The times they are a-changing: pupils to learn poetry of Dylan

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The Independent Online

The times they have a-changed. Bob Dylan, the acclaimed songwriter and icon of protest for more than 40 years has finally been embraced by the establishment. For the first time next month his songs will be taught in secondary schools throughout the country as poetry.

Academics and poets, including the poet laureate Andrew Motion, have welcomed the Dylan education pack which will be rolled out to mark National Poetry Day. A range of Dylan songs, including "I Dreamed I Saw St Augustine", "Three Angels" and "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" will be available for pupils studying key stages three and four English. Children will also be asked to write a Dylan-inspired ballad on the theme of dreams, which is the theme of National Poetry Day.

Andrew Motion, who describes himself as a big Dylan fan, said : "I think it's a wonderful idea. It's an inspired notion."

Dr Richard Brown, a reader in modern literature at Leeds University, who has written on Dylan, added: "Dylan's lyrics are full of interest and life. Whether they are poetry or not is an interesting debate. Poetry means different things. Part of the power of Dylan's work is that it takes poetry back to the oral tradition."

The Scottish poet John Burnside agreed. "I think it's great," he said. "Dylan's is valued because more than any other song writer. He straddles the gap between the oral tradition and what can be described as more academic or high culture. He puts in literary references from Blake to Ginsberg."

Andrew Motion added: "He is a poet. That cheesy choice of Keats or Dylan – you don't have to choose. You can have them both. You can think of Dylan as a wonderful poet who sings his poems.

Dylan himself has never been in any doubt about his calling.

"I consider myself a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet and I'll die like a poet," he said.

Keats vs Dylan: you decide


I dreamed I saw St Augustine,

Alive as you or me,

Tearing through these quarters

In the utmost misery,

With a blanket underneath his arm

And a coat of solid gold,

Searching for the very souls

Whom already have been sold.

"Arise, arise," he cried so loud,

In a voice without restraint,

"Come out, ye gifted kings and queens

And hear my sad complaint...

From ON A DREAMby John Keats

As Hermes once took to his feathers light

When lulled Argus, baffled, swoon'd and slept,

So on a Delphic reed my idle spright

So play'd, so charm'd, so conquer'd, so bereft

The dragon-world of all its hundred eyes,

And, seeing it asleep, so fled away:

Not to pure Ida with its snow-cold skies,

Nor unto Tempe...