“Life Is Hard” (2009)

me” ends each verse of “Life is Hard,” but it rhymes with only one word in the song, and that word is “be”:

The evening winds are still
I’ve lost the way and will
Can’t tell you where they went
I just know what they meant
I’m always on my guard
Admitting life is hard
Without you near me

The friend you used to be
So near and dear to me
You slipped so far away
Where did we go a-stray
I pass the old schoolyard
Admitting life is hard
Without you near me

It’s a spillover rhyme though so the lack of rhyming at the end of each verse with “me” is consistent.  “me sandwiches” “be”– the lover he speaks of as the center of his “me“-ness.

Life is hard, maybe even possible without her.

I’d venture to say that just about every Dylan album has a can’t live without her song; the first perhaps “Girl From The North Country.”

The “went” rhyme in “Life Is Hard” conveys something gone but how we’re left with the traces, past never dead, not even past:

The evening winds are still
I’ve lost the way and will
Can’t tell you where they went
I just know what they meant
I’m always on my guard
Admitting life is hard
Without you near me

Way and will are gone, but their meaning remains with the speaker. If you think about it that is the way with all meaningful things gone–they are gone but what they meant to us remains; hard to shake what brings meaning to our lives, partly why life is hard.

Speaking of meaning, in “Life Is Hard” “meant” rhymes with “went” and the meaning known is what two things used to mean but not what they mean now; those two things are the will and the way:

The evening winds are still
I’ve lost the way and will
Can’t tell you where they went
I just know what they meant
I’m always on my guard
Admitting life is hard
Without you near me

Again, the will and the way are lost, but not their meaning from the past. The past is tied to being near someone who used to give the singer a way and a will, perhaps. Such nearness is essential. We underestimate the value of nearness; in this song, such nearness is essential; it’s echoed in the bridge, four times:

Admitting life is hard
Without you near me

The songs celebrates nearness, in a sense, for what happens without it.

One of my favorite songs is “The Nearness of You.” It helps me value and celebrate nearness. Here’s Sarah Vaughn singing it, a song originally sung by Gladys Swarthout for the film Romance in the Dark (1938) and written by Hoagy Carmichael and Ned Washington:

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