Thursday, January 17, 2013

Bob Dylan: the rise and fall











They’re selling postcards of the hanging


They’re painting the passports brown


The beauty parlor is filled with sailors


The circus is in town






Here comes the blind commissioner

They’ve got him in a trance

One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker

The other is in his pants




And the riot squad they’re restless

They need somewhere to go

As Lady and I look out tonight

From Desolation Row





Cinderella, she seems so easy

“It takes one to know one,” she smiles

And puts her hands in her back pockets

Bette Davis style





And in comes Romeo, he’s moaning

“You Belong to Me I Believe”

And someone says, “You’re in the wrong place 

my friend

You better leave”





And the only sound that’s left

After the ambulances go

Is Cinderella sweeping up

On Desolation Row





Now the moon is almost hidden

The stars are beginning to hide





The fortune-telling lady

Has even taken all her things inside

All except for Cain and Abel

And the hunchback of Notre Dame

Everybody is making love

Or else expecting rain




And the Good Samaritan, he’s dressing

He’s getting ready for the show

He’s going to the carnival tonight

On Desolation Row




Now Ophelia, she’s ’neath the window

For her I feel so afraid

On her twenty-second birthday

She already is an old maid

To her, death is quite romantic

She wears an iron vest

Her profession’s her religion

Her sin is her lifelessness





And though her eyes are fixed upon

Noah’s great rainbow

She spends her time peeking

Into Desolation Row





Einstein, disguised as Robin Hood

With his memories in a trunk

Passed this way an hour ago

With his friend, a jealous monk




He looked so immaculately frightful

As he bummed a cigarette

Then he went off sniffing drainpipes

And reciting the alphabet





Now you would not think to look at him

But he was famous long ago

For playing the electric violin

On Desolation Row





Dr. Filth, he keeps his world

Inside of a leather cup

But all his sexless patients

They’re trying to blow it up

Now his nurse, some local loser

She’s in charge of the cyanide hole

And she also keeps the cards that read

“Have Mercy on His Soul”




They all play on pennywhistles

You can hear them blow

If you lean your head out far enough

From Desolation Row





Across the street they’ve nailed the curtains

They’re getting ready for the feast

The Phantom of the Opera

A perfect image of a priest




They’re spoonfeeding Casanova

To get him to feel more assured

Then they’ll kill him with self-confidence

After poisoning him with words




And the Phantom’s shouting to skinny girls

“Get Outa Here If You Don’t Know

Casanova is just being punished for going

To Desolation Row”





Now at midnight all the agents

And the superhuman crew

Come out and round up everyone

That knows more than they do




Then they bring them to the factory

Where the heart-attack machine

Is strapped across their shoulders

And then the kerosene




Is brought down from the castles

By insurance men who go

Check to see that nobody is escaping

To Desolation Row





Praise be to Nero’s Neptune

The Titanic sails at dawn

And everybody’s shouting

“Which Side Are You On?”





And Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot

Fighting in the captain’s tower

While calypso singers laugh at them

And fishermen hold flowers





Between the windows of the sea

Where lovely mermaids flow

And nobody has to think too much

About Desolation Row





Yes, I received your letter yesterday

(About the time the doorknob broke)

When you asked how I was doing

Was that some kind of joke?






All these people that you mention

Yes, I know them, they’re quite lame

I had to rearrange their faces

And give them all another name




Right now I can’t read too good

Don’t send me no more letters, no

Not unless you mail them

From Desolation Row





Bob Dylan
Desolation Row
with some help from
Lotte Lenya:
Alabama Song
from 
The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny
by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht

1 comment:

  1. Not sure if the slide show is better than the lyrics, but I think so.

    ReplyDelete