August 15: “Poet Laureate of Rock ‘n Roll”

Bob Dylan

Photo by W. Eugene Smith

POET LAUREATE OF ROCK ‘N ROLL

To have gathered from the air a live tradition

or from a fine old eye the unconquered flame

this is not vanity.

–Ezra Pound

He was never known to make a foolish move.

–Bob Dylan

Bound for glory on a rolling thunder tour

Seems nobody’s good enough for you

But Michelangelo and the prophetic Jews

Elijah himself would have camped with you

among the ravens and the rocks

Jeremiah would have called to you

from the dungeon and the stocks

Isaiah would have prayed with you

for the shepherds and their flocks

With your modern ballad you penned in a cab

Your moonlight valentines and villains you stabbed

With your acoustic chords and vagrants you grabbed

With royalties that flow like Niagara Falls

You’re strapped to the mast while the Muses call

And sad-eyed ladies stroll by in prayer shawls

            Poet Laureate of Rock ‘n Roll

            With blues, folk songs and rock-roll soul

            I stand here below

            With a laurel wreath

            Shall I come up and crown you in a show

            Or shall I set it at your feet beneath

You’re the Joker, the Ace, and Jack Fate

Like a thief in the night, your timing is straight

I wonder when you first knew you were great

When the astronauts tell you, you have the right stuff

And the outlaw cowboys call your poker bluff

And your wife has told you she has had enough

Are you happy in the houses that you own

As you admire Roman sculptures in stone

And friends from your youth leave you alone

With a year or two to get saved and give God glory

You left that behind to tell other stories

Your putdowns and tributes to sharp dealers and whores

            Poet Laureate of Rock ‘n Roll

            With blues, folk songs and rock-roll soul

            I stand here below

            With a laurel wreath

            Shall I come up and crown you in a show

            Or shall I set it at your feet beneath

Elvis and Lennon have both gone away

You reign supreme above their large graves

And grope like a blind man to sing another day

Harmonica laments and troubadour hymns

Your profile glows by the Grand Canyon’s rim

Where you kneel to commune with the seraphim

Shrewd as a coyote, you controlled your lust

Rimbaud, Verlaine and Woody, you left in dust

Like a Phantom jet that zooms above a bus

The grains of sand slip down the hourglass

The Reaper smiles and enters to harass

You push him away like he’s so much trash

            Poet Laureate of Rock ‘n Roll

            With blues, folk songs and rock-roll soul

            I stand here below

            With a laurel wreath

            Shall I come up and crown you in a show

            Or shall I set it at your feet beneath

With your hobo ways and your folk song sets

You sail through the stars the sea reflects

And dust yourself off whenever you wreck

With your ex-wives and children, adventures in Rome

With only the heavens a place to call home

With no place to go where you aren’t known

You strike a pose like a poor troubadour

When you own more houses than most have doors

And you can’t predict what God has in store

With your love for Israel despite her flaws

She’s been ruled by Davids and ruined by Sauls,

Oh, tell me when to meet you by the Wailing Wall

            Poet Laureate of Rock ‘n Roll

            With blues, folk songs and rock-roll soul

            I stand here below

            With a laurel wreath

            Shall I come up and crown you in a show

            Or shall I set it at your feet beneath

You earn more in a day than Woody in a life

And stay ambivalent toward Jesus Christ

Who gave you the gifts that no one can deny

You handled your fortune and traded your fame

For endless new visions that drive a slow train

What you love well shall not be taken away

Your CDs sell in Pasadena malls

The Spirit inspires you like Peter and Paul

To find scraps of paper on which you scrawl

With your leather pants and acoustic guitars

You play like an angel beneath the stars

With cold-eyed glances at the other bards

            Poet Laureate of Rock ‘n Roll

            With blues, folk songs and rock-roll soul

            I stand here below

            With a laurel wreath

            Shall I come up and crown you in a show

            Or shall I set it at your feet beneath

With the sad-eyed lady to whom you proposed

A marriage and sent her a diamond and a rose

She was a Gentile, you had a song to compose

With your gravel voice and your mercury sound

You share with the world the jewels you have found

We are pleased and amazed to have you around

            Poet Laureate of Rock `n Roll

            With blues, folk songs and rock-roll soul

            I stand here below

            With a laurel wreath

            Shall I come up and crown you in a show

            Or shall I set it at your feet beneath

~Day Williams

Lowlands cover by Juliana Daily

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Bob Dylan in Mississippi

by Danny Lyon