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"I consider myself a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet and I'll die like a poet."
-Bob Dylan

Tombstone Blues
The sweet pretty things are in bed now of courseThe city fathers they're trying to endorseThe reincarnation of Paul Revere's horseBut the town has no need to be nervous.
The ghost of Belle Star she hands down her witsTo Jezebel the nun she violently knitsA bald wig for Jack the Ripper who sitsAt the head of the chamber of commerce.
Mama's in the fact'ryShe ain't got no shoesDaddy's in the alleyHe's lookin' for food.I'm in the kitchen With the tombstone blues.
The hysterical bride in the penny arcadeScreaming she moans, "I've just been made"Then sends out for the doctor who pulls down the shadeSays, "My advice is to not let the boys in".
Now the medicine man comes and he shuffles inside He walks with a swagger and he says to be bride"Stop all this weeping, swallow your prideYou will not die, it's not poison".
Mama's in the fact'ryShe ain't got no shoesDaddy's in the alleyHe's lookin' for food.I'm in the kitchen With the tombstone blues.
Well, John the Baptist after torturing a thief Looks up at his hero the Commander-in-ChiefSaying, "Tell me great hero, but please make it briefIs there a hole for me to get sick in ?"
The Commander-in-Chief answers him while chasing a flySaying, "Death to all those who would whimper and cry"And dropping a bar bell he points to the skySaying, "The sun's not yellow it's chicken."
Mama's in the fact'ryShe ain't got no shoesDaddy's in the alleyHe's lookin' for food.I'm in the kitchen With the tombstone blues.
The king of the Philistines his soldiers to savePut jawbones on their tombstones and flatters their gravesPuts the pied pipers in prison and fattens the slavesThen sends them out to the jungle.
Gypsy Davey with a blowtorch he bums out their campsWith his faithful slave Pedro behind him he trampsWith a fantastic collection of stampsTo win friends and influence his uncle.
Mama's in the fact'ryShe ain't got no shoesDaddy's in the alleyHe's lookin' for food.I'm in troubleWith the tombstone blues.
The geometry of innocent flesh on the boneCauses Galileo's math book to get thrownAt Delilah who's sitting worthlessly aloneBut the tears on her cheeks are from laughter.
Now I wish I could give Brother Bill his great thrillI would set him in chains at the top of the hillThen send out for some pillars and Cecil B. DeMilleHe could die happily ever after.
Mama's in the fact'ry She ain't got no shoesDaddy's in the alleyHe's lookin' for foodI'm in the kitchenWith the tombstone blues.
Where Ma Raney and Beethoven once unwrapped their bed rollTuba players now rehearse around the flagpoleAnd the National Bank at a profit sells road maps or the soulTo the old folks home and the college.
Now I wish I could write you a melody so plainThat could hold you dear lady from going insaneThat could ease you and cool you and cease the painOf your useless and pointless knowledge
Mama's in the fact'ryShe ain't got no shoesDaddy's in the alleyHe's lookin' for foodI'm in the kitchen With the tombstone blues.
Bob Dylan's 1965 composition "Tombstone Blues" is certainly evocative of many of the songs true to his style: repeated refrains, surreal imagery, abstract reflections on current events of the period, and a large amount of cultural references. This particular work seems to emphasize the increasingly tumultuous decade of the 60s, taking an anti-authoritarian point of view and pointing out the hypocrisy of America's leaders. Dylan also points out the struggle of the everyday working man, particularly in the refrain, in facing poverty and the looming finality of death, shown in the titular "Tombstone Blues".

Structurally, the poem is consistent, as with many of Dylan's other songs. Like most of his work, there is not really any variety of meter present. Two stanzas comprise the verses, which are followed by the repeated chorus. The number of lines and the rhyme scheme remain consistent in the verses, with the first three lines rhyming and the fourth as a stand alone. This structure allows the poem to flow more freely and the surreal imagery blends together in a more cohesive fashion. The reader/listener is then taken to the refrain of "Mama's in the factory, she ain't got no shoes, Daddy's in the alley, he's lookin' for food, I'm in the kitchen with the tombstone blues". The chorus serves as the central component of the song both structurally and thematically, in that it draws the reader/listener back to the central themes of life's struggle, depression and eventual death.

