Saturday, November 16, 2013

Marcel, Walt, and That Extraordinary Beloved Mockingbird named Bob

After having followed a link at wood s lot to Paintings in Proust (Vol. 1, Swann's Way) and reading from Proust, it occurred to me that the rhythm of Marcel Proust's voice was reminding me of Bob Dylan's voice in his 2004 memoir titled Chronicles:  Vol. 1.  

By Googling "Bob Dylan" together with "Proust," I found this and this and then came upon this:

"The men who produce works of genius are not those who live in the most delicate atmosphere, whose conversation is the most brilliant or their culture the most extensive, but those who have had the power, ceasing suddenly to live only for themselves, to transform their personality into a sort of mirror, in such a way that their life, however mediocre it may be socially and even, in a sense, intellectually, is reflected by it, genius consisting in reflecting power and not in the intrinsic quality of the scene reflected."

(Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove)

"... I left town at dawn with Marcel and St. John ..."
(Bob Dylan lyrics from "Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat)" from the album titled "Street Legal.")

Back in the beginning of 2003, I belonged to an informal group of people who met once a month to read and discuss poetry.  For one month, Walt Whitman's poetry was chosen as a focus.  Among other poetry by Walt Whitman, I read his Civil War poems.  During those early months of 2003, a movie titled "Gods and Generals" was released. I would not likely have watched it if my Richard hadn't recommended it and had I not learned that the movie included a song written by Bob Dylan called "'Cross the Green Mountain."  Not long after that when I found the lyrics of "'Cross the Green Mountain" via Google, I was startled to read:

A letter to mother 
came today
Gunshot wound to the breast
is what it did say
But he'll be better soon
He's in a hospital bed
But he'll never be better
He's already dead

That sounded to me a whole lot like one of Walt Whitman's Civil War poems that I had just read.  Sure enough, it was:

Open the envelope quickly,
O this is not our son's writing, yet his name is sign'd,
O a strange hand writes for our dear son, O stricken
mother's soul!
All swims before her yes, flashes with black, she catches the
main words only,
Sentences broken, gunshot wound in the breast, cavalry
skirmish, taken to hospital,
At present low, but will soon be better.

Ah now the single figure to me,
Amid all teeming and wealthy Ohio with all its cities and
Sickly white in the face and dull in the head, very faint,
By the jamb of a door leans.

Grieve not so, dear mother, (the just-grown daughter speaks
through her sobs,
The little sisters huddle around speechless and dismay'd,)
See dearest mother, the letter says Pete will soon be better.
Alas, poor boy, he will never be better, (no may-be needs to
be better, that brave and simple soul,)
While they stand at home at the door he is dead already,

Now I'm wondering if I noticed what I noticed before Bob Dylan's mockingbird tendencies began to arouse controversy in July of 2003.

"... Out of the cradle endlessly rocking,
Out of the mocking-bird's throat, the musical shuttle ..."

"... I celebrate myself, and what I assume, you shall assume,
for every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you ..."

"... You are also asking me questions and I hear you,
I answer that I cannot answer, you must find out for yourself ..."

"...Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems ..."
(from "Song of Myself," by Walt Whitman)

1 comment:

Dominic Rivron said...

You (and the links you provided, which I followed) got me thinking - when does homage become plagiarism? Eliot and Pound were forever cutting and pasting the past. The allusions were all part of the fun. I suppose, though, there's a line which one crosses at one's peril.