BOB DYLAN IN PORTUGAL (1985): AN UNPUBLISHED
at the request of the managing editor of the Lisbon journal ColóquioǀLetras, I
reviewed Bob Dylan; Poemas I. For some unknown reason the review
was not published. It now appears in
print, some three decades later, for the first time.]
mid-1980s, to say that Dylan’s 1960s songs brought enormous changes in the
lyrics (and to a lesser extent the music) of the popular song in the United States. They dealt boldly and personally with issues of the broadest political and social import and
as such brought such heady matters to the attention of a huge mass
audience. Drawing from the best
traditions of indigenous national music as exemplified in Woody Guthrie and
Leadbelly (to mention only two of the sacred names), Dylan was able to forge a poetic style exuding, at one and the same time,
anger, impatience, responsibility, concern, and vulnerability.
say, from 1962 to 1969, are represented in
the book under review, a bilingual edition of the lyrics of twenty songs
chosen from eight albums: Bob
Dylan (1962), The Free Wheelin’ Bob
Dylan (1963), The Times They Are A-Changin‘(1964), Another
Side of Bob Dylan (1964), Bringing It
All Back Home (1965), Highway 61
Revisited (1965), Blonde on Blonde
(1966), and John Wesley Harding
(1969). The song-poems selected are among the best known in. the poet’s
entire repertoire, though all of them
come from his first and, in the opinion of many critics, his most creative and therefore most valuable
would be wrong to claim that Dylan’s lyrics are in themselves free-standing
poems of a high order. They are
not. But nor are they valueless as
poetry when divorced from the music that works symbiotically with the words to
create the splendid songs that they often are.
More so than the lyrics of any other contemporary American (or
English) songwriter of his stature and reputation, Dylan’s lyrics reach out to
the reader, whether or not he has memories of the accompanying music running
through his head.
translations in Bob Dylan: Poemas I
follow closely the originals.[i] That’s all to the good. What’s less good, however, is that sometimes the
translations strays, occasionally rather far afield. A line is inexplicably omitted: "Or
you’ll sink like a stone" ("The Times They Are A-Changin’")
or "Howard said there’s only one place
I know" ("Highway 61 Revisited"); a word or phrase gets lost: "you’ve
left" ("It’s All Over Now,
Baby Blue"), "babe" ("Like a Rolling Stone"),
Pill-Box Hat"), "miles" ("Motorpsycho Nightmare") and
"tough" ("Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream"). Oddly, the refrain in "A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall" is truncated with
are mistranslations: "muitas" for "thousand" ("Song to
Woody"), "cortadas" for "broken" and
"engolir" for "drown" ("A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna
Fall"), "destino" for "curse" ("The Times They
.Are A-Changin1"), "região" for "country," "carregou"
for "charged," "acabou" for "laid away" and
"muitas vezes" for "many a dark hour" ("With God on
Our Side"), "nunca mais" for "for a spell"
("Motorpsycho Nightmare"), "criada" for
"waitress" and "em ma situação" for "down the
way" ("Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream"), "tenho as pernas
firmes" for "I’m branded on my feet" ("Mr. Tambourine Man"), "cozinha"
for "streets" and "asilo dos velhos camponeses" for "old folks home" ("Tombstone
Blues"), and "A quinta filha da decima segunda noite" for
"Now the fifth daughter on the twelfth night" ("Highway 61
Revisited") "tuas fichas com
segurança" for "your curfew plugs" and "sob a sua palavra" for "on his parole"
("Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands"), "assaltou urn armazém" for "took a stand" and
"virou muito confusa" for
"was all but straightened out" ("John Wesley Harding"),
and, finally, "desgraça"
for "weakness" ("Drifter’s Escape").
I did not get or understand all the idiomatic expressions employed in the
translations. Nevertheless, I offer this
list in the hope that it will be of help in the future to those in charge of
the next edition of this collection-when and if such an edition is called for,