Shelter From the Storm

Album: Blood on the Tracks (1975)
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  • Lyrics
  • This song expresses the sadness of not knowing what you have until it's gone: "Now there's a wall between us, something there's been lost/I took too much for granted, got my signals crossed/Just to think that it all began on a long-forgotten morn/'Come in,' she said, 'I'll give you shelter from the storm.'" It's likely that Dylan wrote this about his soon to be ex-wife, Sara Dylan. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    adam - evanston, IL
  • Dylan wrote this with only three chords and a simple melody. It started out as a song called "Up To Me," which Roger McGuinn recorded in 1976.
  • Dylan got the title from a line in Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Who'll Stop The Rain?": "I went down Virginia, seekin' shelter from the storm..." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Greg - Calgary, United States
  • This appears on the Jerry McGuire Soundtrack.
  • Dylan wrote the material for Blood on the Tracks while he was dealing with his impending divorce from Sara Dylan.
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Comments: 58

  • Matthew from Devon, England (manchester U.k. Born)I had read all the comments and all are valid, however I thought it was also refering to the Vietnam War? I may be way off the mark but I guess he could also be using allegory? Anyone add this? I know it's the wrong decade but still referencing back to what some soldiers were experiencing with prostitutes etc? There are lots of references to being blown up and the such like.
  • Th from ?It seems more likely to me that Dylan's Shelter From the Storm was influenced by Harry Kemp than Creedance Clearwatewr. "Harry Kemp was an American poet and prose writer of the twentieth century. He was known as (and promoted himself as) "the "Vagabond Poet, the Villon of America, the Hobo Poet, or the Tramp Poet," and was a well-known popular literary figure of his era, the "hero of adolescent Americans." (Poem Hunter site). His poem A Tramps Confession is posted below. It is a gritty and realistic poem that deals with a vagabond who takes refuge in a mission during a storm and seeks forgiveness from Jesus for lying that he is a believer in order to seek shelter.
  • Th from ?A Tramp's Confession
    (From "The Cry of Youth")

    By Harry Kemp

    (A young American poet who has wandered over the world as sailor, harvest hand and tramp; born 1883)

    WE huddled in the mission
    Fer it was cold outside,
    An' listened to the preacher
    Tell of the Crucified;

    Without, a sleety drizzle 5
    Cut deep each ragged form,—
    An' so we stood the talkin'
    Fer shelter from the storm

    They sang of God an' angels,
    An' heaven's eternal joy, 10
    An' things I stopped believin'
    When I was still a boy;

    They spoke of good an' evil,
    An' offered savin' grace—
    An' some showed love for mankin' 15
    A-shinin' in their face,

    An' some their graft was workin'
    The same as me an' you:
    But most was urgin' on us
    Wot they believed was true. 20

    We sang an' dozed an' listened,
    But only feared, us men,
    The time when, service over,
    We'd have to mooch again

    An' walk the icy pavements 25
    An' breast the snowstorm gray
    Till the saloons was opened
    An' there was hints of day.

    So, when they called out "Sinners,
    Won't you come!" I came … 30
    But in my face was pallor
    And in my heart was shame …
    An' so forgive me, Jesus,
    Fer mockin' of thy name—

    Fer I was cold an' hungry! 35
    They gave me grub an' bed
    After I kneeled there with them
    An' many prayers was said.

    An' so fergive me, Jesus,
    I didn't mean no harm— 40
    An' outside it was zero,
    An' inside it was warm.…

