A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall…

Oh what did you see my blue eyed son…

The song is probably one of the best ever, written and sung by the best songwriter of all times, Bob Dylan. The lyrics are so bizarre, beautiful, utterly honest and completely heart felt. Its lyrics are too huge for a normal mind, yet they are simple and…all there. There are numerous interpretations of each and every single line and it successfully portrays the times it was sung in.  And it continuously grows to relate more and more with current situations. It was basically written and sung by Dylan at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Any moment America and Russia might had plunged into a nuclear war. And Dylan, thinking there was no more time to live, wrote what I consider a masterpiece. As he said himself

“Hard Rain is a desperate kind of song. Every line in it, is actually the start of a whole song. But when I wrote it, I thought I wouldn’t have enough time alive to write all those songs so I put all I could into this one.”

Although the line “A hard rains a-gonna fall” is interpreted as referring to a nuclear fallout, I currently take it in its literal meaning. Pakistan is having such hard rains, effecting 2million people. and it just stopped raining outside. But the amazing thing about this song is that every single line can be taken literally or pondered upon as the symbolism in the song is quite a thing in itself. For me its the lamenting of a soul who fears a “Hard Rain” and has had the various maturing experiences of life.

“No single event can awaken within us the stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.”

-Antoine de Sainte.

Every line is a song in itself, and the blue eyed son, who has seen too much about life in too little a time, merely states all of the experiences.

Now me being an amateur of amateur Dylanists, I won’t go too much into the lyrics but just give my opinion and overview of the stanzas. This might sound like some blasted gibberish, but that’s alright for me. I like to make a fool out of me, and a me out of that fool. we all are one.

So let me try my hand at analyzing the un-analyzable.

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
And where have you been, my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains,
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways,
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests,
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans,
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard,
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard,
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

This stanza takes me onto a journey of places far and wide. The blue eyed son might symbolize the young and naive generation who is yet to see and experience all of this hardship. The singer has been to misty mountains, crooked highways, sad forests, dozen dead oceans and walked a thousand miles into the mouth of a graveyard. And of course there is a lot more this stanza then i can perceive…

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it,
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it,
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’,
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’,
I saw a white ladder all covered with water,
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken,
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children,
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard,
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

A newborn with wild wolves around him. An innocent young soul born into a surrounding full of the beasts that are men, threatening to conjure a storm that could blow everything away in a mushroom of fire. The blood dripping branch and a-bleeding hammers represent all kinds of violence and riot surrounding the narrator.  The blood dripping branch might show the racism too. The wet ladder symbolizes a way out of all the plights and dilemmas, but a very insecure and slippery one. Broken tongues might represent the ones who aren’t given the right to speak, ones who speak rubbish or perhaps the miserable illiterate population. Young children carrying guns and swords clearly indicates the trend of child soldiers, and the upbringing of a ruthless generation…

Oh, what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder that roared out a warnin’,
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world,
I heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’,
I heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’,
I heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’,
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter,
I heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley,
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard,
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

To me the start of the stanza is too eerily related to the bomb. Then comes the line about “ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin”. I personally take this as Dylan’s protest to God. There are thousands praying to Him, but he has turned a deaf ear to the sinful race. The next line shows two opposing situations at a same time to differentiate between them and make the listener aware of the suffering going on around him, outside his comfy shelter of a home and a town. The poet who died in a gutter: a person who put down his thoughts to paper and tried to make the world aware of the happenings, just like the narrator who is talking those thoughts, met his ultimate doom. The clown who cried in the alley represents each and every person. We are not always what we like, want or appear to be. No matter how many false hopes you have got, the truth is still there, and its fatal.

Oh, what did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
And who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony,
I met a white man who walked a black dog,
I met a young woman whose body was burning,
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow,
I met one man who was wounded in love,
I met another man who was wounded in hatred,
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard,
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

A young child left to survive with a possible future just as the dead pathetic pony. The mentioning of human being and an animal strangely compares them both, making one muse. A white man walking a black dog. This is perhaps the best put line about racism. A white man is ready to accept and care for a black dog but why doesn’t he behave the same towards a black person? A women’s body burning. The women who weren’t given any rights. For no particular reason, it brings the sculptor of “ Ecstasy of Saint Teresa” to my mind. Read about it in angels and demons. Designed by Bernini, the sculptor shows the saint’s sexual encounter with an angel who brought about a blazing pleasure… Then the part where a girl gives the narrator a rainbow comes. Perhaps the only line that isn’t depressed. He meets a man who’s wounded in love and another is wounded in hatred. You can run away from negative things, but sometimes these are the positive and the nearest things to you that wound you.

And what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
And what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’,
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest dark forest,
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty,
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters,
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison,
And the executioner’s face is always well hidden,
Where hunger is ugly, where the souls are forgotten,
Where black is the color, where none is the number,
And I’ll tell it and speak it and think it and breathe it,
And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it,
And I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’,
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’,
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard,
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

When asked about what he intended to do in the future, the blue eyed son replies that he woul head out of the place before it starts raining. Before everything goes up in flames. He intends on walkin into the deep and dark forests, to get away from everything with himself as his companion. He would head out to where people are many and there wants are many too, but they got nothing. “Where the pellets of poison are flooding their water.” I borrowed a collection of essential Dylan interviews, titled “Dylan on Dylan”. in it, Dylan says:

Q: It’s so impersonal today. You said it’s gonna happen. What’s gonna happen?

Dylan: What’s gonna happen, there’s got to be an explosion of some kind. The hard rain that’s gonna fall. In the last verse when I say,” Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters,” that means all the lies, you know, all the lies that people get told on their radios and in their newspapers. All you’ve to do is think for a minute. They’re trying to take people’s brains away. Which maybe has been done already. I hate to think its been done. All the lies I consider poison.

“And the executioner’s face is always well hidden”. the falsehood is never caught and its the righteous lot that suffers at its hands. What a line. Need I say more? He’d go to a place that’s melancholy and sorrowful with suffering. Where the colour’s black, and racism is at its peak. The narrator will think, meditate and feel all the things there. He’d set an example for everybody and then he’ll vanish. Meet the inevitable. And he will and still knows what he ought to do before he does it. These experiences have changed him.

And here’s is that gem, sung by the living legend. Bob Dylan.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall…

  1. Kathy

    This song was written several months before the Cuban missile crises, and Dylan himself has said that it is not about a nuclear war. The hard rain that’s gonna fall meant that something big was going to happen. It did not mean fallout from a nuclear bomb or as he put it in an interview with Studs Terkel, WFMT (Chicago) May 1963: “No, no, it wasn’t atomic rain. Somebody else thought that too. It’s not atomic rain, it’s just a hard rain. It’s not the fallout rain, it isn’t that at all. I just mean some sort of end that’s just gotta happen which is very easy to see by everybody doesn’t really think about is overlooking it.”

  2. Well I did not happen to come across this interview you just quoted from.
    Well that’s what Dylan is all about I guess. He writes stuff which is appealing to everybody and means different things to different kind of people. I just wrote what I thought it was all about. That, in no way, means that that is exactly what Dylan meant.
    thanks anyways for sharing your knowledge.

  3. But one must not forget that indeed the Cubin Missile Crisis was what pushed this song into existence. Therefore its not pointless to believe that it was what Dylan refers to as the hard rain. Dylan then as you quote, mention that this rain can be anything that’s approaching, for his songs are for all times.

  4. This is so nice i am so touched it.
    Thanks for sharing…

    Pakistani Recipes

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