I was listening to Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower. Of course you would know it. It is one of those haunting songs that stay with us long after it has finished.
The two riders are symbolic of Media and Persia – the great Old Testament enemies of Babylon; but they are also symbolic of the carnage and strife associated with the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights struggle. This is an unquiet song written in 1968 in a time that desperately needed to heed the warnings.
This song speaks to 2020 and the year it was. I think it is worth a look at Isaiah because this is what inspired Dylan to write this ageless poem:
“Like whirlwinds sweeping through the southland, an invader comes from the desert, from a land of terror. A dire vision has been shown to me: The traitor betrays, the looter takes loot. Elam, attack! Media, lay siege! I will bring to an end all the groaning she caused. At this my body is racked with pain, pangs seize me, like those of a woman in labor; I am staggered by what I hear, I am bewildered by what I see. My heart falters, fear makes me tremble; the twilight I longed for has become a horror to me. They set the tables, they spread the rugs, they eat, they drink! Get up, you officers, oil the shields! This is what the Lord says to me: “Go, post a look out and have him report what he sees. When he sees chariots with teams of horses, riders on donkeys or riders on camels, let him be alert, fully alert.” And the lookout shouted, “Day after day, my lord, I stand on the watchtower; every night I stay at my post. Look, here comes a man in a chariot with a team of horses. And he gives back the answer: ‘Babylon has fallen, has fallen! All the images of its gods lie shattered on the ground!’” My people who are crushed on the threshing floor, I tell you what I have heard from the Lord Almighty, from the God of Israel.”
This Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, conveys God’s warning and it is dire! Disaster is roaring down upon the Babylonians and they are told that their enemies are preparing an offensive attack. Isaiah himself grows faint with all that God will let befall on Babylon. Rather than heed this warning and prepare for battle, the Babylonians continue feasting. They have a watchman on the tower looking for riders and indeed he calls out that he sees their approach! But no one hears…
The rest, as they say, is history: Babylon is deaf to the warning, the city is captured, its idols smashed and its power razed to the ground.
Elizabeth’s first book, The Alchemy of Poetry, is available now! It would make the perfect gift for someone who is interested in the world of art and poetry and history and politics and love and death and war and the sublime – because the 160 poems selected in The Alchemy of Poetry succinctly and pitch perfectly offer all this and so much more!
Get your copy and send Elizabeth your review!
The Alchemy of Poetry by Elizabeth Guy
Published by Dreaming Big Publications
Paperback; 470 pages; ISBN-13 : 978-1947381414
Genre: Ancient, Classical and Contemporary Poetry; Education and Teaching; Non fiction