“The Times They Are A-Changin’

That downward stare of Dylan’s on the cover of The Times They Are A-Changin emanates disdain, scorn for what he sees, but it’s a look of contemplation, too, as if what’s worse is what the world is forcing him to think about.

The Times They Are A Changin” is all about breaking from a disdainful past and the last verse hits this message home with the “past“/”fast” rhyme taking the lead from “fast” leading the charge:

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’

I admire Christopher Rick’s observation that “the refrain at the end of each verse is itself unchanging” . . . and so each time it is sung it sends the message that all things must change.  This song, as Ricks says, “Was not enlightenment dawning once and for all” . . . “the times are still a-changin” and always will be. The present now will always “later be past”–this is a song of hope–for a change for the better–for forward thinking for being “younger than that now” all the time, no matter the times we live or die in.

Ricks also observed that the word “last” is used in that final verse of “The Times They Are A-Changin‘.”  The same can be said of “Chimes of Freedom”:  “As we listened one last time an’ we watched with one last look.”  Though not in rhyme, but in repetition the word chimes for us in that last verse.  But in “Times” the three rhymes with “last” chime incessantly:

_________________________________________________________________________

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now will later be last

Ricks and Shelton notice the Biblical link to the ending line of this verse, Ricks citing Matthew 19:30:  “But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.”  Shelton, Mark 10:31:  But many that are first will be last and the last first.”  In “Chimes,” those in last, the “underdog soldier,” “the rebel,” “the luckless,” the gentle, and “the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an’ worse” line up sequentially in the attention Dylan gives them to have their freedom sounded.  In “Times” the warning is that those in last will no longer be, predicting the demise of those who benefit from and exploit the status quo.

Here’s Bob singing “The Times They Are A-Changin'” in 2010, at the White House, perhaps no better place for this song to sing about the last being first:

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