    Yes, I was cold an' hungry,—
    An', O Thou Crucified,
    Thou friend of all the Lowly, 45
    Fergive the lie I lied!
  • Denis from BrazilI believe that in the mid 70's Bob Dylan was in conflict with his religious beliefs and, in fact, in the final 70's he converted to Christianity.
    I think the song tell us about his feelings by that time specially related to judaism.
  • Lupe from Hayward, CaBob Dylan is first and foremost a poet. His lyrics are poetry. He made the first name of a 20th century poet (Dylan Thomas) his own. Like all poets he expresses himself in vivid (and often disparate) imagery. He uses rhyme but just as often uses blank verse and free form. His themes and allusions run the gamut from Biblical to historical to literary. I don't know for a fact but I'm certain he read the Romantics such as Coleridge, Byron, Shelley and William Blake. I'm sure he read the 19th century European poets, and especially Rimbaud. So when Bob Dylan says he just writes the stuff, that he doesn't know what it means, he's not being coy with us; he writes in the tradition of the great poets of the past, ie. he writes almost in a trance and transcribes what he "sees" in his mind into poetry (and into lyrics). There's an interesting scene in the Bob Dylan documentary "Don't Look Back", where he's sitting in his hotel room (Joan Baez is in the room with him) and he seems to be oblivious to everything except for the writing that he's doing on his typewriter, just pounding away almost without pause to think out what he wants to write. Which is not to say that he hasn't an idea what he wants to say. In "Shelter From The Storm", he's writing about his wife, Sara Lownds. Tom from Manchester (below) makes a good case for this. Dylan takes this basic idea and just lets the poet in him take over; and we get "Shelter From the Storm".
    Sorry for this long-winded explanation, but there it is.
  • Terry from Houston, TxThis song is about remembering what all was important and has ow been lost. Him talking about beeing on a hilltop village and people gambling for his clothes, as well as saying that she took of his crown of thorns, is relating to the death of Jesus Christ, and then saying how she saved him from it. Also a bargain for salvation, and they gave e a lethal dose is also an illusion to Christianity.
    When he says If only i could turn back the clock to the day God and her were born, signifies the importance he now sees in her after she is lost. He says
    that she was his most important idol who he worshiped more than God.
    The preacher, deputy and the undertaker, all represent death and what has been lost. The phrase, "its doom alone that counts" is him saying that everything comes to and end no matter how great.
    Many of the other references, such as old men with broken teeth stranded without love, are, in my opinion, simply references to hi nomadic style of life and seeing the people that he now relate with due to there loss. This also shows however that life goes on. HE mentions Newborn babies moaning just before the old men stranded without love, possibly showing how life goes on and he will be a le to make it through his loss.
  • Jim from West Palm Beach, FlNo, it's not about drugs. Maybe relationships that didn't work out. Just a long, tangled road we travel in life. Dylan had some good insightful tunes at this period. The original on the album is at a slower tempo.
  • Robert from Boise, IdYesterday for some reason the line from Poe's Raven:"Quoth the Raven: nevermore" Immediately I thought of Bob's line: "Come in, she said, I'll give you shelter from the storm. The meanings are different of course but they both seem to have the same spooky quality to them. Both iambic pentameter too.
  • Dave from Warren, PaThis song I believe is about Heroin or any other drug that can get your mind off the rush of being a star. Bob experimented with these drugs and I think of this song when I think of Jerry Garcia and how he used Heroin to get shelter from the craziness it is to be a mega star. It takes a toll on people that aren't prepared to deal with the daily stress of not having a normal life.
  • Adam from Sacramento, CaDylan captures images that give you a feeling about an idea, and many of his lines are there simply to help give that feeling and have no other meaning, even if some images are borrowed from other works. I don’t think he is talking about religion or war per se. This song reminds me of Poe’s lamenting question: “Is there no balm in Gilead?”

