Friday, October 14, 2016

I Wish I'd Written This

A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall

By Bob Dylan

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
And where have you been my darling young one?
I've stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I've walked and I've crawled on six crooked highways
I've stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I've been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I've been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.
Oh, what did you see, my blue eyed son?
And what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin'
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin'
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.
And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder that roared out a warnin'
I heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
I heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin'
I heard ten thousand whisperin' and nobody listenin'
I heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin'
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.
Oh, what did you meet my blue-eyed son ?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded in hatred
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.
And what'll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
And what'll you do now my darling young one?
I'm a-goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin'
I'll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are a many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
And the executioner's face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I'll tell and speak it and think it and breathe it
And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it
And I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin'
But I'll know my song well before I start singing
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.

Well, I had to, didn't I, now that he's just won the Nobel Prize for Literature?  (Hastily shunting the post I had prepared for this date to a future occasion.)

Many people are complaining that the prize went to a musician. 'The words can't stand alone,' they claim. Well, I do believe it was Dylan's words that the judges considered, and to my mind they certainly can stand alone – though it's good they have had music to carry them to a wider audience, because they are often important words.

How I would love to have written the above, with its power and fury – and, yes, its lyricism. And he was innovative. Those extended sentences, and the repetition of the heavy syllable, 'hard', give it a relentless feel which is all too appropriate.

Two of the criteria for the Nobel Prize for Literature are that the writing should be a force for good (I'm paraphrasing) and have world-wide influence. Anyone who was around in the sixties knows what a huge influence Dylan had at that time, and that he certainly intended to be a voice for change. I chose this particular song because, alas, it is still all too current. It is not nuclear rain which threatens the environment now (though it is not an impossible eventuality) but our environment is still threatened and there are other ways by which whole landscapes die.

Well, this prize is evidently a controversial decision, which is probably a good thing – nice when literary matters spark heated debate! – and opinions will differ. Mine, as you realise by now, is that the prize is not only richly deserved but way overdue. Please feel free to heartily endorse this view in the comments, or take passionate issue with it. (Yes I know, I am being unashamedly biased, but you do get some right of reply, LOL.)

I will conclude with some excellent words from my friend, Aussie poet Lyndon Walker. I think he makes the case very well in support of Dylan's win:

A very controversial decision which I strongly support. A writer who opened up worlds for examination. Deeply questioning the status quo in his own country and forging a new vision of race and sexual relations at a time when these things were in turmoil. Always ahead of the social zeitgeist. ... A writer who veered from gritty clear sighted documentation of social injustice to magic realism of unequalled poetic vision. Worth the prize.

He is not alone in this view. While many people are ridiculing it as a 'category error' on the part of the judges, some high profile poets, novelists and songwriters are applauding the decision. They include Salman Rushdie, Kate Tempest, Billy Bragg and Andrew Motion. Here's the link. 

(And why did I choose this particular album cover by way of illustration? It was my first ever Dylan album, and I still have it – along with a number of others. 'A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall' is on this album.)

Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.


  1. Gracias, Rosemary, for posting his words because this is why he is deserving of the Nobel Prize. words are the real poignancy of his contribution to society while his music added fodder to the mellifluousness of his creativity. he had a great impact on me in the 60's and 70's ~~~~~> let alone the world at the time. i have sat and cried, lamented the state of our world since and now because of how we as humans choose to resolve challenges through violence, destruction and war. Gracias for sharing

    1. One commentator (Andrew O'Hagan) expressed this view:

      The Nobel committee plays a strong game when it comes to subtle political assertion. Seamus Heaney used to call it “the Stockholm intervention”. From their field of candidates, they have a habit of finding the writer whose sublime virtues are most necessary to the times, and essential to the place. Thus, did Czesław Miłosz win the prize in 1980, after years of being banned in Poland, in the same month as the the trade union Solidarity was founded. It wasn’t planned, but it wasn’t a coincidence either. The award to Heaney came, too, at a perfect moment, when his grace and tolerance, sifted over a lifetime of beautiful work and “ethical depth”, was manna to Ireland in 1995. And so, the award to Bob Dylan is a great boon to lovers of fair-minded compassion, fellowship, and common decency, which step forward at the perfect moment to do battle with the egotistical, bigoted, greedy, misogynistic spitefulness of Trump’s America.

