¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Stephen Scobie wrote that “the most obvious poetic aspect of Dylan’s language is his gift for vivid and sometimes bizarre imagery”. Gates of Eden is a good example. There is a plethora of strange, dramatic images: Cowboy angels riding clouds, babies crying from sewers, a motorcycle black Madonna, gray-flanneled dwarfs. It’s certainly one of Dylan most ambitious lyrics.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 It also was heavily influenced by the Beat poets. Allen Ginsberg said he cried when he heard the phrase“motorcycle black Madonna two-wheeled gypsy queen”, knowing Dylan was continuing their vision. An excerpt from book The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats.
¶ 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Among others. I think that, between Kerouac and myself and Burroughs, there was quite an impact. Dylan told me that – I know Kerouac was a major inspiration for him as a poet.
¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 I think it’s those chains of flashing images: “the motorcycle black Madonna two-wheeled gypsy queen and her silver-studded phantom love” come out of Kerouac’s rhetoric. I think Dylan came to Burroughs later – after the Rolling Thunder tour he began digging Burroughs a great deal.
¶ 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 Well, Beat writing has been in the air for quite a while, from the later Fifties on. But I wouldn’t claim credit, particularly. That long verse line with many nouns and adjectives and interesting combinations of words, like “fried shoes” or “hydrogen jukebox” – that was a genre drawn from Whitman, from Surrealism, from European poetry of the Twentieth Century, from the Dadaist poets, from the Russian poets, from Lorca……When I heard Dylan’s records, I heard that instantly, and I was knocked out. I thought, “Well, at least we’re not a dead end.”
¶ 12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 To me anyway, he seems to be saying that our human trials here on earth will one day subside and that the good among us will ultimately be rewarded in heaven. Pretty typical Sunday school lesson. Although it is well-known that Dylan grew-up in a fairly religious family and that as a child he became very familiar with Biblical teachings, he seemed to have left these teachings far behind judging by most of his mid-sixties material. I guess not completely.
¶ 13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 The title of the song is interesting, Gates of Eden. I guess everybody is familiar with the story from Genesis where God kicks Adam and Eve out of Eden for the sin of eating an apple from the Tree of Life. After God gives them the heave-ho, he bars entry to Eden by placing cherubim (angels) and a flaming sword at the entrance (Genesis 3:24). Dylan replaces the flaming sword with a gate.
¶ 14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 Dylan didn’t invent the phrase Gates of Eden. There was a silent film from 1916 with this title and a novel of that name written in 1920. The phrase is also used in Jewish texts and in old popular songs.
¶ 17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 Revelation 9 speaks of what will happen to the sinners and non-believers when God returns. Just so you know, he plans to release swarms of nasty locusts that will have the power of scorpions. The good news is that they will not have the power to kill, but only torture. Comforting. Maybe I’ll make it to church next Sunday.
¶ 19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man. During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.
¶ 20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 Daniel Kramer, the photographer for the Bringing It All Back Home sessions, said that Dylan recorded Mr. Tambourine Man, It’s Alright, Ma, I’m Only Bleeding, and Gates of Eden all in a row, with no second takes and not even a playback in between. That’s a productive half hour or so!
¶ 21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 It seems likely that Dylan took the term “gray flannel” from the influential Sloan Wilson novel The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, which ridiculed the mind-numbing conventionality of 1950 corporate America. The book was made into a popular film in 1956 and starred actor, Gregory Peck, whom Dylan mentions in a later song, Brownsville Girl.
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Of war and peace the truth just twists
Its curfew gull just glides
Upon four-legged forest clouds
The cowboy angel rides
With his candle lit into the sun
Though its glow is waxed in black
All except when ‘neath the trees of Eden
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The lamppost stands with folded arms
Its iron claws attached
To curbs ‘neath holes where babies wail
Though it shadows metal badge
All and all can only fall
With a crashing but meaningless blow
No sound ever comes from the Gates of Eden
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The savage soldier sticks his head in sand
And then complains
Unto the shoeless hunter who’s gone deaf
But still remains
Upon the beach where hound dogs bay
At ships with tattooed sails
Heading for the Gates of Eden
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With a time-rusted compass blade
Aladdin and his lamp
Sits with Utopian hermit monks
Side saddle on the Golden Calf
And on their promises of paradise
You will not hear a laugh
All except inside the Gates of Eden
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Relationships of ownership
They whisper in the wings
To those condemned to act accordingly
And wait for succeeding kings
And I try to harmonize with songs
The lonesome sparrow sings
There are no kings inside the Gates of Eden
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The motorcycle black madonna
Two-wheeled gypsy queen
And her silver-studded phantom cause
The gray flannel dwarf to scream
As he weeps to wicked birds of prey
Who pick up on his bread crumb sins
And there are no sins inside the Gates of Eden
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The kingdoms of Experience
In the precious wind they rot
While paupers change possessions
Each one wishing for what the other has got
And the princess and the prince
Discuss what’s real and what is not
It doesn’t matter inside the Gates of Eden
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The foreign sun, it squints upon
A bed that is never mine
As friends and other strangers
From their fates try to resign
Leaving men wholly, totally free
To do anything they wish to do but die
And there are no trials inside the Gates of Eden
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At dawn my lover comes to me
And tells me of her dreams
With no attempts to shovel the glimpse
Into the ditch of what each one means
At times I think there are no words
But these to tell what’s true
And there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden