“Wallflower” (1971)

A wallflower, also known as the gillyflower, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is a wild flower that grows on walls, rocks, etc., but its fragrance, from flowers either yellow or orange (the color of this wallflower’s dress?), is so strong and enticing that it is often cultivated in gardens.

Related image

Now, of course, Dylan is not referring to a flower in this song, but a woman who, according to the O.E.D., “keeps her seat at the side of a room during dancing, whether because she cannot find a partner or by her own choice.”  The first known us of the word for a person rather than a flower was in 1820.

The singer’s woman, the one he wants to make “mine one of these days/Mine alone,” is the latter identified woman in the definition who decides not to dance by choice, not because a partner is not available.  Indeed, there’s one quite available, insistently so.  In the first verse, he importunes her with questions and a presumptuous nod to how he is like her in “being sad and lonely” (not all wallflowers are?):

Wallflower, wallflower
Won’t you dance with me?
I’m sad and lonely too
Wallflower, wallflower
Won’t you dance with me?
I’m fallin’ in love with you

There’s a wildflower wildness to this wallflower, asserting not to dance, and an independence, shown by her resisting even the singer’s tempting confession of falling in love with her, (will not be part of his garden), and this wildness is reflected in an inconsistent rhyming with echo rhymes and a third and sixth line terminal rhyme found in the first verse, too/you; followed by the kind of rhyming Bob used in “Positively 4th Street” with the last word of the second verse rhyming with the last line of the third, on/gone.  Bob does this again with alone/home in the fourth and fifth verses, but included in that fourth verse is the couplet, haze/days.

These rhymes, are hard to pin down, hard to follow, hard to understand–might as well try them all, throw them all at the wall, at this wallflower, and see what happens.  Asking someone to dance is a risk, but worth a chance, the same kind the singer asks her to take on him in the last verse:

Wallflower, wallflower
Take a chance on me
Please let me ride you home

The lover’s argument for seventeen lines and five verses is merely that he is just like her:

Just like you I’m wondrin’ what I’m doin’ here
Just like you I’m wondrin’ what’s goin’ on

Perhaps that’s an effort to make her feel like she’s not taking much of a risk because they really are so alike.  The last words of the first verse get this across, too:

wallflower
me
too
wallflower
me
you

Me, too wallflower, how about me and you?

I can’t find Dylan’s delightful version of the song found on the Bootleg Series 1-3, but here’s pleasing rendition by Diana Krall:

 

 

 

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