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Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream, Moby Dick and the First Thanksgiving



I think I’ll call it America

I said as we hit land

I took a deep breath

I fell down, I could not stand

Captain Arab he started

Writing up some deeds

He said, “Let’s set up a fort

And start buying the place with beads

Just then this cop comes down the street

Crazy as a loon

He throw us all in jail

For carryin’ harpoons


Ah me I busted out

Don’t even ask me how

I went to get some help

I walked by a Guernsey cow

Who directed me down

To the Bowery slums

Where people carried signs around

Saying, “Ban the bums”

I jumped right into line

Sayin’, “I hope that I’m not late

When I realized I hadn’t eaten

For five days straight


I went into a restaurant

Lookin’ for the cook

I told them I was the editor

Of a famous etiquette book

The waitress he was handsome

He wore a powder blue cape

I ordered some suzette, I said

Could you please make that crepe

Just then the whole kitchen exploded

From boilin’ fat

Food was flying everywhere

And I left without my hat


Now, I didn’t mean to be nosy

But I went into a bank

To get some bail for Arab

And all the boys back in the tank

They asked me for some collateral

And I pulled down my pants

They threw me in the alley

When up comes this girl from France

Who invited me to her house

I went, but she had a friend

Who knocked me out

And robbed my boots

And I was on the street again


Well, I rapped upon a house

With the U.S. flag upon display

I said, “Could you help me out

I got some friends down the way

The man says, “Get out of here

I’ll tear you limb from limb

I said, “You know they refused Jesus, too

He said, “You’re not Him

Get out of here before I break your bones

I ain’t your pop

I decided to have him arrested

And I went looking for a cop


I ran right outside

And I hopped inside a cab

I went out the other door

This Englishman said, “Fab

As he saw me leap a hot dog stand

And a chariot that stood

Parked across from a building

Advertising brotherhood

I ran right through the front door

Like a hobo sailor does

But it was just a funeral parlor

And the man asked me who I was


I repeated that my friends

Were all in jail, with a sigh

He gave me his card

He said, “Call me if they die

I shook his hand and said goodbye

Ran out to the street

When a bowling ball came down the road

And knocked me off my feet

A pay phone was ringing

It just about blew my mind

When I picked it up and said hello

This foot came through the line


Well, by this time I was fed up

At tryin’ to make a stab

At bringin’ back any help

For my friends and Captain Arab

I decided to flip a coin

Like either heads or tails

Would let me know if I should go

Back to ship or back to jail

So I hocked my sailor suit

And I got a coin to flip

It came up tails

It rhymed with sails

So I made it back to the ship


Well, I got back and took

The parkin’ ticket off the mast

I was ripping it to shreds

When this coastguard boat went past

They asked me my name

And I said, “Captain Kidd

They believed me but

They wanted to know

What exactly that I did

I said for the Pope of Eruke

I was employed

They let me go right away

They were very paranoid


Well, the last I heard of Arab

He was stuck on a whale

That was married to the deputy

Sheriff of the jail

But the funniest thing was

When I was leavin’ the bay

I saw three ships a-sailin’

They were all heading my way

I asked the captain what his name was

And how come he didn’t drive a truck

He said his name was Columbus

I just said, “Good luck


FROM ISHMAEL/ARHAB TO DYLAN/ACHAB…


Moby-Dick seems to be far more of a poem than it is a novel, and since it is a narrative, to be an epic, a long poem on an heroic theme, rather than the kind of realistic fiction that we know today. Of course Melville did not deliberately set out to write a formal epic; but half-consciously, he drew upon many of the traditional characteristics of epic in order to realize the utterly original kind of novel he needed to write in his time — the spaciousness of theme and subject, the martial atmosphere, the association of these homely and savage materials with universal myths, the symbolic wanderings of the hero, the indispensable strength of such a hero in Captain Ahab.


“Call me Ishmael,” the book begins. This Ishmael is not only a character in the book; he is also the single voice, or rather the single mind, from whose endlessly turning spool of thought the whole story is unwound. It is Ishmael’s contemplativeness, his dreaming, that articulates the wonder of the seas and the fabulousness of the whale and the terrors of the deep. All that can be meditated and summed up and hinted at, as the reflective essence of the story itself, is given us by Ishmael, who possesses nothing but man’s specifically human gift, which is language.


…AND FROM DYLAN TO CAPTAIN KIDD


Captain Kidd (c. 1645 – 23 May 1701), was a Scottish sea captain who was tried and executed in London for murder and piracy.

