Monday, August 17, 2015

Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands

Sad and hollow-eyed.
If this is the lady you want,
Sing for her.

Some people consider "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" to be an epic, classic ode to love. And it is. That still doesn't change my view that it's an interminable song stuffed full of references to things and people that most people shouldn't be expected to get. Still, Dylan scholars have spent lots of time breaking this one down. It was released on "Blonde on Blonde" in 1966. It is commonly seen as a wedding song of sorts for his then-wife Sara. The song stretches over 11 minutes and 22 seconds, and is divided into five verses. Here are some useless attempts to flick at them. I think, by the way, that the effect is supposed to be cumulative: she's a detailed portrait of an ethereal woman with her own unknown motives and desires, and is misunderstood by all who try to coopt her into supporting their various causes. I can only guess that Bob is supposed to be one more of these suitors, but one who thinks he might have an advantage.

What she's like, what she has:
- Mercury mouth 
- Eyes like smoke
- Prayers like rhymes
- Silver cross
- Voice like chimes
- Well-protected pockets
- Streetcar visions that she places on the grass
- Silky flesh
- Glassy face
- Sheets like metal (Sara's father, I see on Wikipedia, was a scrap-metal dealer in Wilmington, Delaware)
- Belt like lace
- Incomplete card deck (50 cards, no jack and no ace)
- Basement clothes
- Hollow face
- Moonlight swims in her eyes
- Gypsy hymns
- Childhood flames
- Midnight rug
- Spanish manners
- Mother's drugs
- Cowboy mouth
- Curflew plugs
- Sheet-metal memories of Cannery Row
- Ex-husband who was in the publishing business
- On a thief's parole
- Saintlike face
- Ghost-like soul

Other people who show up in the song:
- A sad-eyed prophet
- The kings of Tyrus who wait in line for a geranium kiss, though they don't JUST want to kiss her.
- Farmers and businessmen who show her the dead angels that they used to hide, though it's hard to undertand why they picked her to sympathize with them.
- The child of a hoodlum in her arms
- The ex-husband in publishing



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