Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Two Soldiers"

One of my favorite Dylan songs is the old folk song "Two Soldiers," which appeared on his 1993 solo acoustic album "World Gone Wrong."

It's a heartbreaking song, one that tells the story of two soldiers heading off to the Civil War. In the event that one of them does not make it back, they make a promise to each other. Unfortunately, neither one of them gets to keep the promise.

While 1997’s “Time Out of Mind” was a masterpiece and rightly hailed as a return to legendary form, it was on "World Gone Wrong" - and the album that preceded it, "Good As I Been To You" - where Dylan truly regained his voice, and set the stage for what certainly is the most remarkable comeback this side of Elvis’ 1968 TV special. Both of the albums consisted entirely of old folk songs and standards, just Dylan and his guitar, and it was if the simple act of recording those old songs was an artistic cleansing that allowed him to emerge as an even stronger, wiser artist.

The fruit of his efforts paid off on "Two Soldiers." Dylan's vocal is one of his best, and the guitar playing is simply masterful. You can find the album cheap on Amazon.com, and it's well worth buying the whole thing - even if you only listen to this song.

He was just a blue-eyed Boston boy,
His voice was low with pain.
"I'll do your bidding, comrade mine,

If I ride back again.

But if you ride back and I am left,
You'll do as much for me,
Mother, you know, must hear the news,
So write to her tenderly.

"She's waiting at home like a patient saint,
Her fond face pale with woe.
Her heart will be broken when I am gone,
I'll see her soon, I know."
Just then the order came to charge,
For an instance hand touched hand.
They said, "Aye," and away they rode,
That brave and devoted band.

Straight was the track to the top of the hill,
The rebels they shot and shelled,
Plowed furrows of death through the toiling ranks,
And guarded them as they fell.
There soon came a horrible dying yell
From heights that they could not gain,
And those whom doom and death had spared
Rode slowly back again.

But among the dead that were left on the hill
Was the boy with the curly hair.
The tall dark man who rode by his side
Lay dead beside him there.
There's no one to write to the blue-eyed girl
The words that her lover had said.
Momma, you know, awaits the news,
And she'll only know he's dead.

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