Mother of Muses

Instead of references to old pop songs like most of the other songs on Rough and Rowdy, Dylan mixes it up by adding references to Greek mythology.

The title is perhaps taken from the opening lines of The Odyssey.

Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end,
after he plundered the stronghold
on the proud height of Troy.
He saw the townlands
and learned the minds of many distant men,
and weathered many bitter nights and days
in his deep heart at sea, while he fought only
to save his life, to bring his shipmates home.
But not by will nor valor could he save them,
for their own recklessness destroyed them all —
children and fools, they killed and feasted on
the cattle of Lord Hęlios, the Sun,
and he who moves all day through the heaven
took from their eyes the dawn of their return. . . .

Translated by Robert Fitzgerald (1961)

If you’re like me, your knowledge of Greek mythology is a little fuzzy. So let’s review.

from Wikipedia.

Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the ancient Greeks and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the origin and the nature of the world, the lives and activities of deitiesheroes, and mythological creatures, and the origins and significance of the ancient Greeks’ own cult and ritual practices. Modern scholars study the myths in an attempt to shed light on the religious and political institutions of ancient Greece and its civilization and to gain understanding of the nature of myth-making itself.

…………

The Greek myths were initially propagated in an oral-poetic tradition most likely by Minoan and Mycenaean singers starting in the 18th century BC; eventually, the myths of the heroes of the Trojan War and its aftermath became part of the oral tradition of Homer‘s epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey

Infoplease has a nice summary of the meaning of the Muses.

The Nine Muses were Greek goddesses who ruled over the arts and sciences and offered inspiration in those subjects. They were the daughters of Zeus, lord of all gods, and Mnemosyne, who represented memory. Memory was important for the Muses because in ancient times, when there were no books, poets had to carry their work in their memories.

The song’s narrator ask the Mother of Muses to give him Calliope, the muse of epic poetry and song.

I’m falling in love with Calliope

She doesn’t belong to anybody – why not give her to me

Calliope means “beautifully voiced” (is Dylan making a humorous reference to his own, broken voice?).

The women of the chorus” which is another Greek-related reference.

From the encyclopedia Britannica.

Chorus, in drama and music, those who perform vocally in a group as opposed to those who perform singly. The chorus in Classical Greek drama was a group of actors who described and commented upon the main action of a play with song, dance, and recitation.

https://www.britannica.com/art/chorus-theatre

Dylan also references The Odyssey in False Prophet.

This song reminds me of Mr. Tambourine Man. In both the narrator pleads to his muse to pay him a visit.

Mother of Muses sing for me

Sing of the mountains and the deep dark sea

Sing of the lakes and the nymphs in the forest

Sing your hearts out – all you women of the chorus

Sing of honor and fame and of glory be

Mother of Muses, sing for me

Hey! Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me

I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to

Hey! Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me

In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come following you

The phrase “lovin’ arms” might be a reference to a Tom Jans song that has been recorded by many, including Etta James.

Take to me to the river” could be a reference to the well-known Al Green song.

“Travelin’ light could be a reference to the Billie Holiday recording.


Lyrics

Mother of Muses sing for me
Sing of the mountains and the deep dark sea
Sing of the lakes and the nymphs in the forest
Sing your hearts out – all you women of the chorus
Sing of honor and fame and of glory be
Mother of Muses, sing for me

Mother of Muses sing for my heart
Sing for a love too soon to depart
Sing of the Heroes who stood alone
Whose names are engraved on tablets of stone
Who struggled with pain so the world could go free
Mother of Muses, sing for me

Sing of Sherman – Montgomery and Scott
Sing of Zhukov and Patton and the battles they fought
Who cleared the path for Presley to sing
Who carved out the path for Martin Luther King
Who did what they did and then went on their way
Man, I could tell their stories all day

I’m falling in love with Calliope
She doesn’t belong to anybody – why not give her to me
She’s speaking to me, speaking with her eyes
I’ve grown so tired of chasing lies
Mother of Muses wherever you are
I’ve already outlived my life by far

Mother of Muses unleash your wrath
Things I can’t see – they’re blocking my path
Show me your wisdom – tell me my fate
Put me upright – make me walk straight
Forge my identity from the inside out
You know what I’m talking about

Take me to the river and release your charms
Let me lay down in your sweet lovin’ arms
Wake me – shake me – free me from sin
Make me invisible like the wind
Got a mind to ramble – got a mind to roam
I’m travelin’ light and I’m slow coming home

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