Thursday, June 15, 2017

Dylan's Melvillean intro

"We have small respect for authors who are wilful, and cannot be advised; but we reverence a man when God's must is upon him, and he does his work in his own and other's spite." --The United States Democratic Review - July 1849


Dylan cops Melville's best book best when he talks about internalizing songs:
You know what it's all about. Takin' the pistol out and puttin' it back in your pocket. Whippin' your way through traffic, talkin' in the dark. You know that Stagger Lee was a bad man and that Frankie was a good girl. You know that Washington is a bourgeois town and you've heard the deep-pitched voice of John the Revelator and you saw the Titanic sink in a boggy creek. And you're pals with the wild Irish rover and the wild colonial boy. You heard the muffled drums and the fifes that played lowly. You've seen the lusty Lord Donald stick a knife in his wife, and a lot of your comrades have been wrapped in white linen.  --Bob Dylan - Nobel Lecture
 By "Melville's best book" I mean Mardi, obviously:
Yet, again, I descend, and list to the concert. 
Like a grand, ground swell, Homer’s old organ rolls its vast volumes under the light frothy wave-crests of Anacreon and Hafiz; and high over my ocean, sweet Shakespeare soars, like all the larks of the spring. Throned on my sea-side, like Canute, bearded Ossian smites his hoar harp, wreathed with wild-flowers, in which warble my Wallers; blind Milton sings bass to my Petrarchs and Priors, and laureats crown me with bays.
In me many worthies recline and converse. I list to St. Paul, who argues the doubts of Montaigne; Julian the Apostate cross-questions Augustine; and Thomas-a-Kempis unrolls his old black letters for all to decipher. Zeno murmurs maxims beneath the hoarse shouts of Democritus; and though Democritus laugh loud and long, and the sneer of Pyrrho be seen, yet, divine Plato, and Proclus, and Verulam are of my counsel; and Zoroaster whispered me before I was born. I walk a world that is mine; and enter many nations, as Mungo Park rested in African cots. I am served like Bajazet: Bacchus my butler, Virgil my minstrel, Philip Sidney my page. My memory is a life beyond birth; my memory, my library of the Vatican, its alcoves all endless perspectives, eve-tinted by cross-lights from Middle-Age oriels.
--Herman Melville - Mardi

1 comment:

  1. How's about next time we get them to make an exception and give a posthumous Nobel to Melville. That might be their smartest one in a long time. :-)

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