Bob Dylan Borrowed From a Confederate Poet on Several Songs

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Bob Dylan became very interested in the Civil War and a Confederate poet. He wrote several songs with the help of lines from the poet.

(The Cheat Sheet) – Over the years, Bob Dylan has borrowed lyrics and lines of writing from other artists, including obscure Confederate poet Henry Timrod. In the early 2000s, Dylan grew interested in Civil War history. He wrote songs about the era and, it seems, discovered Timrod. While experts on the poet believe the line between his work and Dylan’s songs is clear, they don’t seem to mind much. Dylan certainly doesn’t; when asked about the plagiarism accusations, he rolled his eyes.

Timrod did not fight in the Civil War, but he wrote poems about it and its effect on life in the South. While he became known as the poet laureate of the Confederacy, he is a relatively obscure poet in modern times. Not so in Dylan’s Modern Times, though. Careful listeners noticed distinct similarities between Dylan’s 2006 album and Timrod’s poems.

Scott Warmuth, a disc jockey in New Mexico, noticed the similarities while listening to the song “When the Deal Goes Down.” In it, Dylan sings about a place “where wisdom grows up in strife.”

“[I] t’s straight out of a poem by Henry Timrod called ‘Retirement,’ where Timrod writes there is a wisdom that grows up in strife,” Warmuth told NPR. “And that was just one of five different Timrod poems referenced in that one song alone that I discovered. I took a phrase from the lyrics in the new album, frailer than the flowers, and did a Google search and found that the hits were Dylan, Dylan, Dylan, Henry Timrod. Well, let me see what Henry Timrod’s about, and lo and behold, Henry Timrod and Bob Dylan both rhyme frailer than the flowers with these precious hours.”

Walter Brian Cisco, who wrote a biography of Timrod, also noticed obvious similarities. They didn’t bother him, though.

“No doubt about it, there has been some borrowing going on,” he told The New York Times, adding, “I’m glad Timrod is getting some recognition.”…

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