The poem evokes a large degree of religious imagery, and uses it as a connection to present day metaphors. One good example of this is the discussion between the characters of John the Baptist and the Commander-in-Chief (possibly referring to then president Lyndon B. Johnson) in stanzas 7 and 8. John the Baptist is depicted as a sort of mindless drone to the leader, willing to do whatever he is told and accept anything the Commander says as fact. The corruption and incompetence of the Commander is apparent when he utters the ridiculous phrase "The sun's not yellow, it's chicken". Dylan also uses other cultural references to point out the corruption of political leaders of the era, such as
"The ghost of Belle Star she hands down her wits To Jezebel the nun she violently knits A bald wig for Jack the Ripper who sits At the head of the chamber of commerce." All the figures mentioned in this stanza were notorious outlaws (Belle Star), murderous queens (Jezebel) or serial killers (Jack the Ripper). The fact that these figures are "at the head of the chamber of commerce" clearly states Dylan's extremely negative regards to the political leaders of the day.
Dylan also discusses other cultural conflicts in the poem, such as what could be interpreted as a conflict between science and religion in stanzas 13 and 14. "Galileo's math book", representing the scientific world, is thrown at Delilah, a biblical figure present in the Old Testament story of Sampson, where she successfully manipulates him away from God. This conflict between two powerful figures in the areas of science and religion, although presented a surreal and cryptic manner, represents more chaos America went through in the 60s, perhaps indicating the clash between the counter-cultural movement and the establishment.
The second to last stanza reflects Dylan's somewhat cynical point of view in wishing to create a healing force with his music, but deep down knowing that it will all be inconsequential. Both the shared experiences and the conflicts everyday citizens have been caught up in are ultimately of no consequence, which ties back into Dylan's central theme of inevitable death.

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It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)

Darkness at the break of noonShadows even the silver spoonThe handmade blade, the child's balloonEclipses both the sun and moonTo understand you know too soonThere is no sense in trying.
Pointed threats, they bluff with scornSuicide remarks are tornFrom the fools gold mouthpieceThe hollow horn plays wasted wordsProved to warnThat he not busy being bornIs busy dying.
Temptation's page flies out the doorYou follow, find yourself at warWatch waterfalls of pity roarYou feel to moan but unlike beforeYou discoverThat you'd just beOne more person crying.
So don't fear if you hearA foreign sound to you earIt's alright, Ma, I'm only sighing.
As some warn victory, some downfallPrivate reasons great or smallCan be seen in the eyes of those that callTo make all that should be killed to crawlWhile others say don't hate nothing at allExcept hatred.
Disillusioned words like bullets barkAs human gods aim for their marksMade everything from toy guns that sparksTo flesh-colored Christs that glow in the darkIt's easy to see without looking too farThat not muchIs really sacred.
While preachers preach of evil fatesTeachers teach that knowledge waitsCan lead to hundred-dollar platesGoodness hides behind its gatesBut even the President of the United StatesSometimes must haveTo stand naked.
An' though the rules of the road have been lodgedIt's only people's games that you got to dodgeAnd it's alright, Ma, I can make it.
Advertising signs that con youInto thinking you're the oneThat can do what's never been doneThat can win what's never been wonMeantime life outside goes onAll around you.
You loose yourself, you reappearYou suddenly find you got nothing to fearAlone you stand without nobody nearWhen a trembling distant voice, unclearStartles your sleeping ears to hearThat somebody thinksThey really found you.
A question in your nerves is litYet you know there is no answer fit to satisfyInsure you not to quitTo keep it in your mind and not forgetThat it is not he or she or them or itThat you belong to.
Although the masters make the rulesFor the wise men and the foolsI got nothing, Ma, to live up to.
For them that must obey authorityThat they do not respect in any degreeWho despite their jobs, their destiniesSpeak jealously of them that are freeCultivate their flowers to beNothing more than somethingThey invest in.
While some on principles baptizedTo strict party platforms tiesSocial clubs in drag disguiseOutsiders they can freely criticizeTell nothing except who to idolizeAnd then say God Bless him.
While one who sings with his tongue on fireGargles in the rat race choirBent out of shape from society's pliersCares not to come up any higherBut rather get you down in the holeThat he's in.
But I mean no harm nor put faultOn anyone that lives in a vaultBut it's alright, Ma, if I can't please him.
Old lady judges, watch people in pairsLimited in sex, they dareTo push fake morals, insult and stareWhile money doesn't talk, it swearsObscenity, who really caresPropaganda, all is phony.
While them that defend what they cannot seeWith a killer's pride, securityIt blows the minds most bitterlyFor them that think death's honestyWon't fall upon them naturallyLife sometimesMust get lonely.
My eyes collide head-on with stuffed graveyardsFalse gods, I scuffAt pettiness which plays so roughWalk upside-down inside handcuffsKick my legs to crash it offSay okay, I have had enoughWhat else can you show me ?
And if my thought-dreams could been seenThey'd probably put my head in a guillotineBut it's alright, Ma, it's life, and life only.
This song, in contrast to the one above, was composed earlier on in Bob Dylan's career and reflects a more philosophical and realistic tone. While still speaking out against the establishment and challenging conventional social norms of the period, he does it in a less abstract way than "Tombstone Blues", therefore making this particular poem much more straightforward and clear in its message. I enjoy this poem as well because it exemplifies Dylan's versatility as a lyricist. Much of his work has depth and meaning, but is portrayed in an eclectic manner with lots of cultural and religious references. In "It's Alright Ma", this surrealism is traded in for simple yet emotional lyrics. It is certainly easier to relate with this poem rather than the previous one. However, Dylan's wit is still quite intact and while the lyrics are straightforward, they still remain quite thought provoking.

