Monthly Archives: August 2010

Love Sick and Pilgrim’s Progress

(Some content previously in this space has been moved to my newer website, The Cinch Review. It may be read at this link: Christopher Hitchens on Ricks, Bob Dylan and Bach.)

Thanks to David H. for his e-mail relevant to Bob Dylan’s song Love Sick:

Recently, I was reading Pilgrim’s Progress and came upon the following towards the end. I’m not sure if you have commented on this in the past. Seems as though the lyric in Lovesick references Bunyan. I was hoping that you might have some comment.

From Section 2.46 (John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress)

Now as they walked in this land, they had more rejoicing than in parts more remote from the kingdom to which they were bound; and drawing near to the city, they had yet a more perfect view thereof. It was builded of pearls and precious stones, also the street thereof was paved with gold; so that by reason of the natural glory of the city, and the reflection of the sunbeams upon it, Christian with desire fell sick; Hopeful also had a fit or two of the same disease. Wherefore, here they lay by it a while, crying out, because of their pangs, If ye find my beloved, tell him that I am sick of love.

But, being a little strengthened, and better able to bear their sickness, they walked on their way, and came yet nearer and nearer, where were orchards, vineyards, and gardens, and their gates opened into the highway. Now, as they came up to these places, behold the gardener stood in the way, to whom the Pilgrims said, Whose goodly vineyards and gardens are these? He answered, They are the King’s, and are planted here for his own delight, and also for the solace of pilgrims. So the gardener had them into the vineyards, and bid them refresh themselves with the dainties. He also shewed them there the King’s walks, and the arbours where he delighted to be; and here they tarried and slept.

That was a new one on me, because I confess I have not read The Pilgrim’s Progress. (Wikipedia summary here, and full text available here.)

As I wrote back to David, I was aware that a similar sense of being “sick of love,” in reference to love of the Divine, appears in the Song of Solomon (aka the Song of Songs). And this certainly provides a way to reflect on Dylan’s song Love Sick, especially if one hears the album Time Out of Mind as a song sequence inspired by the singer’s relationship with God (as Ronnie Keohane has written on at length).

Looking more closely at this particular line, however, it turns out that Bunyan was actually quoting the Song of Solomon here, rather than coming up with his own usage. Chapter five, verse 8 goes (in the King James): I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love.

And the phrase also appears in chapter two, verse 5: Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.

Some other translations, naturally, use the term lovesick instead. (And then there are others which use sick with love or faint with love.)

So knowing Dylan’s familiarity with the Bible, I guess we could assume that his sense of the phrase is more likely to have come directly from the Song of Solomon, although (who knows?) he could have had it brought to his attention again in reading The Pilgrim’s Progress.

It’s all wonderful food for reflection, in any case.

Sometimes the silence can be like the thunder
Sometimes I feel like I’m being plowed under
Could you ever be true? I think of you
And I wonder

I’m sick of love; I wish I’d never met you
I’m sick of love; I’m trying to forget you

Just don’t know what to do
I’d give anything to be with you

A question that I won’t even begin to speculate upon, however, is what this all tells us about the Victoria’s Secret commercial.

Addendum: Well, others have speculated! Thanks very much to Steve who suggests this interpretation of the VS commercial:

I also have thought about that Victoria’s Secret commercial. With the way Bob throws his hat down in the commercial and ends up walking away, I think he was saying he was sick of that kind of “love” (lust) that is so prevalent from someone neither one knows nor has the right to be that way towards. Plainly speaking, it was immoral. I’ll have none of it . . . . I think he says. While he may like to be with her, he can’t the way she is. As for the clothing company, just as long as Dylan the legend did their spot, they were going to let him do it his way. And I think he sent a message, too. (What is also interesting is at the beginning of the commercial, the distance shot looks somewhat like a religious altar area with this “angel” dressed the way she was. Fallen angel?)

Wow. I honestly figured the VS people just came up with some storyboards and Bob signed off on it. But there you go, more food for thought if you like.

Steve also forwarded some notes on the Hebrew for that expression “sick of love.” You can find it at this link.

The Witmark and the Mono Recordings

It’s hardly news at this point, but the official release from says:

Bob Dylan’s The Bootleg Series Volume 9 – The Witmark Demos will be released on Tuesday, October 19th, in conjunction with the re-release of the artist’s first eight long-playing albums in a box set titled Bob Dylan – The Original Mono Recordings. Both sets have been long sought-after by collectors and fans worldwide, with The Witmark Demos seeing their first commercial release nearly five decades after they were first recorded, and The Original Mono Recordings returning to the marketplace for the first time ever on CD as well as on fully analogue 180-gram vinyl. Continue reading “The Witmark and the Mono Recordings” »

More on the proposed mosque at Ground Zero

Thanks for some emails in response to “President Obama and the Ground Zero mosque,” including this one:

Just a note to respond to your post on the mosque situation. First off I read the whole thing, but just reread the first paragraph. Is it really true that President Obama was having a dinner to celebrate Ramadan? Do you really think it was necessary to point out that his middle name is Hussein? You know I love ya, but, that just seems to be spinning it. It goes against everything in my human nature to let them build that mosque down there. If there is a legitimate legal issue then they should not be allowed. It just seems to go against everything we stand for to not allow it. It makes us look like hypocrites. We are over in the middle east, and we are saying we are trying to spread freedom and democracy.

Well, as to whether it’s true that President Obama was in fact having a dinner to celebrate Ramadan, that’s most easily settled, semantically and substantively, by this page on the White House website, titled, “President Obama Celebrates Ramadan at White House Iftar Dinner.” His videotaped remarks are also there. By the way, if I’m not mistaken, President George W. Bush was the first to host an iftar dinner at the White House, when he did it in November of 2001, and I believe he hosted one each year following that. Continue reading “More on the proposed mosque at Ground Zero” »

Man Of Peace

Currently on YouTube, there’s a handful of video clips showing Bob Dylan playing with the Grateful Dead in 1987 at Foxboro Stadium in Massachusetts, including the one below where they’re doing Man of Peace.

President Obama and the Ground Zero mosque

Take yourself back to September 12th, 2001, if you can. Imagine, with the bodies still burning, the full death toll still unknown, the future of the war declared on us by Islamic jihadists unclear, that someone had told you: In nine years, a U.S. president named Barack Hussein Obama, at a White House dinner in honor of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, will insist that a mosque should be built overlooking the mass grave of the victims of this attack.

Breathtakingly bizarre, it would have seemed, and offensively ridiculous too. Surely anyone must admit that. And yet that’s where we are in August of 2010. No question about it.

In the midst of all the other feelings about this, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on the positive aspect. That we could even arrive at such a circumstance is a fantastic testament to the bigheartedness of the American people in general; it illuminates the very American willingness to see the best in one’s fellow man, and the deeply ingrained inclination to look towards the future, rather than wallowing in the past. It is of quite astounding proportions.

Yet, the flip-side of such bigheartedness is dangerous naïveté, and I think it’s this which is so far winning the day here. Continue reading “President Obama and the Ground Zero mosque” »