Planet Waves: Dylan's
Love always sleeps rough, on the ground, with no bed, lying in
doorways and by roads in the open air; sharing his mother's
nature, he always lives in a state of need. On the other hand,
taking after his father, he schemes to get hold of beautiful and
good things. He's brave, impetuous, and intense; a formidable
hunter, always weaving tricks; he desires knowledge and is
resourceful in getting it; a lifelong lover of wisdom; clever at
using magic, drugs and sophistry.1
What happens when you put six men in a room and ask them what love means? No doubt a number of good punch lines might follow, but this was a question asked by Plato some twenty-five hundred years ago in his dialogue The Symposium. A symposium was a Greek drinking party in which the men lay on couches and, following a specific hierarchical order, took turns in singing contests or in discoursing on a subject chosen by the group. The talk was interspersed with music and drinking rituals. One can imagine this discussion with the gang from Cheers or any selection of off-beat intellectuals, say, Norman Mailer, Jack Kerouac, and Bertrand Russell.
Bob Dylan's Planet Waves, like The Symposium, constitutes a set of “discourses” on what love means, each song manifesting a different possibility. Not surprisingly, Plato's tales of the mean
1 Plato, The Symposium (New York: Penguin, 1999), 203d. Hereafter cited par-
enthetically in text.