  2. Thank you, Rosemary! You've picked a great example. I admit I did look to see if he'd written anything lately with equal power to his 1960's lyrics. I say YES. I found this from "Thunder on the Mountain," for example, and see he's trying to express our current heartbreaks as well:

    Thunder on the mountain, and there's fires on the moon
    A ruckus in the alley and the sun will be here soon
    Today's the day, where I'm gonna grab my trombone and blow
    Well, there's hot stuff here and it's everywhere I go

    I was thinking about Alicia Keys, couldn't keep from crying
    When she was born in Hell's Kitchen, I was living down the line
    I'm wondering where in the world Alicia Keys could be
    I been looking for her even clear through Tennessee

  3. Something is blowin' in the wind! Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature! it's controversial, it will be debatable. No, i am not saying he doesn't deserved it. This will redefine boundaries on what literature is. This will open doors. Who will be next? Neil Young, Pink Floyd, the modern war poets of Vietnam and Iraq? I think Dylan totally deserves the award, not merely for his songs , but more for his influence on music and the social landscape of his generation.
    The gap between high art and street art has narrowed significantly. Whew!

    Congrats, Mr Dylan and thank you for your music.

    and Rosemary, thank you for this feature. :)

    1. I think that might be the crux of it – the gap between high art and street art, which some people are still defending. I too am glad if it narrows! And hey, in his day Shakespeare was just a popular, commercial playwright! LOL

  4. I love the timeliness of your feature this week, Rosemary; and yes, I think Bob Dylan was a good choice for the award. I like the words of this poem/song too.....had never really READ them before. The strength of the last stanza, with lines like 'the executioner's face is always well hidden' blows me away. As you said, Dylan questioned the status quo....and SO artfully. Smiles. I like dSnake's comment as well -- 'the gap between high art and street art has narrowed significantly' indeed.

  5. Fantastic feature, Rosemary, and when one reads his words, they do stand alone. He was a powerful influence, a voice for change, adept at social commentary, and his gift stood the test of time. It doesn't get much better.

  6. This is perfect Rosemary! It is great to actually read the words not just listen--

  7. Dylan's words are seared into my heart and soul as I heard them as a child and teen growing up as he sang them. He helped forge a path for me through his words not his music so I say he is a perfect choice for the Nobel Prize. When I was in Middle School, our Literature teachers used "modern music" to teach us a love of poetry. To help us see that the words of the Beatles and Dylan and many others were incredible poetry to be read and studied. This was my introduction to poetry so I am a believer that lyricists are indeed poets.

    Fabulous choice and I am so glad you featured this!

  8. I am noting that most of the many poets I know online overwhelmingly claim him as one of us – in fact consider him an outstanding one of us, who richly deserves his win. If the poets say he's a poet, who can argue?

  9. I do love his poetry, and he's amazingly consistent, and he stays relevant. Also his love poetry and storytelling is consistent... the only poets who don't find him great is because they don't like his way of singing,..

    1. As one of my friends said, 'Oh well, he hardly sings, does he?' But she was sorta joking, and she does think his writing is genius.

  10. I have now been able to update the references I couldn't get at the time of posting. The link to favourable comments is really a very interesting read.

  11. Controversy is good and in this case I think it's an excellent choice for Dylan to be awarded this prize; hopefully those who've never read any of his superb lyrics / poetry will now have their litery blinkers removed from the eyes. Thanks for an excellent post, Rosemary.

  12. I still have this first album as well. He changed the course of thinking, and made others ponder the injustices that existed, and still do. A brilliant poet and thinker certainly deserves this honorable award. Thanks, Rosemary.


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