    I believe the she in the song is “love,” and I think it quite likely that to him love was represented by a particular woman, such as his first wife as many here have said. The storm is the toil and trouble man creates and experiences; conflict, cruelty, and injustice. In the song, he experiences different periods of hardship. In the first, he had not yet defined himself as a person. She showed him love or kindness and that left its mark upon him. In the second verse, despite the raging storm, he wants to be a better man, at least in regards to her; it is a debt, but one of gratitude and freely accepted. With this woman, it was not necessary to hash out all the details of what went before; there was simply acceptance. The fourth verse seems to be about being on the road, and just another example of her easing his troubled mind and soul. It leads into the fifth verse where he finds her still there for him, bright and shining. The crown of thorns strikes me as a metaphor for self-inflicted burdens or problems, such as being a victim or martyr (drugs?), to show him that his life didn’t have to be like that. Up to now, we have seen that she saved him over and over; she was always his salvation. Then he messed up in verse six and lost her. The “she” calling him in the next three verses are death, loneliness and hopelessness. History is full of people gambling for the possessions of one whom is condemned. The final verse says that he is very far from home and wishes that he could go back to a time when his angel was there for him.
  • Paul from Blackpool, United KingdomDylan during this album would change his viewpoint in a song from "him" to "me", his ideas and images seem to come from all over, he adopts different characters, it all becomes a very beguiling melting pot, but i think there is always a central idea to his songs. This one strikes a chord with so many people because it's about losing the one safe and beautiful haven in your life. To throw another thought in just to add to the confusion - Joni Mitchell wears silver bracelets on her wrists.
  • Harvey from Hartford, CtThis song has three levels.
    1. Simply a man who is struggling through his life experience- maybe during a difficult time
    2. The obvious reflection on Christ and his suffering - thorns, etc.
    3. Statue of Liberty - "Come in she said I'll give you shelter from the storm" There are obvious references in the song to freedom and expectations many people had for moving from terrible conditions to what they percieved as liberty.
  • Craig from San Diego, CaBOT is Dylan's best work ever (IMHO).
    I had just hitch-hiked 10,000 miles around the
    USA, Canada, and the far north when this
    album came out and I could sure relate to
    its nomadic tones.
    An awesome work from an awesome artist.
  • Peter from Chicago, IlLike any great writer the song is likely to be about a number of things simultaneously.

    I'm thinking likely all the following:
    His wife,his new lover?,his jewish heritage and his new interest in christian faith?
  • R.h. from Pauls Valley, OkTom from NH- You are absolutely on the money. Dylan wrote and produced "Blood on the Tracks" during he and Sara's bitter break-up (they dicorced in '77) and most of the songs on this album are about Sara Lownds. If you haven't read Dylan's book "Chronicle: Volume One" you definitely should. Thanks Tom.
  • Henry from Baltimore, MdI love the way he changed this in Hard Rain. That riff that's played works well with the way Bob singing.
  • Josh from Westborough, MaDylan said a lot of things. I've seen many interviews with him and he never makes any sense. He contradicts himself, he goes completely off topic, and speaks gibberish sometimes. Let me tell you - the greatest lyricist of all time doesn't just write down what comes to mind. He knows what he's talking about. He's a legend and a genius.
  • Brandon from Lodi, WiI respect your theoris the are each very interesting this shows everyones different point of veiws. remember dylans just an ordinary man with a fine gift frome God. There realy is no great meaning to this song.
  • Brandon from Lodi, Wiyou guys are giving dylan to mutch credit this song is just a song, there are a few vague meanings but only small ones that he accedently thought of while writing an abstract song with a good tune. Like dylan said there is no meaning to what he writes he dosent think about what he writes, he just putes down whatever comes to mind. If you write songs you will know what im talking about.
  • Al from Edinburgh, United KingdomThere seems to be a lot of analysis here of individual lines and sentiments in order to uncover a truer meaning of what Dylan is singing about in this song.

    Personally I don't believe Dylan is one for neatly arranging lots of coherent metaphors and close-fitting imagery to convey one particular point, or a particular story. Generally I think he tended to bring together a multitude of various and far-reaching images to convey a particular feeling instead. The way he expresses himself is beautiful, but rarely coherent. This song demonstrates the point aptly.

    Any man who has ever found himself weary and tired in life, at his lowest ebb, only to be confronted with kindness and warmth by a woman, will identify the feeling of this song immediately. Especially if he has not fully appreciated her kindness at the time, and the magic of it hits him only after it has gone.

