Bob Dylan, “Ballad In Plain D”


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“Ballad In Plain D”

I once loved a girl, her skin it was bronze
With the innocence of a lamb, she was gentle like a fawn
I courted her proudly, but now she is gone
Gone as the season she’s taken.

In a young summer’s youth, I stole her away
From her mother and sister, though close did they stay
Each one of them suffering from the failures of their day
With strings of guilt they tried hard to guide us.

Of the two sisters, I loved the young
With sensitive instincts, she was the creative one
The constant scrapegoat, she was easily undone
By the jealousy of others around her.

For her parasite sister, I had no respect
Bound by her boredom, her pride to protect
Countless visions of the other she’d reflect
As a crutch for her scenes and her society.

Myself, for what I did, I cannot be excused
The changes I was going through can’t even be used
For the lies that I told her in hopes not to lose
The could-be dream-lover of my lifetime.

With unseen consciousness, I possessed in my grip
A magnificent mantelpiece, though its heart being chipped
Noticing not that I’d already slipped
To a sin of love’s false security.

From silhouetted anger to manufactured peace
Answers of emptiness, voice vacancies
Till the tombstones of damage read me no question but, “Please
What’s wrong and what’s exactly the matter?”

And so it did happen, like it could have been foreseen
The timeless explosion of fantasy’s dream
At the peak of the night, the king and the queen
Tumbled all down into pieces.

“The tragic figure” her sister did shout
“Leave her alone, God damn you, get out”
And I in my armor, turning about
And nailing her in the ruins of her pettiness.

Beneath a bare light bulb the plaster did pound
Her sister and I in a screaming battleground
And she in between, the victim of sound
Soon shattered as a child to the shadows.

All is gone, all is gone, admit it, take flight
I gagged in contradiction, tears blinding my sight
My mind it was mangled, I ran into the night
Leaving all of love’s ashes behind me.

The wind knocks my window, the room it is wet
The words to say I’m sorry, I haven’t found yet
I think of her often and hope whoever she’s met
Will be fully aware of how precious she is.

Ah, my friends from the prison, they ask unto me
“How good, how good does it feel to be free”?
And I answer them most mysteriously
“Are birds free from the chains of the skyway”?

Written by Bob Dylan




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  1. Please explain why on earth you think that “Ballad In Plain D” merits our attention given the vast universe of songs Bob Dylan has produced. This song is a throwaway, one of the only songs Dylan ever said he actually shouldn’t have released (see his interview with Paul Zollo for Song Talk).

  2. From an interview with folk singer Martin Carthy that appeared in Isis about 10 years ago:

    MC: I seriously think he’s only written one truly rotten song…
    MZ: Let me guess. I’d say Ballad In Plain D.
    MC: Absolutely. Ballad In Plain D is a piece of junk.
    MZ: He thinks so as well.
    MC: So I gather. I remember seeing that in an interview. It’s a piece of junk and he knows it’s a piece of junk. I think he knew it fairly soon afterwards. He must’ve done. He said to her: “I’m gonna get you in a song.” And he didn’t. He missed by a fucking mile. It’s nice he acknowledged it. We’ve all done stupid things in our lives, and probably the first rule is to acknowledge it.

  3. I am baffled by MC’s hatred of the song, and Brett’s backhanded compliment via his hatred of “To Ramona”. IMHO they are both good songs on a great album, Another Side of Bob Dylan. I mean, I never knew anything about the back story of the song, or who it’s about; I just take it on face value, and I think it’s a good ballad firmly in the folk tradition of long and involved tragic ballads, with some fine Dylan poetry in it. The melody is pretty ordinary, but Dylan’s often been guilty of that.

  4. I’ve been a fan of Dylan since 1963, and first saw him in concert in ’64. He’s written more great songs than anyone, but this isn’t one of them. I knew the first time I heard it that it stunk, and I was only 15 at the time. He had actually covered the same ground in Spanish Boots of Spanish Leather, a great song. Btw, I don’t know what is one commenter’s problem with To Ramona. That is a fine song, far superior to Plain D in both lyric and melody. I’ve always regarded Plain D (along with some of his work in the late eighties) as proof that even a great genius can screw up. 8^)

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