This poem also has a fairly noticeable shift in tone. In the first poem, Dylan seems to be more of a storyteller: he doesn't directly express his views through the narration, he simply narrates the strange events that are happening. While all of them are highly symbolic, they are not depicted with any subjectivity. In this poem, there is definitely an opinionated tone to the speaker, and he is not just narrating an odd story but speaking directly to his mother. The tone is one of general dissatisfaction: the speaker is fed up with the hypocrisy and lies of society, and envisions himself as a challenge and eventual martyr against it. Much of the poem seems to be challenging the conservatives of the day; not a unusual theme for musicians. The overall tone of the poem seems to be quite a bleak one as well, pointing out that this "darkness" is overcoming what people should truly value in their lives.

The poem's opening stanza depicts an unknown form of darkness destroying the innocent peoples' lives, and that "there is no sense in trying". This intro with its desperation and hopelessness, sets the dark tone of the poem, and Dylan eventually seems to reveal that the darkness is the hypocrisy of the government, religious organizations, and various conservative movements. He goes on to remark that the main hypocritical things these institutions are doing is selling themselves out for money, such as "flesh colored Christs that glow in the dark" and "tiny toy guns that spark" in stanza 6. He then points out the key point that "Not much is really sacred", emphasizing that what these groups say they stand for is really just a facade for profit and power.

Dylan goes on to point out the negative impact all this hypocrisy is having on society, as "
While one who sings with his tongue on fire Gargles in the rat race choir Bent out of shape from society's pliers Cares not to come up any higher But rather get you down in the hole That he's in". This imagery points out that even radical opponents of these ideas will be conformed into the dull monotony of the working world, trying to pull down others to there lowly state. In the following stanza, Dylan seems to point out the hypocrisy of social conservatives, who push "fake morals" when ultimately it doesn't matter. Bob Dylan certainly stands by the right to say what you want when you want, and to not have to be pushed down by society's strict rules on vulgarity and censorship.The speaker concludes the poem with a remark that implies they would be a martyr for the cause, as he views himself as so radical that the establishment would step in and have him executed.

Again, the meter is consistent but not of a specific form, and the structure of the poem is similar to most songs: several stanzas comprising verses and a refrain, albeit with some slight variation. This refrain in particular stood out to me, because despite all the negativity and criticism rife within the work, the refrain actually provides a word of comfort as they speaker assures his mother (or whatever protective figure it is intended to be) that everything will be all right, and, after all, it is "life and life only."