    I think the second comment at the top of the page by Adam in Evanstown expresses the point of the song perfectly.
  • Jules from Paris, FranceThe song is for me a work of art,what it means to me or you or dylan is like dna its all related but infinite in its possibilties The lyrics for me are about the black virgin of rocamadour. a wooden statue venerated during the middle ages... and the streets were full of mud.. heretics like the cathars or protestants on forced pilgrimage. i like the way the song fits for me, except the bit about the futile horn, so i hear feudal horn instead.
    everytime i listen, like listen the meaning blends in all shapes so i bring them back to the black virgin of rocamadour and start again.
  • Kenny from Clydebank, ScotlandOne of his best. After the storms and trials of life, she gives him shelter from the.... madness.
  • Susan from St Paul, Mn okay, i could be 100% wrong here, but i had just finished reading a book about a man who had survived several concentration camps,escapes, joining the russian partide (though he was not russian). i was struck when listening to the song how it seemed to comment on the book that i had just read.(defy the darkness by joe rosenbloom)
    it kind of sounds as if he is speaking about christ to co-relate it to the suffering of the jews in world war 2. they did dye in the name of christ. christ himself was is jew.dylan is a jew born in 1941.his family couldn't have been in the u.s. much earlier than 1880, and probably closer to 1910-1930.
    WOW, if that were me, i think i'd feel like i had made a narrow escape from the nazis. amazingly, he had like 3-5 uncles in the u.s. who served during the war and none were killed.i wonder about his relatives and his mother and father's frinds still in russia and turkey(?). he mentioned it impersonally in one of his books with a couple sentences,like it's not much of an issue. me, i'd have (and have had) nightmares.
    i think that those circumstances could qualify him as a tortured soul. i can't help thinking that the near extinction of himself, and his people on both his mother and his father's side had to effect him in some(maybe profound)way.i suspect that his mother, father and his uncles were deeply effected by this for most of his childhood. i also speculate that dylan would have had some (maybe a lot) of awareness of this as a child,and, if so, it had to have contributed to his thought process in some way.
    well, it would take too long for me to go line by line and explain the co-relation to events,circumstances,and feelings expressed in that book regarding the holocaust, but if anyone reads or has read the book, please post a comment regarding this.
    P.S. he does say "t'was in another lifetime,one of toil and blood,when blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud. i came in from the wilderness(russian partide)a creature void of form..." (the jews were,and needed to be, void of form & identity)"in a world of steel-eyed death and men who are fighting to be warm..."
  • Scott from Littleton, CoHer name is Mercy. She offers salvation from death and pride. 1st Stanza: He remembers his life before Mercy. 2nd Stanza: He vows to repay her. 3rd Stanza: All his own efforts for comfort were for naught. 4th: He is abused by the world. 5th: She takes his false crown and he is no longer his own king. 6th: He stumbles and is welcomed back. 7th: Some lives are harder than others but death is certain for all. 8th: He shares his secret with another. 9th: He tries to get salvation on his own terms but it requires his life. 10th: He is a foreigner on Earth but will soon return home. I don't know of a better allegory for the Christian doctine of salvation. Inspired!
  • William from Pensacola, FlI came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form........

    This song, like SO many of Bob's, communicates(at least on one level) the trials and confusion with being an immortal entity(soul) stuck in a carnal world/universe.

    'In a little hilltop village' (Olympus - very Dylan-esque non-chalance with theistic metaphor) 'they gambled for my clothes' ( A soul's clothes would be the carnal body - flesh,bones) 'I bargained for salvation' (asks to be free - not a pawn)and they gave me a lethal dose (only way to be free is to be without carnal substance)

