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Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands

Here’s a post from the beginning of chapter two of “Understanding Bob Dylan”. which starts with an analysis of “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”, the beautiful but puzzling song that ends “Blonde on Blonde”. The chapter looks at how Dylan writes about those subjects that have been an endless preoccupation of modern western writers: love, sex and money, focusing on “Sad-Eyed Lady” and the rest of “Blonde on Blonde”, “Love minus zero”, “Simple Twist of Fate” (see the post below) and a few other Dylan favorites.

With your mercury mouth in the missionary times,
And your eyes like smoke and your prayers like rhymes,
And your silver cross, and your voice like chimes,
Oh, who among them do they think could bury you?

So begins the puzzling, evocative, mesmeric “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”, the last track of “Blonde on Blonde” which Dylan released in 1966, a song that has caught many Dylanists in its headlights. “Puzzling” –  some would say meaningless –  because this song contains weirdly complex imagery. “With your mercury mouth in the missionary times” – good luck working that one out. It’s a song that has elicited fundamentally different views from admirers and critics – and sometimes the same person. Dylan encyclopaedist, and author of “Song and Dance Man” Michael Gray, hated the song, then loved it. First he wrote a damning two page criticism which concluded: Continue reading