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Mr.Tambourine Man -- Bob Dylan

(Poem #112) Mr.Tambourine Man
    Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
    I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to.
    Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
    In the jingle-jangle morning I'll come followin' you.

Though I know that evenin's empire has returned into sand,
Vanished from my hand,
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping.
My weariness amazes me, I'm branded on my feet,
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street's too dead for dreaming.

    Hey, Mr.Tambourine Man, etc.

Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin' ship,
My senses have been stripped, my hands can't feel to grip,
My toes too numb to step, wait only for my boot heels
To be wanderin'.
I'm ready to go anywhere, I'm ready for to fade
Into my own parade, cast your dancing spell my way,
I promise to go under it.

    Hey, Mr.Tambourine Man, etc.

Though you might hear laughin', spinnin', swingin' madly across the sun,

It's not aimed at anyone, it's just escapin' on the run
And but for the sky there are no fences facin'.
And if you hear vague traces of skippin' reels of rhyme
To your tambourine in time, it's just a ragged clown behind
I wouldn't pay it any mind, it's just a shadow you're
Seeing' that he's chasing

    Hey, Mr.Tambourine Man, etc.
-- Bob Dylan
What makes a poet great?

Is it sheer depth of emotion? Sensitivity and social conscience?
Honesty, both intellectual and moral? The ability to see the truth, and
the courage to recognize it for what it is? A knack for creating
resonant phrases and haunting images? There's all this and more, and all
these and more are present in the songs of Bob Dylan, who absolutely
rules my world :-)

No other poet - indeed, no other person - has managed to exemplify a
time, a place and a generation as completely as Dylan did his. (I know
that's a rather sweeping statement, but I'll stand by it. So there!). In
his lyrics, in his music, and most especially in his uncompromising
social stance, Dylan stood for the hopes and fears of an entire
generation of young Americans, not afraid to criticise the old, not too
cynical to embrace the new, both unrelentingly harsh and deeply
compassionate, biting, yet surprisingly vulnerable...

Today's poem is Dylan in a mellow, subdued mood. The lyrics are complex,
sophisticated - there's a keen and intense sensitivity underlying the
surface psychedelia. The internal rhymes, the repetitions of form, the
uneven metre (and the swirling harmonica music, though you can't hear it
by email) all combine to create a soft, surreal, hypnotic atmosphere...
"In the jingle-jangle morning I'll come following you".


67 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Srikant P said...

I read somewhere that "Tambourine Man" is street-slang
for a drug peddler. Can anyone please comment?


Rick & Sally said...

this poem has been such an inpiration to me i am a 16 year old girl and
going through many problems everywhere this poem has always been an
inspiration and always will
thank you bob dylan
you don't know how much this means.

Steve said...

My only comment is that you have ommited the last and most important verse that completes the song which is:

Then take me dissapearing through the smoke rings of my mind,
down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves,
out to the windy beach far from the twisted reach,
of crazy sorrow, yes to dance beneath the diamond sky,
with one hand waving free, silhouetted by the sea,
circled by the circus sands, with all memory and fate,
driven deep beneath the waves,
let me forget about today until tomorrow.

If you are going to display the work of a poetic genious, it deserves to be seen in its entirety dont you think?.

Xskateboy12X said...

I read somewhere that "Tambourine Man" is street-slang
for a drug peddler. Can anyone please comment?

Tambourine man is a drug peddler back then when the poem was written people
were not aloud to write about drugs so they used poetic laguage do discribe
drugs and drug pebblers i not sure if it's realy slang though

ommadawn852 said...

Obviously some drug references here but Dylan always
hedges his bets by giving 2 or 3 meanings to anything he
writes. The Tambourine Man is the one who leads a funeral procession in New Orleans.
Don't know if that's what Bob had in mind but it doesn't
contradict the other interpretations when you consider the idea of escapism from "..ancient empty streets too dead for dreaming" whether by sleep, death or drugs.

Russell said...

two readers have already pointed out that the last verse has been omitted and have supplied it. how come it's not been added to your text?

puer senex

Tom Fontana said...

One time the great poet Robert Frost was asked if the poem, The Road Not taken, was about an experience in the poet's life. He answered that a poem is never about an experience, it is an experience.

If you succeed in determining exactly what Dylan meant in Mr. Tambourine Man, you will have succeeded in destroying it.


Bethblaine said...

I am doing a research project for a Rock and Roll history course on cover
songs. Of course, I know the Byrds covered Tambourine Man, but I am wondering
if any one else knows of other covers of this song. You can email me at() . It would be greatly

Bethblaine said...