    Look at lots of other Dylan songs with this soul/body dichotomy in mind. New meanings stand out!!
  • Andrew from Cleveland, Ohwell heres the deal...and dont bash me for this because we can all have our opinions...i seem to think that the song could be about God HERself...yes i said it...whether dylan did this intentionally or not we may never know, but why couldnt it be about God being a woman? like all this is going on, and then God simply says "come in, ill give ya shelter from the storm." i dont know i got nothing...to hell with it its probably about his wife haha...i tried...
  • Marie from Shangri-la, ScJeroen, thank you for your BEAUTIFUL comment about Shelter from the storm. SO to the point on this song!
  • Jeroen from Antwerpen, BelgiumThere are some very nice things said about this song here on the forum and I'm happy to read so much about this piece. I'd like to add how I understand this masterpiece. In my eyes it's the absolute best song of popular music. The lyrics are of such beauty they might deserve a nobelprize. Every sentence is not only very elegantly phrased but also perfectly describes absolute fundamental human emotions. Everyone needs shelter, security, understanding, warmth... That is what you call "home", "love", "God",...

    I think all previous interpretations are possible but it's always the same theme: being saved, being relieved, being protected,... This emotion is what people find in everything that's "good": religion, love, family, real friendship, ... even drugs (although it gives it a litle bitter side and I feel the song like about an absolute good feeling). It's more a question of personal experience how you give meaning to the lyrics (but the biblical reference is obvious). Love and religion are closely connected.

    I interpret the song as about a lost true love due to being unable to focus on the important things (signals crossed), like the loss of innocence. In retrospective (years after the relation) the song seems to be perfectly describing this situation: the bittersweet feeling of a fantastic memory.

    The feeling you get when experiencing true love is really the feeling of getting shelter. Outside the battle is raging everyday (steal-eyed death and man who are fighting to survive...) but having the feeling to absolutely rely on something is nearly religious. True love is also something that just happens suddenly (silver bracelets...) but like always time kills. Even true love gets "regular","for granted",... and makes you move to new experiences. And in the end "there's a wall between" and the obvious suddenly seems gone forever. You'll move in to new situations but "you're bound to cross the line". The risk is to never have this thing and to strand without love. But as long as you've experienced this you've got the memory and you might be hopefull to "make it yours" someday.

    I interpret "the one-eyed undertaker..." as follows. People with one eye haven't got depth-view. They only see two dimensions to exagerate a little. In everyday -live -outside -intimacy these things/people blow the horn. Undertakers are (in my expreience) typically of those one-eyed types.

    Time passes and makes victimes, scars, and separates ways. In the mean time what happens now is mostly ugly, violent, bad, unmeaningful,... Only sometimes you experience these true moments. In a way thinking about all the good you've left makes you kind of sad... Like the place that's always safe and warm is gone.

    According to me this song is really about the most important things life is about. (including the mistakes).

    You never know what you've got till it's gone...
  • Parker from Boulder, CoThe verse saying, 'If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born' could be a reference to how she is Lilith, the woman claimed to have come before Eve. Lilith is considered a demon and also a succubus for men to hide behind (Come In, she said, I'll give you shelter from the storm). Lilith also participated in the temptations of Adam and Eve, being Adams first wife
  • Tammy from Pittsburgh, PaEverytime I hear this song I am deeply moved by the lyrics. As a follower of the Pagan beliefs to me the "her" he speaks of is the Goddess."Twas in another lifetime" could mean previous life reincarnation or simply in ancient history when life was very rustic (ie, Pre-christian era). Most mythologies portray at least one goddess figure as the mother, protector, comforter figure. It makes sense that She would provide shelter from the storm.

    In the second verse he talks about if I pass this way again this could be another reference to reincarnation The world of stealeyed deafened men could realisticly describe almost any era in history. In the pre-christian era the Romans, Vikings, and many other groupd faught regularly for the sole purpose of conquest, In early christian times there were religious and holy wars being faught over who's beliefs were right and who's were wrong in modern times we can go through revolutions, civil wars, more religious and civil rights conflicts, world wars, vietnam, and even our current war.
    The third verse speaking about how nothing in his life had changed by finding or coming to her but that he somehow felt comforted. Regardless, of our religious beliefs if you have ever gone to your diety of choice in pray you may have experienced that comforted feeling before even though the issue was unresolved.

