18 January 2017

When I Hang It Up, Look for This Song to Be the Last Post

You love Bob. I love Bob. This version, performed about fifty years after he wrote it, comes from Frank Sinatra's 80th birthday tribute. Lyrics below:

Restless Farewell

Bob Dylan

Oh, all the money that in my whole life I did spend
Be it mine right or wrongfully
I let it slip gladly to friends
To tie up the time most forcefully
But the bottles are done
We've killed each one
And the table's full and overflowed
And the corner sign
Says it's closing time
So I'll bid farewell and be down the road

Oh, ev'ry girl that ever I've touched
I did not do it harmfully
And ev'ry girl that ever I've hurt
I did not do it knowin'ly
But to remain as friends
You need the time to make amends
And stay behind
And since my feet are now fast
And point away from the past
I'll bid farewell and be down the line

Oh, ev'ry foe that ever I faced
The cause was there before we came
And ev'ry cause that ever I fought
I fought it full without regret or shame
But the dark does die
As the curtain is drawn and somebody's eyes
Must meet the dawn
And if I see the day
I'd only have to stay
So I'll bid farewell in the night and be gone

Oh, ev'ry thought that's strung a knot in my mind
I might go insane if it couldn't be sprung
But it's not to stand naked under unknowin' eyes
It's for myself and my friends my stories are sung
But the time ain't tall
Yet on time you depend and no word is possessed
By no special friend
And though the line is cut
It ain't quite the end
I'll just bid farewell till we meet again

Oh, a false clock tries to tick out my time
To disgrace, distract, and bother me
And the dirt of gossip blows into my face
And the dust of rumors covers me
But if the arrow is straight
And the point is slick
It can pierce through dust no matter how thick
So I'll make my stand
And remain as I am

And bid farewell and not give a damn


Emmett McAuliffe said...

Not "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"?

Rory said...

Hi Tim.

I like Bob Dylan and Frank Sinatra too. But I would have misgivings about such a farewell as that. You are welcome to comment on any meanings I might be missing. That passage about the girls? Is he excusing Frank or himself? In either case, it made me uncomfortable.

I admire Dylan's poetry and story telling gifts but unless I am misunderstanding him, this is not vintage Dylan. And as for that last rhyme, it seems too proud to be held up as good poetry.

I realize he isn't a Traditional Catholic, and perhaps you think I am expecting supernatural charity and humility. I would love to think Dylan and Sinatra are in good shape with God and not just because I wish that for anybody. I like those guys. Anyway, I would not be disappointed if you could correct my apprehensions about the song.



thetimman said...


A worthy choice. Maybe I'll reconsider.

thetimman said...

Rory, good to hear from you! I think my reply will be long. Look for it tomorrow.

NoSurrender.1917 said...

Tim, thank goodness you printed the lyrics. All I heard was " seña hhiya screecvh moan". Hoy would do much batter with Panis Angelicus or Schubert's Ave Maria.

Dinsky7 said...

Are you sure it won't be this song, Timman? https://youtu.be/eyd26ugSYWE

thetimman said...


My apologies, it has been for longer than "tomorrow", but in case you revisit the comments, here you go:

The song is interesting to me as an elegy because it was written by a very young Dylan musing as though he is an old man. The performance in the video is triple ironic, as now Dylan is old singing young Dylan singing old. The original version is more strident.

Young Dylan was not yet converted to Christianity, let alone to the true Church, and though his early work has seeds of all of the later overt Catholicism, it is imperfect. Instead, I am impressed how reflective he was considering he was only 22 or 23 years old.

The song has elements of defiance, but many more elements of resolute strength of good in the face of evil, and nostalgia over his imagined past life. The performance in the video to me-- because the past life is now no longer imagined-- is poignant. But to the lyrics.

The line about the girls he "touched" does not require a meaning of immoral activity, but if it were he is apologizing for it. He has a destiny that cannot be tied down by pleasures of the flesh. And I read the last stanza as a statement that he does not regret doing good, even in the face of gossip.

My favorite stanzas are the first, with the notion that his exploits were made in the service of others, and the stanza about thoughts that tied knots in his mind that he had to spring.

It seems to me the apology of a life imperfectly lived, but well lived. Sorrows and regrets, yes, but in the end he did his best and followed his call.

The elements you cite as problematic are the ones that bear a resemblance to "My Way", and as such are perfect for Frank's birthday. But it is not these elements that predominate.

I liked it.

Rory said...

Hello Tim.

Thank you for your explanation. I was unaware that this was an early song and had presumed otherwise. That makes a difference. I can see what you like about the song too. I am softened and glad to be.

My misgivings about the end of the Restless Farewell are much more about attitude than language. Perhaps one can understand the not giving a damn in terms of human respect? At that age, perhaps God's judgment wasn't even on the table, and his words were prompted by a process which would make him realize later that "everybody must get stoned".

I am glad St. Stephen had words and prayers for his enemies motivated by supernatural principles. But Stephen could not be concerned about what his executioners thought of him. Understandably, an appeal to God for the forgiveness of his opponents is absent. But as the protomartyr must have thought, maybe Dylan is saying of those who disapprove of him, that he just can't care what they think.

Anyway, I enjoyed your analysis and am happy to join you in trying to put the best interpretation on his work.