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“You probably didn't think I did, but I heard
You say that love is just a four-letter word.”

(Bob Dylan)


Joan Baez sang this love song composed by Bob Dylan, and I like the irony and meanings layered into the verses through understated hinting and hidden significance. Both the lyrics and the melody sound to my ear mournful and regretful, as well as reflective. It is particularly the final verse which is the clincher for me, with the "tables turned," and at this point we see how statements we throw out may one day come back to sadly haunt us! Simon Rees, March 2007


Love Is Just a Four-Letter-Word

Bob Dylan, 1967

Seems like only yesterday
I left my mind behind
Down in the Gypsy Cafe
With a friend of a friend of mine -
She sat with a baby heavy on her knee
Yet spoke of life most free from slavery
With eyes that showed no trace of misery -
A phrase in connection first with she I heard
That love is just a four-letter word.

Outside a rambling store-front window
Cats meowed to the break of day -
Me, I kept my mouth shut,
To you I had no words to say -
My experience was limited and underfed -
You were talking, while I hid,
To the one who was the father of your kid:
You probably didn't think I did, but I heard
You say that love is just a four-letter word.

I said goodbye unnoticed,
Pushed towards things in my own games,
Drifting in and out of lifetimes
Unmentionable by name,
Searching for my double, looking for
Complete evaporation to the core -
Though I tried and failed at finding any door,
I must have thought that there was nothing more absurd
Than that love is just a four-letter word.

Though I never knew just what you meant
When you were speaking to your man,
I could only think in terms of me
And now I understand -
After waking enough times to think I see
The Holy Kiss that's s'posed to last eternity
Blow up in smoke, its destiny
Falls on strangers, travels free -
Yes, I know now, traps are only set by me
And I do not really need to be assured
That love is just a four-letter word.

Strange it is to be beside you
Many years, the tables turned -
You'd probably not believe me
If I told you all I've learned -
And it is very, very weird indeed
To hear words like "forever" plead,
So ships run through my mind, I cannot cheat -
It's like looking in a teacher's face complete:
I can say nothing to you but repeat what I heard -
That love is just a four-letter word.

 

Copyright © 1967; renewed 1995 Special Rider Music

 

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