    The next verse mentions him turning around and she was there in silver bracelets and flowers in her hair. Most pagans view the goddess figures as having three forms maiden, mother and crone. The maiden would be the form that is typically depicted as having flowers in her hair and taking away pain and misfortune. On another level at this time in history goddess worshippers were becoming scarce because of the onslaught of the christian religion. Areas like ireland that were invaded by the early christians their priest relizing that getting many of the country folk (pagani was an old term used to describe the rural population at that time) to give up many of their time honored tradition around Harvest festivals and the gods and goddesses they worshiped. Christianity being a predoninantly male driven belief system relegated the role of their goddesses to supporting roles in the belief system. This is where you see the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdelan and later St. Brigid come into the christian religion. Mary Magdalen was said to have cared for Jesus in his final hours providing him comfort in his hours of need. The following verse could be a reference to the onslaught of Christianity wiping out the religious beliefs of the local areas building a wall between the old ways and the new beliefs.

    The verse that says "the deputy walks on hot nails and the preacher rides a mount....nothing really matters it's doom alone that counts and the one-eyed undertaker,He blows a futile horn"
    could be a referrece to the Inquisition and that time in history when the christian church was trying to eradicate the world of all other religions through torture and death. During this time it became popular to lable goddess worshipers as "witches" and to burn them at the stake or inflict other cruel punishment on them for their beliefs.

    The verse where he says "do I understand your question, Man? Is just a reminder that having faith or belief is not going to fix your life and make everything perfect but it will give you a place to turn for comfort.

    The last two verses to me are a reminder how we often repeat the same cycles in time. We moved past the inquisition and the wall was built again only to have it resurface when the colonies were established in the form of the Salem witch trials and other similar incidents that happened around the world at the time.

    I think that is what makes this song so great is that it means something profound and personal to everyone who hears it. We all see or hear things differently and that is what makes us unique.








  • Tom from Manchester, NhBob Dylan wrote this song about his wife Sara Lownds. He was going through a difficut time with her when he wrote it. He is saying she was the shelter from the storm. When he fell in love with Sara he was at the height of his popularity and was exausted from traveling (burned out on the trail) He was also sought after by hangers on and fans (hunted like a crocadile) The one eyed undertaker is the train/transportation that always takes him away from Sara, he was traveling all the time. The little hill top villiage is where they were living in New York after his motorcyle accident. He was hounded by fans who would not let him lead a normal life. The line I seen old men with broaken teeth stranded without love is a referece to Sara Lownds first husband who was a much older man when he and Sara were married. Sara left/stranded him when she met Dylan. The new born babys wailing like a morning dove is the referece to the 4 children they had together. I think this song was clearly written about his marrige to Sara Lownds. She was Bobs shelter from the storm.
  • Dan from Los Angeles, CaIn addition to the obvious references to Christ ("in a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes," "took my crown of thorns," "if I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born," etc.), "shelter from the storm" comes Isaiah 25:4:

    "You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall and like the heat of the desert.?
  • Dan from Lee, NhThis album rocks. I like Idiot Wind and Tangled Up In Blue from it too.
  • Mark from Lancashire, EuropeHearing this song on the Jerry Maguire soundtrack was my introduction to Bob Dylan, and it's interesting to read these comments.
    To me, the song is about drugs - specifically heroin, which I interpret to be the 'she' in the lyrics. And like several people have said, the voice is that of an American soldier in Vietnam - possibly a dead one?
    The one-eyed undertaker would be a syringe, the crown of thorns would be the burden of an addiction to the drug. 'She' is described as appearing with 'silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair' - an obscure reference to the feeling of beauty and euphoria associated with taking heroin. 'She' offers refuge from the horror of war, the poison in the bushes etc. - as heroin did for many soldiers during that war. Of course it's a subjective thing, and I believe that Dylan purposefully wrote the lyrics to be ambiguous - indeed, they probably have multiple meanings to him aswell.
  • Sebastian from Munich, Germanyi think Eryoko wrote some really clever things...poison in the bushes and agent orange never came to this idea! but sounds to be right! all the ones that were leaving a comment on this -exepting the mary j fans- agreed that there are a lot of biblical references.
    vietnam and the misunderstood messias are two things that symbolize a dangerous environment, that makes one need shelter...
    i just still dont know if the "shelter" is women or drugs????
  • Joe from Mesa, AzI think this song is a brillent telling of how true love lost leaves no bitterness at times, just thankfulness in the reflection that you ever held it. Dylan's words sum up a dark picture of the world with one speck of light being the she that gives him shelter from the storm. i believe that sara is diffinatly the she, as dylan was analyzing and walking the lines of relationships and the charged emotions they leave when one person is still in love with someone who's not in love with them.
  • Jack from Winston-salem, NcThe Odyssey
  • Amanda from Chicago, IlLike some people have stated, there can be many intrepretations of this song (and many of Dylan's songs for that matter). But it is not stupid to suggest that drugs are a part of the song. After all, look at the time era. Not to mention the lyrics to "Mr. Tambourine Man" alude to taking drugs, so I would not put it past Mr. Dylan in this particular song.

