In the jingle jangle morning I'll come followin' you.
Though I know that evenin's empire has returned into sand,
Vanished from my hand,
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping.
My weariness amazes me, I'm branded on my feet,
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street's too dead for dreaming.
Dylan didn't have any experience with branding-- so few people from Minnesota mining towns do, even when they take up residence in Lower Manhattan. I personally think he had a vague notion, from images of sizzling, smoking branding irons, that it had something to do with welding things together. I'm not talking about his conscious intellectual understanding of branding cattle, leaving a burn mark and all that-- I mean in his poetic imagination.
Remember the context here:
My weariness amazes me
I'm branded on my feet
I have no one to meet...
The experiential image I get is one of anomie, lack of animation or motivation to so much as take a step-- being physically stuck to feet about which he says (later in the same song)
toes too numb to step...
Throughout this song he is "in the jingle-jangle morning" of coming down, and he needs the magic back, needs to get
far beyond the reach
of crazy sorrow...
The song is a slightly sardonic take on the frilly, marmalade-skies type songs that were coming out in the early days of psychedelia, and looking at LSD as a sacrament and a vehicle to Enlightenment and Salvation. He sees it as more of a pied piper, and focuses on the played-out aftermath of acid use. It's not a scary anti-drug song, but it does lay out some imagery that hints at the dark side of euphoria and "mind expansion."
Of course you could see it as a coming-down song about other drugs, and you should keep in mind that it kinda does violence to poetry to blather on about what it's about in the first place.
The other issue is, learners of English aren't Dylan's targeted audience-- he "misuses" words to create unique patterns, and in doing so he shows a great lack of concern for the literal level where meanings and definitions "make sense"-- or the "proper meaning" as you phrased it.
I sincerely wanna congratulate with you for it, and yes, i am a learner, and it's very difficult to appreciate a dylan's song, but once you've made it, it's so so so interesting.
Thank you again
I've always thought of this song as a tribute (or partial tribute) to Bill Robinson, the black actor-dancer who appeared in many of the classic Shirley Temple films. Despite his rare talent as a dancer, Robinson could play only servants or slaves in the films. "Branded on my feet" has been taken by many to mean "dancing on something hot--coals, a hotplate, etc." Until fairly recently, this was not an uncommon thing to do to chickens, to make them dance.
I don't revere Bob Dylan, but certainly I think he was a poet in those days, particularly, and poets will play with words and rhymes, add things for the pure sounds, invent words even, and let others try to invest meaning.
John Lennon would also frequently do the same thing.
Other possbilities for "branded on my feet" do spring to my mind immediately, though, and that would be the deliberate scarring of a runaway slave, and/or the rubbed-raw impressions around the ankles from chains or shackles of a slave or prisoner.
I like the lyrics a lot, but they to me are the verbal equivalent of a surrealistic painting by Salvador Dali, haunting and suggestive of many things, but a mystery where mood trumps precise meanings.
How'd Bill Robinson get into all this? Has the word "jingle-jangle" brought up an unconscious association with "Mr Bojangles," a song that is about the great dancer?
"Jingle-jangle morning" is an inseparable image about a certain kind of morning, the kind that follows a speed- or psychedelic-feuled all-nighter. It's that rattly kinda metallic sound/sensation you get when you so much as glance from one side to the other-- as though there might be a gear or two rattling around loose in the cranial clockwork.
I've heard a lot of interviews with Dylan about his lyrics, and he used to be a clam on the subject-- but later in life he simply tries to recall the source of the image. Invariably it's a very literal detail of some outing he had with friends-- stub your toe really bad during one of those, and you might end up immortalized as the unknown source of the much-debated "midnight's broken toe" in Chimes of Freedom.
When you're on a kaleidoscopic-skies romp, sometimes you shed articles of clothing, sometimes you lose track of time and don't notice the little warning signs your body puts out.
Let's say you're used to wearing sandals, and you shed them one sunny afternoon during a romp along a Long Island beach with Dylan and his crew. It's a sunny day, you don't notice that the tops of your feet are getting a little too much sun.
In the jingle-jangle morning, not only do your brains have that crispy-critter feeling, your feet sting with sunburn. But not the part of your feet that are tanned-- just the crisscross pattern where the sandal straps have always kept the skin underneath them white.
Crisscrossed fiery-red marks on your insteps, that burn painfully? You're branded on your feet!
I'm talking about the plausible origins of imagery, not what the poetic word-choices and contexts make of everything. The interpretation of that part's still always up for grabs.
After much walking on rocky ground (or even pavements), the soles of your feet do sometimes feel as if they're burning.
Though I'm inclined to think that Dylan isn't always very precise in his choice of words and phrases. (He's very good at simulating precision, e.g. as in Chronicles I, which is full of bluffing references to poets, flowers, historical figures, etc.). So it may well have been simply a lucky hit, amid much random mumbling.
Edit: Aren't cattle usually held down, during branding? Whereas BD is "on his feet". So perhaps that's the distinction, if one exists.
You are correct.
When a cowboy is dead tired, he says that he is branded on his feet.
This comes from cattle branding. Most cattle will fight and resist branding and end up having to be held down and/or tied before they will allow the hot iron to burn their skin...BUT a cow or calf that is so tired out that they cannot resist anymore will allow a cowboy to brand it without a fight at all.
They just give in and stand there and suffer the pain of the hot iron rather than to fight.