Temporary Like Achilles

Commentary

John Hinchey calls this song the “troubled twin” of One of Us Must Know. He also notes the thematic similarity to She’s Your Lover Now, the outtake from the Blonde on Blonde sessions that appears on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3.

Temporary Like Achilles is one of the weaker songs on Blonde on Blonde. The main problem is that the lyrics have a distinct thrown together feeling. “But is your heart made out of stone, or is it lime/Or is it just solid rock?” “I watch upon your scorpion/Who crawls across your circus floor”…  “Like a poor fool in his prime/Yes, I know you can hear me walk”… Not Dylan at his best.

The last verse introduces the character, Achilles, the new lover of the woman in question. It’s interesting to consider why Dylan named the character Achilles, the hero warrior of the Trojan Wars in Greek mythology. In at least one myth, Achilles is killed after being hit in the heel by an arrow (thus the term “Achilles’ heel”). In the song Achilles is the new “guard” of the ex-lover. I guess it makes some sense that a Greek warrior would make a good guard. Why is Achilles “temporary”? Is the narrator telling us that he was just a temporary plaything of his ex-lover, that the new lover Achilles will only be temporary as well? It’s a mystery I suppose.

Temporary Like Achilles has never been played live.


Lyrics

Standing on your window, honey,
Yes, I’ve been here before.
Feeling so harmless,
I’m looking at your second door.
How come you don’t send me no regards?
You know I want your lovin’,
Honey, why are you so hard?

Kneeling ‘neath your ceiling,
Yes, I guess I’ll be here for a while.
I’m tryin’ to read your portrait, but,
I’m helpless, like a rich man’s child.
How come you send someone out to have me barred?
You know I want your lovin’,
Honey, why are you so hard?

Like a poor fool in his prime,
Yes, I know you can hear me walk,
But is your heart made out of stone, or is it lime,
Or is it just solid rock?

Well, I rush into your hallway,
Lean against your velvet door.
I watch upon your scorpion
Who crawls across your circus floor.
Just what do you think you have to guard?
You know I want your lovin’,
Honey, but you’re so hard.

Achilles is in your alleyway,
He don’t want me here,
He does brag.
He’s pointing to the sky
And he’s hungry, like a man in drag.
How come you get someone like him to be your guard?
You know I want your lovin’,
Honey, but you’re so hard.

2 thoughts on “Temporary Like Achilles”

    1. Avatar

      Amen! I actually linked a friend to this article with that original quote as the title. I think the song is about the then current music scene and ‘Achillies’ was a fellow famous (unnamed) musician/personality. Why encrypt him as Achillies? Because he was a shit-heel.

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