Woman in hat with large glasses by meat stall.

Sad-eyed Lady


Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes
My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums
Should I leave them by your gate
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?

Bob Dylan (1966)

Poetry wanders freely, not needing to bow to any corresponding state of affairs. Dylan’s song affirms this claim dramatically. The haunting words live on with us and to them we give what meaning we may. What they meant to the writer is not likely to be disclosed, and few of the lines tempt agreement, let alone bear analytic scrutiny. But haunt they do. Here we can see language, not as a matter of correspondence, or even of homologous patterning, but rather pointing to some other world, much as does the wind, which ‘bloweth where it listeth’, taking us outwith the mundane, and perhaps deeper into ourselves. In this way words and music echo this seemingly inescapable aspect of beauty: that it is mysterious.

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Dylan is supposed to have written this long ‘desultory philippic’ using ‘Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands’ as a way of expressing his wife’s name Sara Lownds. It was the last (whole side) track on the double LP Blonde On Blonde. King James Bible - John 3:8 - "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth...” There is a common word for both wind and for spirit in classical Greek and Hebrew. The sad eyed lady in the photograph was a stall holder in the market at Đồng Văn in northern Vietnam.

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Saturday 30th November 2019

Murphy on duty

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