What a great piece. With regards to the number 3 I can't help but think of Renaldo and Clara and the lyric" I play both sides against the middle" from Key west Philosopher.
Great essay, opening up insights not only into two of the PoMS songs but essential reading for anyone interested in a deep and serious consideration of the whole of PoMS. Thorough in its reach into other Dylan creations.
Nice work. Fine writing. Great connections. So much good stuff. I especially like this:
“ . . . he fixes upon a middle position located at the intersection where the opponents converge and merge together. In this book, that middle position goes by the name You.”
Recalls, precisely, these lines from “Key West (Philosopher Pirate)”:
“I play both sides against the middle
Pickin’ up that Pirate radio signal”
These show the same as you suggest: Dylan puts himself into the scene, among the other songsters (pirates all). And the listener: You. All of us, at the radio, twisting and tuning the knob.
Specifically, Bob puts his own gospel immersion opposite Lennon’s death, and another kind of dream. Why do I say this? The ex-Beatle is evoked in the line that follows: “I heard the news - I heard your last request” (Same line also used in “Roll On, John”) Death. Assassination. We are taken back to 1980.
Last request? Well, there’s a few, including a very old hymn, but here let’s go for Lennon’s “God.” (Specific source available upon request) Casting off illusions. That’s one side of the dial. “I don’t believe in Zimmerman. I don’t believe in Kennedy. I don’t believe in Beatles.” On a far frequency? Bob’s God. Blind mystic faith. Who gains advantage? Only the songs. Only someone who believes in the songs. You there.
“. . . opponents converge and merge together”
￼The truth is found in the songs, whether it’s the gospel of Bob, or the anti-gospel of “God.”
Like in the next lines, three songs to be exact:
“Fly around my Pretty Little Miss
I Don’t Love Nobody - Gimme a kiss”
A traditional fiddle song, an Elizabeth Cotten number (originally a minstrel tune), and an Oscar Hammerstein song about the dream of a kiss, a hit for Louis Armstrong. Courtship and romance, at the end of the line, the end of the archipelago, down on the bottom, in “Key West.”
The truth is found in what passes between lovers, at the end. A hymn, or any little song.
Lovers, at death: John and Yoko, and at least three more couples referenced in these lines, but to tell of them, more context is needed than I can offer in this comment on your very fine article.
(available on request).
I hope you can see I haven’t wandered far, really, from your points. Just repeating your excellent math. “Both sides against the middle.” 3.
So to circle back to that middle position: Dylan, seeing himself in You, the listener, and in Cher, in Shaver, in all the other pirates, his songs sharing the same ancient Source. Paying attention. “I’m a religious person.”
Great work, Graley. I haven't thought about the Egyptian connection before. Interesting that Bob's label imprint is "Egyptian Records". https://www.mtv.com/news/ib7i2b/dylan-forms-egyptian-records