    I also have to mention that "crown of thorns" is a biblical reference; however, it has become a popular saying that not only Christians use but non-Christians. A crown of thorns just means your own particular burden or problem.

    I definitely enjoy everyone's comments and interpretations of the songs. That's what makes Mr. Dylan such a great artist--he transcends time and cultures and has everyone thinking on their own.
  • Eryoko from Cleveland, OrThe one eyed undertaker is opium. The subject is a soldier/soldiers, in the VietNam war, hence the foreign country, the "hail" (gunfire), the poison in the bushes (Agent Orange?) and being "hunted". The woman is drugs. He "bargained for salvation and she gave me a lethal dose". Drugs were an escape but in the end they are not. "Offered up my innocence and got repaid with scorn" (as did Vietnam Vets). Lots of references to Christ. Dylan's best work.
  • Anastasia from Anaheim, Caps- although i once heard something about the lady being a harlot or something...
  • Anastasia from Anaheim, Caplease don't disrespect mr. dylan's intelligence by saying that this is a song about mary j...this song brings tears to my eyes...i don't know why...
  • Steve from Highland, MiI have heard that this song is about buddha, because of the relative linking between the lyrics and buddhas own experiences.
  • Tuna from Acapulco, NmThe "One-Eyed Undertaker" is clearly a reference to Bakuu-Met, the one-eyed Persian God of death and dying. The "futile horn" is a metaphor for reaping what one sews. I hope that clears a few things up.
  • Sebastian from Munich, GermanyRead the lyrics again!
    dylan writes about what his ex-wife meant to him.

    he ist feeling like someone who is a stranger to his environment, he feels misunderstood by all the others. thats why he is "hunted like a crocodile" just like jesus ("in a little hilltop village" wich jerusalem is" they gambled for my clothes" like the guards did for jesuses clothes/ "suddenly she turned around and took my crown of thornes" jesus had a crown of thornes). the woman he ist talking about is the only thing that makes him forget about all of this and gives im a confortable feeling ("safe and warm"). thats why she means so much to him. this is the only way this makes sense to me. i think this is one of the best songs dylan wrote. he missed his wife. he might be still missing her.
  • Humpfrey from Old Port, Dcwould it be stupid to suggest that dylan is talking about marijuana in this song, cross the i's and dot the t's ;), and it makes perfect sense to me
  • Emily from Brighton (uk), EnglandI agree that Dylan most probably wrote the song not fully realising its specific meaning (unconciously). However i believe it is about someones experiance with a prostitute. The shelter from the storm is the physical comfort she offers, however he 'got my signals crossed' because he came 2 involved. I constantly refers to a desire to be warm which fits with th ephysical comfort and he will 'always do my best for her' she is not spiritual in reality she is a poor prostitute. He puts her on a pedestal and 'offered up my innocence'. Just the way i see it, was suprised no one else picked up on it.
  • Tucker from Chattanooga, VtBob Dylan Once said, when commenting on one of his concerts, "its going to move pretty fast, and you might not even hear the right words, and don't you come asking me what my songs mean, because I dont know what they mean, I just write the songs." Or something along those lines, but what I mean is, Bob Dylan is the master of melodic communication, beacause there are ten thousand meanings in each of his songs, and the listener will find the one they are looking for, and fall in love with the message. Bob Dyaln does not write to tell, he writes for others to discover themselves.
  • Kaijai from Brisbane, AustraliaThe one eyed undertaker is a euphemism for death or death from a gun.
  • Blind Boy Grunt from Anywhere, LaInteresting to get the perspective of a Jewish person. Thanks. Bob himself was raised in a Jewish family. Peace.
  • Michael from Harlem, NyHow interesting that it is seen as Christian . . . One Jew's view: I connect it to the story in Judges 4:17-20 (Hebrew Bible), where the defeated general Sisera, who is running for his life, seeks shelter from the woman Yael. She says: Come in to my tent. Don't be afraid. (Do you sense it will end badly?!?) He asks for water. She gives him milk. He falls asleep, and she stabs him with a tent peg (!)

