“Abandoned Love” (1975)

A memorable part in the live recording of the Desire outtake “Abandoned Love” is when Dylan sings the line, “But my heart is telling me I love ya but you’re strange.”  And rightfully so–it’s an amusing line and the audience’s laughter is proof.  There are many shifts in this song, a “this is happening” “but then so is this” see-sawing.  Such a shift happens with the “hill/still” rhyme in it:

The Spanish moon is rising on the hill
But my heart is a-tellin’ me I love ya still

It’s hard to get why the Spanish moon rising would not elicit an “And”–romantic sentiments are not summoned by a rising moon?  But “but” it is.  And though the “hill”/”still” rhyme is a perfect one, Dylan makes it imperfect by stretching out the “i” in hill the length of the rising moon–about as far as any singer can widen the sound of any vowel. There’s a word for that–melisma.  I think the rhyme’s imperfection is a kind of shift, a shift among many in this song.

It really is one of my favorite live Dylan moments.

The whole of “Abandoned Love” “is about . . . a man’s (Dylan’s?) deepest feelings” during the time of his failed relationship with a woman (Sara Lownds–as Robert Shelton suggests in No Direction Home), the word “throne” used at the end of the song certainly puts her on the pedestal the man wants her to come down from:

One more time at midnight, near the wall
Take off your heavy makeup and your shawl
Won’t you descend from the throne, from where you sit?
After all, he’s no leader in this song, the voice of a follower echoes from other songs, (“Baby, let me follow you down,” “in the jingle-jangle morning I’ll come following you”?), but here it’s to children:

“Wherever the children go I’ll follow them”

And maybe the liberty we tend to romanticize about our childhoods is what he’d like to follow and where he’d like to be if not for the love he feels chained to:

“I march in the parade of liberty
But as long as I love you I’m not free”

“throne” doesn’t get the royal treatment of rhyme in this song; it’s not tethered to another word that rhymes with it; but neither is this woman (an example of a queen in the church”—no treasure found with her?) fated to be abandoned not followed. The rhymes are consistent, tied to each other in couplets, but this couple has had their day—days with him in her room dressing before the mirror:

I love to see you dress before the mirror
Won’t you let me in your room one time ’fore I finally disappear?

Left is the heartfelt painful yearning of wanting more of her love, coupled with the wrenching shift in thought that it all must end, just like the song must do, as any song does. We are left with

“Let me feel your love one more time before I abandon it”

where a form of the first word in the title is finally (with finality) sung.  The couplets continue, abandoned love has the last say.

Here’s the audio of a  recorded version from Other End, NYC, 1975:

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