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Blowin' in the Wind -- Bob Dylan

Guest poem sent in by Aseem
(Poem #1707) Blowin' in the Wind
 How many roads must a man walk down
 Before you call him a man?
 Yes, 'n' how many seas must a white dove sail
 Before she sleeps in the sand?
 Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannon balls fly
 Before they're forever banned?
 The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
 The answer is blowin' in the wind.

 How many years can a mountain exist
 Before it's washed to the sea?
 Yes, 'n' how many years can some people exist
 Before they're allowed to be free?
 Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head,
 And pretend he just doesn't see?
 The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
 The answer is blowin' in the wind.

 How many times must a man look up
 Before he can see the sky?
 Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
 Before he can hear people cry?
 Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
 That too many people have died?
 The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
 The answer is blowin' in the wind.
-- Bob Dylan
If there's ever a song that cries out to be memorised - this is it. I
can still remember being nine years old and listening to it over and
over, trying to ensure that the words would stay in my head forever. It
wasn't just that the words were beautiful and moving (if anything the
message of war and oppression seemed far less relevant then - back in
the 80's, at the age of 9 - than it does now); it was that listening to
the rhythm of the questions and the soft strumming of the guitar and
that simple, weary, heartfelt and almost speaking voice that could only
be Dylan, I was discovering what poetry really was. Not just pretty
images and melodic rhymes, not just fine sounding words arranged in
neat stanzas, not just daffodils and boys on burning decks, but the
voice of a real person, an attitude, a way of looking at the world.

The folksy "Yes 'n"'s notwithstanding, this is a great poem. Not just
because the rhyme scheme works perfectly, and the pattern of three
repeated questions is brilliant and the metaphors are powerful and the
lines themselves are memorable; but because it's a collection of a few
simple words that has the power to reach out and grab you by the heart.
Because every time you see the war footage on CNN or the pictures from
Abu Ghraib or Sudan or 9/11, the words will come back to haunt you.
Because long after Dylan is dead generations of singers and activists
will find in these simple lyrics  a sense of understanding and the
courage to go on. Because this simple little song sums up the entire
history of the human endeavour: our struggle to define ourselves as
people, our quest for peace and our bewilderment at the world's
cruelty. Because there's something about this song that makes it an
authentic poetic experience, something that you can't pin down but
can't help feeling, something that is, well, "blowin' in the wind".


51 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

edledhron83 said...

My perception of these lines so far has been rather opposing. One of
the reasons is, that I never payed close attention to the questions
that are listed, another, that I have associated it
with "intellectuals" who just sentimentically like quoting or singing
it (see Forest Gump). The reason for both these factors is the
line: "The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind". I'm just not
satisfied by that line. It's not enough, it's too "deep".
The comment and reading over it more closely has gone some way to
reconcile me with this song. The chorus still doesn't quite catch me,
but the end of the comment ("...well, that's blowing in the wind") even
levels that out to some extend.


rajb said...

Sorry for the late comment, but you should also mention that this song
has achieved immortality via the 'Hitchhiker's guide' :))) 42, anyone?


On May 26, 2005, at 1:05 PM, Martin Julian DeMello wrote:
> Guest poem sent in by Aseem
> "Blowin' in the Wind"
> How many roads must a man walk down
> Before you call him a man?

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