Monday, February 9, 2015

Living in the time of song

I was lunching alone yesterday
when I read that Bob Dylan had
been out, explaining himself a-
gain, at an industry ceremony
in Los Angeles. Reuters and The
New York Times reported that he
spoke for 35 minutes, to some
3,000 of the hippest and hottest
of the moment; and this would be 
an excruciatingly long time for 
such people, to suppress their 
natural animation. At least,
many must have ventured to mut-
ter, he isn't singing.

Even so, for music industrial-
ists Mr Dylan seemed to put his
finger on an even more unset-
tling proposition, than a solo
for cement mixer. He was heard
to be discussing music as verse.
Well, he and Cole Porter might
be able to get away with this
kind of lèse-majesté, but the
anatomy of human beings, his
listeners' lives contend, calls
for a hippity, hoppity beat, a-
long with copyright, of course.

But I stray (and it wasn't
even that kind of lunch);
for, plainly, these indus-
trialists bear a shrewd re-
gard for the hypothetical
capacity of words, as agents
of one kind of humane effect
or another. What they do not
much care about, I tend to
think, is the sustained long
haul of the same effect. In
this respect Bob Dylan has
not been the ideal companion
to the business they've cho-
sen. His marginal voice has,
though, gained position for
his long haul, without giv-
ing threat to theirs. And of
course, he has made many of
them ridiculously wealthy.

I read his remarks, and came
home to revisit some lines he
put one in mind of, portraying
a distinction of importance. A
distinction, everyone knows he
has cared for. A distinction he
was willing to lay open to them. 

          .. as in cutting up a man that's dead,
          The body will not last out, to have read
          On every part, and therefore men direct
          Their speech to parts, that are of most effect;
          So the world's carcass would not last, if I
          Were punctuall in this Anatomy ..

          Vouchsafe to call to minde that God did make
          At last, and lasting'st peece, a song. He spake
          To Moses to deliver unto all,
          That song, because hee knew they would let fall
          The Law, the Prophets, and the History,
          But keepe the song still in their memory;

          Verse hath a middle nature; heaven keeps Soules,
          The Grave keepes bodies, Verse the Fame enroules.

John Donne
An Anatomy 
  of the World
  The First Anniver-
  sary, 435-440 et seq.
Charles M. Coffin
The Complete Poetry
  and Selected Prose
  of John Donne
First Modern Library Edition
Random House, 1952©

No comments:

Post a Comment