Kidd had captured a French ship, commanded by an English captain, as a prize. He had been commissioned by the Crown as a privateer for this expedition, but the political climate of England turned against him in this case.

"The Ballad of Captain Kidd" is listed as number 1900 in the Roud Folk Song Index.

The song was printed in Britain in 1701, and it traveled to the colonies almost immediately. Washington Irving's 1824 work Tales of a Traveller makes mention of the song:


"There 's a fine old song about him, all to the tune of —

My name is Captain Kidd,

As I sailed, as I sailed—

And then it tells all about how he gained the Devil's good graces by burying the Bible :

I had the Bible in my hand,

As I sailed, as I sailed,

And I buried it in the sand

As I sailed. —"


The song survived in the oral tradition long enough for it to be recorded from traditional singers.

WHERE IS THE BOWERY? AND GUERNSEY?


New York City is a city of many diverse neighborhoods, from the celebrated to the infamous. And none of them may hold as notorious of a place in the city's history as the Bowery. This stretch of city blocks has acted as a backdrop for everything from New York gangs and horrific poverty to the seeds of the city's punk movementToday, the Bowery is one of the city's sleeker neighborhoods. Packed with trendy hotels, bars, and art galleries, its name is no longer synonymous with grit, gangs, and decline.




“RIDING ON THE MAYFLOWER”

The Mayflower set sail on 16th September 1620 from Plymouth, UK, to voyage to America. But its history and story start long before that. Its passengers were in search of a new life – some seeking religious freedom, others a fresh start in a different land. They would go on to be known as the Pilgrims and influence the future of the United States of America in ways they could never have imagined.


This story isn't just about the Mayflower's passengers though. It's about the people who already lived in America and the enormous effect the arrival of these colonists would have on Native Americans and the land they had called home for centuries. More than 30 million people can trace their ancestry to the 102 passengers and approximately 30 crew aboard the Mayflower when it landed in Massachusetts in the harsh winter of 1620.


On board were men, women and children from different walks of life across England and the city of Leiden in Holland. A significant number were known as Separatists, a group of people who mostly wanted to live a life free from the current Church of England. Others were on the ship for a multitude of reasons – some anticipated the chance to build a better future for their families and the opportunity of new land, while for others the offer of freedom and adventure was too good to turn down.


Then there were the crew themselves, plus the servants and unaccompanied children sent by their families to be looked after by the adults. Importantly, the Pilgrims were not the first to land in America, nor did they discover it of course. There were already established colonies at the time, not least Jamestown – founded in 1607. But the Mayflower story is renowned for its themes of freedom and humanity – including the relationships first formed between the Native American Wampanoag tribe and the colonists and the first Thanksgiving.



Wampanoag means “People of the Light” or “People of the East” or “People of the First Light”. First Light is their gift from the Creator. Wampanoag land has one of the earliest sunrises on the east coast.





The First Thanksgiving 1621 - by jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863-1930) painted between 1912 and 1915


More than any other representation of Thanksgiving, Jean Leon Gerome Ferris’s painting captures the modern, idealised view of English settlers and Native Americans celebrating their first harvest feast in friendship. The celebratory image depicts the superiority of the new arrivals over the locals.


According to the legend, when the first British settlers (mostly Puritans) arrived in North America half of them died of starvation. So, Native Americans taught them how to grow vegetables and other plants that were unknown to Europeans. The Wampanoag helped the Pilgrims obtain food. They taught them to grow crops and showed them the best places to fish. A year later, it is thought that the settlers shared their first harvest with the Native Americans to show them their gratitude. In the painting we can see settlers – who seem to be puritan pilgrims – sharing a meal with Native Americans from the Wampanoag tribe.

It was a common mistake at the time to depict all Indians with feathers when it was something only Plains tribes wore. Plains tribes wore a circle of feathers attached to their back for ceremonies. The Wampanoags did not wear the stereotypical feathered headdresses.


The painting expresses a joyful and peaceful atmosphere. One woman is smoking the peace pipe. However, there is something quite striking or shocking about the whole scene. Indeed, The Indians are sitting down – kneeling down as to beg for food – whereas the settlers are standing up. The Indians are placed on the same footing as the dog – a spaniel (it is known that one arrived on the Mayflower) - and the children. The picture’s message is quite clear: New World men are equal in development to Old World children and animals. The Amerindians are infantilised. It is as if they could not take care of themselves and had to rely on the European settlers.To some extent it can be said that this painting portrays the settlers in a rather positive light. The painting was made in 1915 to legitimize the pilgrims’ behaviour of the past towards the Native Americans, and find justification for the glory of Thanksgiving.







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