Life goes on outside
While Bob thinks about the dead
And distressed people.
"Dark Eyes" is one of the most perplexing songs that Bob Dylan has written, one that I find as resistant to analysis and scrutiny as a carbon cube or some kind of diamond. You can see through it from one side to the other, but it gives up absolutely nothing. It's all the more interesting for being the only "unproduced" song on the 1985 album "Empire Burlesque." A short closer to an album full of synthesizers, drums, overdubs and big '80s-style-sounding rock bands, "Dark Eyes" is spare and flat, just Dylan with his guitar and harmonica. He has told stories about being inspired to write the song by seeing a strung-out young woman in a hotel hallway in the middle of the night, and I suppose that that's as good a starting point as any, but the song in four short verses spins through a universe of its own. I have driven trucks through this song and come out just fine on the other end, but always without a sense of what I was driving through. The images are brilliant and real, and most of you will understand every sentiment, but that doesn't solve the riddle of this song. I don't even know what the riddle is.
1. Gentlemen talking, moon on the riverside, they're drinking but it's time for me to leave. He lives in a world where life and death are memorized, the earth is strung with lover's pearls and he sees dark eyes.
2. Cock crows, soldier prays at dawn, mother misses a child gone wandering, while "nature's beast" fears the rise of the dead who march to a drumbeat.
3. He hears that revenge is sweet, and maybe that's true, but he doesn't believe it because there game means "beauty goes unrecognized."
4. French girl in paradise, drunkard at the wheel. Hunger pays a heavy price to falling gods of speed and steel. Time short, days sweet, passion rules the arrow that flies (Where did he get some a great line? It should be a homily cross-stitched into framed pictures on the walls of farmhouses, next to the memento mori of the cuckoo clock and the tired floral wallpaper).