he dies, the ghostly presence of their sounds seem certain.

This could be Dylan’s first song, and some parts are precursors to great lines to come, as “’Stead of learnin’ to live they are learnin’ to die” becoming “That he not busy being born is busy dying on “It’s Alright Ma,” or the threat “I’d throw all the guns and the tanks in the sea/For they are mistakes of a past history” later appearing as the main message in “Masters of War.”

Worth a listen, if you haven’t heard it lately: live audio, 1962:

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