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Walt Whitman Gone Wild

Whitman and Bob Dylan

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Bob Dylan is considered to be one the great musician songwriters in music of all time and has been noted to cite Walt Whitman as one of many influences that inspire him to create his unique brand of folk rock music. Bob Dylan recently wrote a song called “Cross the Green Mountain” for the soundtrack for “Gods and Generals,” a movie about the Civil War, which was also a re-occurring theme in many of Whitman’s poems. The song is directly influenced by the poem “Come Through the Field Father” written by Walt Whitman in 1900 and was apart of the final rendition of the “Leaves of Grass.”

            In the song “Cross the Green Mountain” Dylan lyrics are mostly about the Civil War in the general sense and also is about the assignation of Abraham Lincoln. “Come Through the Field, Father” also, touches base on the same topics. There is one verse in particular in Dylan’s song which he writes, “a letter to mother came today gunshot wound to the breast is what it did say but he’ll be better soon, he’s in a hospital bed but he’ll never be better he’s already dead.” Dylan in this verse is writing about Lincoln’s death and is very comparable to Whitman’s portrayal of the event in “Come Through the Fields, Father” in which that poem reads, “O a strange hand writes for our dear so O stricken mother's soul! All swims before her eyes flashes with black she catches the main words only; Sentences broke gun shot wound in the breast, cavalry skirmish, taken to hospital, At present low, but will soon be better. See, dearest mother, the letter says Pete will soon be better. Alas, poor boy, he will never be better, nor maybe needs to be better, that brave and simple soul; While they stand at home at the door, he is dead already.” It is quite evident influence this piece of poetry had on Dylan’s verse and the song as a whole.

I think it’s pretty interesting that Dylan used one of Whitman’s poems as source of inspiration for one of his songs, because in Dylan’s own right is considered to be one of the great songwriter’s of his time. The same can be said for Whiteman in regards of stature in poetry. I think the way Dylan incorporated “Come Through the Field” into song is really paying homage to a man who he credits of being a huge influence on his own career and because of the nature of the song to the film is also very fitting.



This verse is directly from the Poem, "Come through the field, Father!"

A letter to mother came today

Gunshot wound to the breast is what it did say

But he'll be better soon, he's in a hospital bed

But he'll never be better - he's already dead

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BOB DYLAN-CROSS THE GREEN MOUNTAIN MUSIC VIDEO


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