Chimes of Freedom


I have mixed feelings about the inclusion of this song on Another Side. It’s certainly an ambitious song, a great song, a song that makes a powerful statement. It’s nicely written and contains some very creative, powerful images. On the other hand, it does not fit in well with the small-scale, personal songs of Another Side. It might have been a more cohesive record if he had instead chosen to include either Lay Down Your Weary Tune or I’ll Keep It with Mine, both of which he had lying around in a drawer somewhere at the time of the recording.

The song describes a couple caught outside in a fierce thunderstorm. The lightning, IMO, is a metaphor for the imminent arrival of a new world order that respects and rewards the downtrodden, mistreated, and luckless souls of the world. Dylan biographer Robert Shelton wrote that Chimes is one of his favorite Dylan songs: “Dylan’s affinity with the underdog has rarely attained such noble expression.”

We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing

Dylan uses “synesthesia” in this song, a literary technique often used by Hart Crane, Edgar Allan Poe, and Arthur Rimbaud, all influences of Dylan. Synesthesia is the description of one sensory experience – in this song the visual flash of lightning – in terms of another sense – in this case, the sound of the chimes of freedom.

Dylan commentator John Gibbens argues that Dylan use of alliteration is similar to that in Woody Guthrie’s Grand Coulee Dam (below):

In the misty glitter of that wild and windward spray,
Men have fought the pounding waters and met a watery grave.

According to Marianne Faithfull (see her autobiography), Donovan borrowed this song’s tune for his Catch the Wind.

For the Joan Osborne fans out there… She and Dylan recorded a not bad version of Chimes on the soundtrack to the TV mini-series “The 60s”.  Not essential, but I like it. (Ignore the Baez pictures in the video – somebody goofed.)

In Senegalese.


Far between sundown’s finish an’ midnight’s broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An’ for each an’ ev’ry underdog soldier in the night
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

In the city’s melted furnace, unexpectedly we watched
With faces hidden while the walls were tightening
As the echo of the wedding bells before the blowin’ rain
Dissolved into the bells of the lightning
Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake
Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned an’ forsaked
Tolling for the outcast, burnin’ constantly at stake
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail
The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder
That the clinging of the church bells blew far into the breeze
Leaving only bells of lightning and its thunder
Striking for the gentle, striking for the kind
Striking for the guardians and protectors of the mind
An’ the unpawned painter behind beyond his rightful time
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Through the wild cathedral evening the rain unraveled tales
For the disrobed faceless forms of no position
Tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts
All down in taken-for-granted situations
Tolling for the deaf an’ blind, tolling for the mute
Tolling for the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute
For the misdemeanor outlaw, chased an’ cheated by pursuit
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Even though a cloud’s white curtain in a far-off corner flashed
An’ the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting
Electric light still struck like arrows, fired but for the ones
Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting
Tolling for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail
For the lonesome-hearted lovers with too personal a tale
An’ for each unharmful, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

Starry-eyed an’ laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an’ we watched with one last look
Spellbound an’ swallowed ’til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an’ worse
An’ for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing.

2 thoughts on “Chimes of Freedom”

  1. corner of the room, watching Dylan intently as he talked.

    Q: To start with the obvious question: what do you think of

    Sheffield University Paper, May 1965

    Donovan and “Catch the Wind?”

    A: Well, I quite like that song, and he sings it quite well. He’s very young though, and people might like to try to make him into something that he isn’t; that’s something he’ll have to watch. But the song is O.K.

    Q: Isn’t the tune a lot like your “Chimes of Freedom”?

    A: Oh, I don’t care what he takes from me; I don’t care what other singers do to my songs either, they can’t hurt me any. Like with the Animals and “Baby Let Me Follow You Down”, I didn’t worry none about that. I met the Animals over in New York, and we all went out and got scoused. Is that what you say? (Someone behind him suggests “sloshed”.) Oh yeah, that’s it, sloshed.

    Anyway, the Animals are O.K., I liked their last one, “Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood”, that was a good one.


    Animals reference/they “stole” his version of Bably Let Me Follow  You Down –>


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