Bob Dylan’s ‘Roll On John’

Imagine There’s No Lennon, It’s Easy If You Try
Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try. Shine your light, John Lennon . . . From Dylan’s Tempest song ‘Roll On John’.
Wasn’t no way out of that deep dark cave, Shine your light, move it on, you burn so bright, roll on John

You’ve been cooped up on an island far too long, Shine your light, move it on, you burn so bright, roll on John

Revelation 1:8-10 King James Version (KJV)
8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. 9 I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, 11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. 12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; 13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. 14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. 17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:

18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. 19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; 20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

Yup: I saw it on the Expecting Rain Discussions website (only upon Googling), but, er, only after I’d thought of it myself – Susan Sontag. ‘Roll On John’:
Tyger tyger burnin’ bright I pray the Lord my soul to keep In the forest of the night, cover him over and let him sleep Shine your light, move it on, you burn so bright, roll on John

You may say that John’s a dreamer, but he’s not the only one. I hope some day Bob will join John and the world will live as one hole peace of atheistic ass (riding a new pony into Jerusalem) – at the ringing of them bells on a pale afternoon when the game is through. Michael Gray in Song & Dance Man III p 608:
It may be that the average listener has trouble accepting such a thirsting ‘for justice and compassion here and now’ from someone whose song begins with the combative, divisive and excluding peel Ring them bells ye heathen . . .

Michael rather excludes himself. Yet he says it might still be possible to appreciate the song’s construction as argument and poetry and even the timing of the thrust of the ‘unpalatable message’. Michael on stage 2003, all flushed and overconfident from red wine in the intermission, waggling his finger, quite literally, over Dylan’s evangelistic period:
And was coming out with this really very very nasty stuff. The message was basically, ‘I'm saved and you’re not, ha ha HA!’

At which point he went smugly purple, his outburst eliciting some titters. Pull the hat down, Michael, pull the wool down over your eyes.

Perhaps Michael could kiss and make up with an apocalyptic glowing-eyed Dylan on a pale divisive afternoon? 1 Corinthians 6 in the KJV for those ohso-sensitive to the delicate nuances of bluesy language:
2Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?

Song & Dance Man III p 608 footnote 84: for many Bible quotations are noticed but few are chosen (or many are chosen but few are noticed). As Michael Gray commented in his second edition, you’d never get catch Bob Dylan in bed for peace – not before Victoria’s Secret panties anyway. Shine your light, John. Notwithstanding scholarly issues of the identities of the Johns attached to the Gospel, the epistles and the Book of Revelation in terms of stylistic differences, compare John 1:4-6 New International Version (NIV):
4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it. 6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John.

Hmm, but does the switch really work, Bob? Should we throw another John or two in too? John Milton maybe. John and John; John and William Blake.
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

Call it fearful asymmetry – from a somewhat senile version of the much sharper Infidels Bob Dylan of the supposedly inspirationless Eighties. Serve yourself Paul Kirkman 2012