Thursday, September 14, 2006

Bob Dylan: To Timrod He Did Some Changing, or How Many Timrods Must a Man Walk Down

I think I might know now why Bob Dylan went to South Carolina to shoot that commercial: He needed material for his next album. The New York Times has the story...

"It seems that many of the lyrics on that album [Modern Times], Mr. Dylan’s first No. 1 album in 30 years (down to No. 3 this week), bear some strong echoes to the poems of Timrod, a Charleston [SC] native who wrote poems about the Civil War and died in 1867 at the age of 39.
'More frailer than the flowers, these precious hours,' the 65-year-old Mr. Dylan sings in 'When the Deal Goes Down,' one of the songs on Modern Times.

Compare that to these lines from Timrod’s 'Rhapsody of a Southern Winter Night':
A round of precious hours/Oh! here, where in that summer noon I basked/And strove, with logic frailer than the flowers."

"Henry Timrod was born in 1828 and was a private tutor on plantations before the Civil War started. He tried to sign up for the Confederate Army but was unable to serve in the field because he suffered from tuberculosis. He worked as an editor for a daily paper in Columbia, S.C., and began writing poems about the war and how it affected the residents of the South. He also wrote love poems and ruminations on nature. During his lifetime he published only one volume of poetry. Among his most famous poems were 'Ode Sung on the Occasion of Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead at Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, South Carolina 1866,' and 'Ethnogenesis.' Mr. Cisco said he could not find any phrases from these poems in Mr. Dylan’s lyrics.

Mr. Dylan does not acknowledge any debt to Timrod on Modern Times. The liner notes simply say 'All songs written by Bob Dylan' (although some fans have noted online that the title of the album contains the letters of Timrod’s last name)."

I guess all the good ones do this kind of thing, especially in the blues and folk genres, but I wonder if plagiarism is Advanced. At any rate, this is one more point in favor of South Carolina being the most Advanced state.


Anonymous said...

"Frailer than the flowers" has to be Timrod's. It's just not modern sounding. If it was that alone, maybe, but followed by the same Timrod phrase "precious hours"? Sorry, Dylan borrowed.

Edward Williams said...

This is stretching it. You can find such overlaps in Dylan's lyrics, with poetry old and new, not to mention the Bible, all over the place. It is because, like all great minds, his is a sponge, not a sneaky thief. Hardly "advanced" thinking here!