by Bob Dylan

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.

Bob Dylan is one of the greatest and most well-known singer songwriters of modern history. The truth is, this is a man who literally needs no introduction, but if you want a good source for a Bob Dylan bio check out his page at

Editor’s Note: Today’s post was by request. If you have a request of your own please post it as a comment here.

Today’s post is another segment in our ongoing discussion about whether music is poetry. When I argue that I think music can be poetry, Bob Dylan is the first person I think of. Dylan is a lyricist above all else, his lyrics have inspired people all over the world for decades, and his words are an integral part of the American landscape.

This particular Dylan song was requested by my father. Of course we all have our favorite Dylan songs. What is your favorite Dylan song? And what Dylan song do you think has lyrics that make it clearly fall within the category of a poem?

Want to read more by and about Bob Dylan?
Official Website
Expecting Rain
Rolling Stone

About Sivan Butler-Rotholz

Sivan is the Managing Editor of the Saturday Poetry Series on As It Ought To Be and holds an MFA from Brooklyn College. She is a professor, writer, editor, comic artist, and attorney emerita. She is also the founder of Reviving Herstory. Sivan welcomes feedback, poetry submissions, and solicitations of her writing via email at sivan.sf [at] gmail [dot] com.
This entry was posted in Bob Dylan and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Yahya T. Ali says:

    Is the distinction between poems and lyrics unique to English-language literature?
    Here in the Arab world for example, a clear definite distinction between the two has to yet to be found; most lyricists are poets. Granted that many lyricists are not necessarily poets, but almost all poets write songs. Poems dating back to the 5th century are still sung.That also goes for Persian music/poetry, and Urdu as well.

    There is a distinction, but it is pretty recent and a result of the Arabic music scene being influenced by western music industry standards: there is no word in modern (colloquial or classical) Arabic for “lyrcist” in the English sense, so they had to create this distinction by referring to them as “musical poets” as opposed to the regular poets (who equally still write lyrics, but not exclusively).

    In this video you see renowned Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz reciting a political poem, later sung by Pakistani singer Nayyara Noor:

  2. Sivan says:

    Thank you for sharing that video Yahya! In Israel, where I am from, there is also no distinction between poetry and song. For us, there is only the word “shir,” which means “song,” and is also used for poems. I think the western world, particularly America, has a unique view of poetry vs. song. In modern America the poet is not revered, is barely even remembered in the cultural landscape by the masses, while songs are among the most commonly enjoyed forms of art. I adore that in other parts of the world poetry is celebrated. I am remorseful that that is not the case here in the U.S. But it will not stop me from sharing the art and dedicating my life to it.

  3. Deborah says:

    I think it might be easier to respond if you asked which Dylan songs did not echo compelling meter and beauty and imagery thus = poetry in Deborah’s world. Two songs pop to mind as clearly falling in the poetry realm (and, really, what exactly is this? S, I think it would be great if you’d write a piece, for AIOTB or ipinion or one of your other venues, about what makes a poem a poem for you): 4th Time Around (from Blonde on Blonde) and A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall (from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan). Both of these represent a more traditional narrative arc for me, but, really, WTFDIK. I’m pasting the text of both just because this is the glorious internet and I can.

    • Deborah says:

      From the official lyric bible:

      4th Time Around

      When she said
      “Don’t waste your words, they’re just lies”
      I cried she was deaf
      And she worked on my face until breaking my eyes
      Then said, “What else you got left?”
      It was then that I got up to leave
      But she said, “Don’t forget
      Everybody must give something back
      For something they get”

      I stood there and hummed
      I tapped on her drum and asked her how come
      And she buttoned her boot
      And straightened her suit
      Then she said, “Don’t get cute”
      So I forced my hands in my pockets
      And felt with my thumbs
      And gallantly handed her
      My very last piece of gum

      She threw me outside
      I stood in the dirt where ev’ryone walked
      And after finding I’d
      Forgotten my shirt
      I went back and knocked
      I waited in the hallway, she went to get it
      And I tried to make sense
      Out of that picture of you in your wheelchair
      That leaned up against . . .

      Her Jamaican rum
      And when she did come, I asked her for some
      She said, “No, dear”
      I said, “Your words aren’t clear
      You’d better spit out your gum”
      She screamed till her face got so red
      Then she fell on the floor
      And I covered her up and then
      Thought I’d go look through her drawer

      And when I was through
      I filled up my shoe
      And brought it to you
      And you, you took me in
      You loved me then
      You didn’t waste time
      And I, I never took much
      I never asked for your crutch
      Now don’t ask for mine

    • Deborah says:

      A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall

      Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
      Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
      I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
      I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
      I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
      I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
      I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
      And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
      And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

      Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
      Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?
      I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
      I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
      I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
      I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
      I saw a white ladder all covered with water
      I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
      I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
      And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
      And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

      And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
      And what did you hear, my darling young one?
      I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
      Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
      Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
      Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
      Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
      Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
      Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
      And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
      And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

      Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
      Who did you meet, my darling young one?
      I met a young child beside a dead pony
      I met a white man who walked a black dog
      I met a young woman whose body was burning
      I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
      I met one man who was wounded in love
      I met another man who was wounded with hatred
      And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
      It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

      Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
      Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
      I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’
      I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
      Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
      Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
      Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
      Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden
      Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
      Where black is the color, where none is the number
      And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
      And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
      Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
      But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
      And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
      It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

  4. maya elashi says:

    Love Minus Zero, No Limit (no repeating refrain)
    Memphis Blues (ax the repeating refrain) – though given Mr. Dylan’s (almost) always quirky titles, I’m not sure this is it, Mona, but the railroad men’ll surely know!
    Forever Young (without the refrain)
    Those’re only three, but the gates gotta close ‘cuz the railin’ zzz froze.

    Blessed to be around and planet’d down with the likes of The 20th/21st century Shakespeare!

  5. Nate says:

    I request: Charles Bukowski.

    And yes the question of what makes a poem a poem is definitely an interesting one. Lots of fine lines involved…

  6. Yahya T. Ali says:

    Sometimes I find myself afraid of the questions of the American/English literary scene being projected onto world literatures. Which is why I think we should discuss more world literatures amongst ourselves in order to view these unique literary scenes in their own contexts.
    A friend was surprised to see that Arabs have American-Idol-like shows for poetry (both classical and colloquial) in the Arab world; that there are dedicated tv channels for poetry. Meanwhile, fiction and drama in the Arab literary scene (while present) is not as popular as poetry. It seems that the opposite is true of the American (and perhaps Western?) literary scenes.

    Bringing us back to the question of lyrics and poems: it seems to me that the distinction between lyrics and poems is, in a way, a matter of high (established) and low (counter-)culture. Admitting certain cultural products into established definitions of Poetry and Fiction usually comes from a patronizing position of accepting counter-culture. Hip hop for example is not recognized as poetry because it deserves to be defined as such, but because it is located outside the time-honored establishment as countercultural.
    “Today’s post is another segment in our ongoing discussion about whether music is poetry. When I argue that I think music can be poetry, Bob Dylan is the first person I think of.”
    I couldn’t agree more; I think Dylan is a great example because eventually you will be sucked into the establishment and become classicized, deeming the question of lyrics and poems irrelevant.

  7. How blessed we have been to have a singer songwriter such as Bob Dylan. Poems in song. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s