Long and Wasted Years

There’s no reason to explain that Long and Wasted Years is a lament of a long lost love, perhaps a love story that is not completely over. But what about those odd verses in the middle – “lost his family” – “my enemy slammed me in the earth.” Maybe they represent in a symbolic way the various circumstances of life that separated our protagonist from his ex-love. My best guess anyway. Your guess is as good as mine.

As with most songs on Tempest, the lyrics are steeped in the blues. Not direct references, but the general use of language. For example, the old-school use of the word ‘saying‘ is used in dozens of old blues songs. The word “man” – as in “the man” – appears 1,651 times in the Blues Concordance. Blind Blake wrote, “I been your dog, ever since I been your man. “Two trains” appears in Bye Bye Blues by Tommy Johnson. And in Ed Bell’s Frisco Whistle Blues. “They’s two trains running: none of them going my way.”

“Talking in your sleep” was the name of a song by the Romantics. The phrase is also used in many blues songs, the popular Crystal Gayle song, a song by Gordon Lightfoot, and Rebe McEntire, and Lynn Anderson,

Somebody put together a detailed compilation of lyric variations Dylan has used in concert. I’m listing them here for safekeeping. But here’s the link to Reddit.

The original verse from Tempest:
“My enemy crashed into the dust
Stopped dead in his tracks and he lost his lust
He was run down hard and he broke apart
He died in shame, he had an iron heart”

April 17, 2015:
“My enemy crashed into the dust
He lost his lust
A strong wind swept him up
No more should he weep for that golden cup”

April 18, 2015:
“My enemy crashed into the dust
Stopped dead in his tracks and he lost his lust
Seems like just the other day
He sank to the ground in a painful way”

April 19, 2015:
“My enemy crashed into the dust
Stopped dead in his tracks and he lost his lust
He was run down hard, he was pinned down
Stopped it again and then stepped to the ground”

April 21, 2015:
“My enemy crashed into the dust
He lost his lust
He went out hard with a moan
He sank to the ground with a choking groan”

April 22, 2015:
“My enemy crashed into the dust
Had his life torn away and he lost his lust
Crushed to the bone
He sank to the ground with a croaking moan”

April 24, 2015:
“My enemy crashed into the dust
His life ripped away, and he lost his lust
We were boys together way back when
We grew up next to each other, helped each other now and then”

April 25, 2015:
“My enemy crashed into the dust
He was struck down in his path and he lost his lust
He was run down hard, hit clean in the side
No one can say with certainty where he died”

April 26, 2015:
“My enemy crashed into the dust
He was run down hard and he lost his lust
He would say, ‘I’m off to the fair!’
He can die and be damned for all I care”

April 27, 2015:
“My enemy crashed into the dust
He had his life torn away and he lost his lust
What can you say about it anyway, you weren’t there
You can die and be damned for all I care”

April 29, 2015:
“My enemy crashed into the dust
He had his life torn away and he lost his lust
Now, look here now, you stand over there
You can die and be damned for all I care”

May 3, 2015:
“My enemy crashed into the dust
He had his life torn away and he lost his lust
A dangerous player, he stepped out over every scalp
He had an iron heart but it didn’t help”

May 5, 2015:
“Are you gonna turn back when you were doomed from the start?
I’ll cripple your legs, stick you straight in the heart
I’ll leave you out there ’till the snow begins to thaw
Let the vultures eat your body raw”

May 6, 2015:
“Well, you’re a murderous fool, and you’ve been doomed from the start
I’ll cripple your legs and I’ll strike you square in the heart
Then I’ll tell your Ma and Pa
That the vultures ate your body raw”

May 11, 2015:
“My enemy crashed into the dust
I had to turn my head away in disgust
Look at the gore, poor soul
The vultures ate his body raw”

May 13, 2015:
“My enemy crashed into the dust
He had his life torn away and he lost his lust
He was brave, he was bold, he was fast on the run
Skilled in every treachery under the sun”

June 23, 2015:
“My enemy crashed into the dust
He bled to death and he lost his lust
Lost all of his pride
But no one can say for certain where he died”

June 25, 2015:
“Well, my enemy crashed into the dust
He slumped to the ground and he lost his lust
He crossed his arms, and his legs were bent
Down to the Garden of Death he went”

June 26, 2015:
“My enemy crashed into the dust
Bleeding to death and he lost his lust
As if I care, I couldn’t care less
He profited from the poor, walked around in a woman’s dress”

June 27, 2015:
“Now my enemy crashed into the dust
He was crooked and corrupt and he lost his lust
A strange man, more or less
He prospered from the poor, paraded around wearin’ a woman’s dress”

June 29, 2015:
“Well, I met the fool with a ruthless force
I blew the bugle and I rode the horse
He was cold and calculated, being trash
You don’t hear us? I’m sayin’ he was trash!”

July 1, 2015:
“I met the fool with a ruthless force
He lost his head and he broke his horse
And then the light broke through
I saw skeletons of the men I knew”

July 9, 2015:
“I met my fool with a ruthless force
He lost his lust and he lost his horse
He rolled his hips
And the blood rolled down from his broken lips”

October 1, 2015:
“My enemy crashed into the dust
He bled to death and he lost his lust
It just had to be
I noticed lately that he wasn’t with me”

Video is a bit wobbly at the beginning, but gets better.

Lyrics

It’s been such a long, long time
Since we loved each other and our hearts were true
One time, for one brief day
I was the man for you

Last night I heard you talking in your sleep
Saying things you shouldn’t say
Oh, baby
You just might have to go to jail some day

Is there a place we can go?
Is there anybody we can see?
Maybe what’s right for you
Isn’t really right for me

I ain’t seen my family in twenty years
That ain’t easy to understand
They may be dead by now
I lost track of them after they lost their land

Shake it up baby, twist and shout
You tell me what it’s all about
What you doing out in the sun anyway?
Don’t you know the sun can burn your brains right out?

My enemy slammed into the earth
I don’t know what he was worth
But he lost it all, everything and more
What a blithering fool he took me for

I wear dark glasses to cover my eyes
There’re secrets in them I can’t disguise
Come back, baby
If I hurt your feelings, I apologize

Two trains running side by side
Forty miles wide down the Eastern line
You don’t have to go, I just came to you
Because you’re a friend of mine

I think when my back was turned
The whole world behind me burned
Maybe today, if not today, maybe tomorrow
Maybe there’ll be a limit on all my sorrow

We cried on a cold and frosty morn’
We cried because our souls were torn
So much for tears
So much for those long and wasted years.

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