Bob Dylan as Odysseus

3913Zoe Williams at The Guardian:

Does Thomas ever hear a couplet that’s a little bit trite and panic that that’s the real Dylan and the genius is just an accident? Shaking his head confidently, he replies: “Too many accidents.” In a way, the classical allusions of Dylan’s later work bring him back to his earliest roots in blues and folk, albeit in a roundabout way. “Think about melancholy – the song ‘Not Dark Yet’ ends with the singer getting near the end. But it’s just such a beautiful song. The beauty of the song is compensation for the melancholy. We’re all going to die, so how do you deal with that fact? You can believe in an afterlife, or you can focus on the beauty that the human mind can produce through art. I think that’s why, like Eliot or Dante, or my guys, Virgil, Ovid, because of his genius, he’s always hooking into poetic traditions. Gospel, folk, always folk. There are folk traditions in ancient Greece and Rome, they’re what people sing, how they deal with mortality. Take someone like Virgil, whose Eclogues is really at the root of western pastoral poetry: he has these songs, which are shepherds competing with each other, it’s a cultural reality turned into high art. Dylan could hear a song and absorb it probably within a couple of hearings. When he gave the Nobel lecture, he talks about becoming all of these characters, from the ballads, from the folk songs.”

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