This is just my interpretation of Mr. Tambourine Man.

when Bobby Dylan says in the Jingle Jangle "Morning", it could be sabymnal
for the Jingle Jangle "mourning" as in mourning over someones death at a

"Thou i know that evening empire has returned into sand, vanished from my
hand, left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping "...
I think hes talking about Crystal Meth. Crystal Meth keeps you awake for
days on end and is a drug that is sniffed. When Evening's Empire vanishes from
his hand, it means that he has snorted the drug and is awake all night.
Then he goes on to talk about how "his wearyness amazes him, hes branded on
his feet. Has no one to meet. And the Ancient, Empty Streets too dead for
dreaming." it means that on his intoxication he is on a lonley street corner
possible waiting for a drug dealer?

" Take me on a Trip upon your Magic, Swirling ship" He's talking about
herion. The magic swirling ship is when you shoot up on herion, you suck back in
some of the blood into the needle to make sure you get all the herion. Which
is why it is referred to as a 'swirlling ship'. Then of course "my senses
have been stripped. my hands cant feel to grip. my toes to numb to step" wait
only for my boot heels to be woundering", explains itself.
"im ready to go anywhere im ready for to fade into my own parade. Cast your
dancing spell my way i promise to go under it" which just means he is fading
into his own happiness under the drug.

Then the whole next versus is about his hollusinations he sees while on the
drug. Apparently he sees shadows across the sun and is hearing voices in
his head.

Then Bobby talks about a deep transe and i guess is in a dream of a place he
would rather be, by the ocean. " let me forget about today until tommorow"
Obviously means to Fuck everything and get lost in the drug, for now anyways

Craig Berg said...

And then there's the amazing final verse:

Then take me disappearin' through the smoke rings of my mind,
Down the foggy ruins of time,
Far past the frozen leaves,
The haunted frightened trees,
Out to the windy beach,
Far from the twisted reach
Of crazy sorrow.
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,
Silouetted by the sea,
Circled by the circus sands,
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves,
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

I lived in India for four and a half years and was amazed to see how popular Western music is there.

Craig Berg

Anter Steven said...

These lyrics are too good for someone the likes of Bob Dylan to have
written. I think they must have been written by Allen Ginsburg.


Anter Steven said...

Correction: Allen Ginsberg

Steven Anter

EXT 11296

Sr Programmer Analyst

Wolky said...

Ohhhh Anter,
Do you honestly believe that such a strong devotee to Walt Whitman as
was Allen Ginsberg, and one who would write almost exclusively in blank
verse, would take time out to help his buddy Bob by conceiving such
unlikely (for Ginsberg) rhymes as "And but for the sky there are no
fences facin'" and "it's just a shadow that you're seein' that he's
chasin'"? I think not.


Wolky said...

how silly you are, steveanter. there is nothing ginsbergian about mr.
tambourine man. for one thing it rhymes all over the place. ginsberg
was a blank verse poet. he didn't like to rhyme.

Maciej said...

Can someone, please, tell me what the phrase 'I'm branded on my feet...'
exactly means? I've tried to look it up in all the dictionaries I know but
haven't found the explanation so far. (I'm not a native speaker of English.)
Thanks in advance for any help. -Matthew C.

G.A.A. Quaedvlieg said...

I'm not sure but I think the words of Dylan's Mr. Tambourine Man cannot
be explained by isolating them from the music.
Only when I hear the song (poem, melody, rithm, not to forget Dylans
melodramatic accent!!!) it brings me back to my personal experiences of
a unique time.

I think that everybody has his own experience and fantasy by hearing the
song but there is a common atmosphere you can feel, don't you?
Just play the song...and enjoy!!

Jim Burns said...

Hi. Being the same age as Bob Dylan I've been listening to his music for
a long time. Just my opinion, but it's quite possible that "branded on
my feet" means nothing more than some words that seemed to fit, sounded
good and felt right coming out of his mouth at that time. I love that

Hugo Estrada said...

Here is another possible interpretation.

If we let these line, evenin's empire has returned
into sand, vanished from my hand," to stand for a
person who has had a great lost, then the song is
about deep sorrow and the desire to find a few minutes
of comfort through music and drugs. It really
doesn't matter which one it is: both can let us forget

And let me go by repeating the lines where there is a
beautiful image of freedom and inner peace:

"with one hand waving free, silhouetted by the sea,
circled by the circus sands, with all memory and fate,
driven deep beneath the waves,
let me forget about today until tomorrow."

Anonymous said...

whatever we can say, this text is undeniably rich with great thoughts.
he was very young when wrinting this song.
nowadays, someone in his age can't dare think the way he did.

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