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Bob Dylan liner notes, John Lennon interview, Frank Sinatra book

He had remained, in front of us, or writing from the northern country, and remained true. He wasn’t the only one, of course; he’s not the only one now. But of all the poets, Dylan is the one who most clearly took the sea roll and put it in a glass.

From the start, he warned us, he gave many of us a voice, he told us about the heavy rain that was coming and how it would carry the plague. In the tear gas of 1968 in Chicago, they hurled Dylan against the walls of major hotels, where the infected closed the blinds, and their butlers ordered the bayonets. Most of them are gone now. Dylan stays.

So forget the tense young scholars who parse his rhymes to dust. Remember he gave us a voice, When our innocence died forever, Bob Dylan turned that moment into art. The wonder is that he survived.

It’s not nothing. We now live in the smoky landscape, as exhausted troops search for routes home. Road signs were smashed; maps are blurry. There is no politician anywhere who can inspire anyone to hope; the plague recedes, but it is not dead, and the statesmen are as insignificant as the tarnished statues in public parks. We live with a hard heart. Only artists can remove it. Only artists can help the poor earth feel again.

And here is Dylan, bringing the feeling home. In this album, he is as personal and as universal as Yeats or Blake; speaking for himself, risking this dangerous opening of the veins, he speaks for all of us. The lyrics, the music, the tones of voice speak of regret, of melancholy, of an inevitable sense of farewell, mixed with sly humor, a certain rage and a feeling of simple joy. These are the poems of a survivor. The innocent boy’s warning voice is no longer there, as Dylan chose not to remain a boy. It is not his voice that has become richer, stronger, surer; it’s Dylan himself. And his poetry, his itinerant troubadour art, seems to me more significant than ever. I thought, listening to these songs, of the words of Yeats, walker of the roads of Ireland: “We make quarrel with others rhetoric, but quarrel with ourselves, poetry.”