I know, again with the Dylan. But I have to share something I found in Oliver Trager's Keys to the Rain: The Definitive Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, one of fifty-five books on Dylan published in the last two hours. One of my favorite Dylan rhymes has always been from the song "Angelina": "I was only following instructions when the judge sent me down the road / With your subpoena / ... Angelina." Turns out that none other than W. S. Gilbert perpetrated the same rhyme in Trial by Jury: "For to-day in this arena / Summoned by a stern subpoena / Edwin, sued by Angelina / Shortly will appear." Which is more unlikely, that this is a total coincidence or that Dylan whiles away his afternoons listening to Gilbert & Sullivan? Correct, the former.
"Angelina," which can be found only on the "official" Bootleg Series Vols. 1-3, is one of Dylan's greatest, spookiest songs. No one has ever been able to say what it really means, but one line after another gently rocks the mind: "It's always been my nature to take chances / My right hand drawing back while my left hand advances ... Do I need your permission to turn the other cheek / If you can read my mind, why must I speak? ... There's a black Mercedes rolling through the combat zone ... I see pieces of men marching, trying to take heaven by force / I can see the unknown rider, I can see the pale white horse ... Beat a path of retreat up them spiral staircases / Past the tree of smoke, past the angel with four faces / Begging God for mercy, weeping in unholy places / Angelina." Apparently the song spooked Dylan himself, for he never touched it after making the recording.
Don't get me started on "The Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar," from the same early-eighties period: "Prayed in the ghetto with my face into the cement / Heard the last moan of the boxer, seen the massacre of the innocent / Felt around for the light switch, became nauseated / Just me and an overweight dancer between walls that have deteriorated..." Kids, don't ever mix coke with the Book of Revelation.
Update: A reader points out that the rhymes in "Angelina" — concertina, hyena, subpoena, Argentina, arena — can all be found in standard rhyming dictionaries. Perhaps it's a coincidence after all. Too bad Dylan couldn't find a way to work in Bosnia-Herzegovina.