“Shelter From the Storm” by Bob Dylan

Apparently the literary world has finally realized that Bob Dylan, so long written off as a mere ‘popular singer’, is actually the greatest poet of our age, since he was awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize in literature. This provoked a small uproar among his lesser peers in the literary genre, and while I don’t usually say this, I suspect that this reaction had as much to do with jealousy as it did with conventional snobbery. I imagine that deep down, each of these dissenters knows that Dylan is truly a better writer than they are, and they are furious to be outdone in quality by a mere ‘Rock musician’, much as Virgil Thompson resented the fact that ‘Pop’ songwriter George Gershwin was writing better Classical music than him. And if there’s a song that better demonstrates Dylan’s worthiness as a truly great poet than this one, I can’t think of it. It doesn’t feature the cryptic complexity of a “Desolation Row” or a “Changing of the Guards”, but it is infinitely eloquent in its simple invocation of primal emotions. Taken from Dylan’s gut-wrenching collection of songs about lost love, Blood on the Tracks, this really is one of the most lyrical and moving songs ever written, and its beauty comes almost entirely from Dylan’s perfectly chosen words. The lyrics are full of the evocative quasi-religious imagery Dylan always loved, but they keep coming back to the repeated refrain of “Come in, she said, I’ll give you shelter from the storm”, creating a perfectly captured archetype of the refuge that is love which is both ecstatic and heartbreaking. Of course, I’m not nearly eloquent enough to do full justice to an analysis of a work this profound, so I will just state that this is that rarity of rarities, a truly perfect composition, and could hold its own with the works of such luminaries as Auden or Wordsworth any day. This song proves, as do countless others in Dylan’s oeuvre, that he is not only a great poet of our time, but probably the single greatest poet currently living, and deserves the recognition he is receiving far more than the envious naysayers who carp about it.

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