    "I offered up my innocence, got repaid with scorn."

    "I bargained for salvation and she gave me a lethal dose."

    I think Sisera could relate!
  • Blind Boy Grunt from Anywhere, LaThis song, as is the album in general, is definitely about his divorce and the pain it caused him to endure. I read somewhere that in response to somebody telling Bob how much they enjoyed Blood On the Tracks, he said something along the lines of "How can you enjoy something filled with so much pain?"
  • Clapton from San Fran , CaJust for the record "By one more journey to the woods, The holes where spirits hide. It's a never-ending battle, For a peace that's always torn.", was not in the original version appearing on blood on the tracks. I have the version that includes this, and im not sure where its from. Yet it was not part of the original lyrics.
  • Colin from Glen Rock, NjThere is no doubt that this song has to do with Dylan's relationship with Christ and his wife. It encompasses both by talking about friendship. He tells of the triumph and woes of making and loosing friends. It is a convoluted comparison that even he can't explain.
  • Jeremy from Albany, Gaif this song is about his ex-wife, thats fine. but not to look to deep into it, its simply about finding the perfect woman. a woman that is not prejudiced, that the moment you see her, you know she is the one. dylan is only saying that when this woman is found nothing else matters
  • Evan from Memphis, TnI think the song is about Sara Dylan, it was written during their divorce and all the lyrics can be related to his search for love and how she redeemed him and made him a simpler man for a short time.
  • Mike from College Station, TxI do not know that I would automatically assume that the song is about Christ simply because there are clearly Christological allusions.

    If we are to take Erica's view that ego is indeed talking about the Vietnam war, then I think that the one eyed undertaker is a gun, and the futility is of the killing in war.

    Alternitively, I think it is conceivable that the one eyed undertaker is phallic in nature.
  • Erica from Ericaville, CanadaHere's what I think: I think the "she" in the song is the Virgin Mary. I think the speaker is a Vietnam vet. I can't figure out who the one-eyed undertaker is, though.

    "But I'm livin' in a foreign country,
    But I'm bound to cross the line."
    AND

    "By one more journey to the woods,
    The holes where spirits hide.
    It's a never-ending battle,
    For a peace that's always torn."

    AND
    "I was burned-out from exhaustion,
    Buried in the hail.
    Poisoned in the bushes,
    And blown-out on the trail.
    Hunted like a crocodile,"
  • Glenn from Dunedin, New ZealandYour summary is rubbish! On the surface it maybe OK.
    But even I as an atheist, found it hard to miss the references to Christ: "crown of thorns", "in a little hill top village they gambled for my clothes" etc.
    The last verses are questions about, whats after death?, whats life about?, how did Christ survive?
    "Do I understand your question then? Is it hopless and forlorn?" Dylan doesn't provide an answer to any of these questions but a instead has a "shelter from the storm" = faith.
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