I Contain Multitudes

Bob Dylan’s Last Album “Rough And Rowdy Ways” Lyrics


Today and tomorrow, and yesterday too
The flowers are dyin’, like all things do
Follow me close, I’m going to Bally-Na-Lee
I’ll lose my mind if you don’t come with me
I fuss with my hair, and I fight blood feuds
I contain multitudes.

Got a tell-tale heart, like Mr. Poe
Got skeletons in the walls of people you know
I’ll drink to the truth and the things we said
I’ll drink to the man that shares your bed
I paint landscapes, and I paint nudes
I contain multitudes.

A Red Cadillac and a black mustache
Rings on my fingers that sparkle and flash
Tell me, what’s next? What shall we do?
Half my soul, baby, belongs to you
I rollick and I frolic with all the young dudes
I contain multitudes.

I’m just like Anne Frank, like Indiana Jones
And them British bad boys, The Rolling Stones
I go right to the edge, I go right to the end
I go right where all things lost are made good again
I sing the songs of experience like William Blake (see footnote)
I have no apologies to make
Everything’s flowing all at the same time
I live on the boulevard of crime
I drive fast cars, and I eat fast foods
I contain multitudes.

Pink pedal-pushers, red blue jeans
All the pretty maids, and all the old queens
All the old queens from all my past lives
I carry four pistols and two large knives
I’m a man of contradictions, I’m a man of many moods
I contain multitudes.

You greedy old wolf, I’ll show you my heart
But not all of it, only the hateful part
I’ll sell you down the river, I’ll put a price on your head
What more can I tell you? I sleep with life and death in the same bed
Get lost, madame, get up off my knee
Keep your mouth away from me
I’ll keep the path open, the path in my mind
I’ll see to it that there’s no love left behind
I’ll play Beethoven’s sonatas, and Chopin’s preludes
I contain multitudes.


Bob’s inclusion of William Blake’s songs of experience may be better understood when it’s known in relation to its full title: “Songs of Innocence and of Experience Showing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul.”

Published in 1794, Blake writes of the 2 states of man, those being childlike innocence, and an eventual loss, or even metamorphosis of that innocence, into experience. A corruption of childish purity and goodness as man slowly meets the evils of the world. Or in other words, the fall of man.

Bob likens himself to Blake in this line, and perhaps invokes that same spirit of fall in this song, reminding us that he himself has witnessed and lived through the rise and fall of so many things.

From the turbulent 60’s (Murder Most Foul) through to the bizarre 20’s, the world, and Bob, contain multitudes. In his age and wisdom, Bob has transitioned from a state of innocence into one of experience. He has become the singer of the same ‘Marks of weakness, marks of woe’ that Blake spoke of in his ‘London’.

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