Lay Down Your Weary Tune

This little-known 1963 Bob Dylan song popped up in my iPod Shuffle recently. It’s an ecstatic nature poem, vaguely Blake-ian, and I find it most remarkable for its unlikely metaphors, each describing the passage of a day in orchestral terms.

A lesser lyricist would have given us rain for drums and a trumpet for dawn. Leave it to Dylan to dare dawn as drums, seaweed as an organ, rain as trumpet, a tree as a banjo and a river as a harp. This song was recorded for “The Times They Are A-Changin'” and but didn’t make the final cut. It was first released on the collection “Biograph” twenty-two years later, in 1985.

Lay Down Your Weary Tune
by Bob Dylan

Struck by the sounds before the sun
I knew the night had gone
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn

The ocean wild like an organ played
The seaweed wove its strands
The crashing waves like cymbals clashed
Against the rocks and sands

I stood unwound beneath the skies
And clouds unbound by laws
The crying rain like a trumpet sang
And asked for no applause

The last of leaves fell from the trees
And clung to a new love’s breast
The branches bare like a banjo played
To the winds that listened best

I gazed down in the river’s mirror
And watched its winding strum
The water smooth ran like a hymn
And like a harp did hum

Lay down your weary tune, lay down
Lay down the song you strum
And rest yourself beneath the strength of strings
No voice can hope to hum

I also like the verse that ends “and asked for no applause”, which gives the static imagery a mystical and emotional edge.

(Note: as I often do when printing song lyrics as poetry, I delay the repeating chorus until the end of the poem above. I think this helps to show lyrics like these to their best advantage when they are presented in poetic form.)

5 Responses

  1. One of my all-time favorite
    One of my all-time favorite Dylan tunes. It’s also the one I use most often as a counterpoint to the old “Dylan can’t sing” argument. His voice just absolutely soars on this one.

  2. One of my favorites to play
    One of my favorites to play at open mikes.

    See my inspiration to it below:

    By Steve Plonk

    Within “Durty Nelly’s” a local Irish pub

  3. Levi, you’ve got to check out
    Levi, you’ve got to check out The Weakerthans. John K. Samson writes the most hooky lyrics with bizarre images, pretty much the only rival (next to L.Cohen) to the Dylan lyric above. “You are a radio. You are an open door. I am a faulty string of blue christmas lights. You swim through frequencies.You let that stranger in, as I’m blinking off and on and off again.”

  4. “You are the actor,

    “You are the actor,
    Your psyche is the stage,
    Everything is surreal,
    God is the ultimate audience.”

    So tune in to the radio and let
    the channel and wall of sound
    envelope you. Write down your
    tune for all to see.

  5. Hey thanks J Jenkins, I
    Hey thanks J Jenkins, I downloaded some tunes and absolutely love the Weakerthans…great lyrics!

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Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!