Roots of Bob

Lay Down Your Weary Tune

Some of the most enjoyable, wacked-out Dylan commentary that I've ever read is Michael Gray's commentary on Lay Down Your Weary Tune. The following is from his book "Song and Dance Man", first edition.

After going on for a few pages about how LDYWT is "one of the very greatest and most haunting creations in our language" (maybe a slight exaggeration, but not much), he then writes (p. 257):

"I have already suggested that this overall effect is enough to mark out LDYWT as a major achievement in the poetry of our language. It remains to be added that the song is enriched in another way too: it is strongly reminiscent of the Elven songs that celebrate Lothlorien in Tolkien's Lord of the rings; and there is much in Dylan's vision which corresponds to Tolkien's description of Lothlorien itself.

[2 paragraphs deleted]

Like Dylan's world, too, Lothlorien is a paradise, spiritual because real. Colours and sounds are ennobled and enhanced; and that there is an ethereal quality which caresses everything is no denial of the intense reality. It is an extra quality, endowed by the light - which, though Dylan never mentions it, seems somehow unusual in his world also.

That LDYWT does echo Tolkien is first apparent when Legolas sings 'a song of the maiden Nimrodel, who bore the same name as the stream beside which she lived long ago ... In a soft voice hardly to be heard amid therustle of the leaves above ... he began:

	An Elven-maid there was of old, 
	A shining star by day:
	He mantle white was hemmed with gold
	Her shoes of silver-grey.

	A star was bound upon her brows
	A light was on her hair
	As sun upon the golden oughs
	In Lorien the fair.

	Her hair was long, her limbs were white,
	And fair whe was and free;
	An in the wind she went as light
	As leaf of linden-tree.

	Beside the falls of Nimrodel,
	By water clear and cool
	Her voice as falling silver fell
	Into the shining pool.'

There are nine more verses to that song, but those first four are sufficient to illustrate the echoes. Not only can you hear Dylan's voice breathing the right kind of delicate life into the lines above; not only does the fourth verse, in particular, consitute a similar (if much simpler) sort of writing, as regards mood and focus and technique - but beyond that, it's interesting (perhaps significant, even) that the whole of the Legolas song fits Dylan's tune.

Gray then quotes some more stuff, and then comes this classic paragraph:

Lastly, it is Tolkien's prose that is of interest - the prose that gives us the description of the land of Lorien, largely through Frodo's eyes. This brings us back, in fact, to Steven Goldberg's thesis and the mystic-acid equation. I am not suggesting that Tolkien took LSD; but it remains true that just as Dylan's vision in LDYWT corresponds closely to Frodo's perception of the land of Lorien, both correspond, in turn, to what an acid vision can offer, by transforming an ordinary world into an earthly paradise.

[long quote from some Tolkien story describing Frodo being "lost in wonder"]

Frodo, like Dylan, stood unwound beneath the skies and clouds unbound by laws: without confusion, the discovery of release, attuned to the holy chord.

And Dylan himself says, from the Biograph notes:

"I wrote that on the West Coast, at Joan Baez's house. She had a place outside Big Sur. I had heard a Scottish ballad on an old 78 record that I was trying to really capture the feeling of, that was haunting me. I couldn't get it out of my head. There were no lyrics or anything, it was just a melody, had bagpipes and a lot of stuff in it. I wanted lyrics that would feel the same way. I don't remember what the original record was, but this was pretty similar to that, the melody anyway"

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