Bob Dylan: Joker or Thief?


Yesterday's New York Times picked up on an idea that had been floating around the Dylan Pool since late last month: that some lines from Modern Times have been nicked from the 19th century poet Henry Timrod.

"More frailer than the flowers, these precious hours," Dylan sings on "When The Deal Goes Down." Compare to that this line from the Timrod poem "Rhapsody of a Southern Winter Night": A round of precious hours/Oh! here, where in that summer noon I basked/And strove, with logic frailer than the flowers."

At least six such other similarities exist. Of course, this isn't the first time Dylan has been accused of borrowing lines from existing works. His last album, 2001's Modern Times, took many lines from Japanese author Junichi Saga's Confessions Of A Yakuza. In fact, an entire web page exists that matches Dylan lyrics to old movies and TV shows. Empire Burlesque, Dylan's 1985 album, is littered with old Bogart lines. So where do you stand: Is Dylan a lyric thief, or just part of some grand literary tradition of appropriation?

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