This 1980’s song and video by Bob Dylan is as most Dylan songs, something of an enigma. With its references to the bird of love and death, to the man in the fiery furnace (without any name), the title character who could represent new life, or at least new possibilities, the poem seems to reference the end of times. Whatever its underlying meaning, Jokerman is a powerful, evocative distillation of the chaos of our world at any given time in the last several thousand years.

Jokerman

Standing on the waters casting your bread
While the eyes of the idol with the iron head are glowing.
Distant ships sailing into the mist,
You were born with a snake in both of your fists while a hurricane was blowing.
Freedom just around the corner for you
But with the truth so far off, what good will it do?



Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune,
Bird fly high by the light of the moon,
Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman.



So swiftly the sun sets in the sky,
You rise up and say goodbye to no one.
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,
Both of their futures, so full of dread, you don’t show one.
Shedding off one more layer of skin,
Keeping one step ahead of the persecutor within.



Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune,
Bird fly high by the light of the moon,
Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman.



You’re a man of the mountains, you can walk on the clouds,
Manipulator of crowds, you’re a dream twister.
You’re going to Sodom and Gomorrah
But what do you care? Ain’t nobody there would want to marry your sister.
Friend to the martyr, a friend to the woman of shame,
You look into the fiery furnace, see the rich man without any name.



Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune,
Bird fly high by the light of the moon,
Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman.



Well, the Book of Leviticus and Deuteronomy,
The law of the jungle and the sea are your only teachers.
In the smoke of the twilight on a milk-white steed,
Michelangelo indeed could’ve carved out your features.
Resting in the fields, far from the turbulent space,
Half asleep near the stars with a small dog licking your face.



Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune,
Bird fly high by the light of the moon,
Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman.



Well, the rifleman’s stalking the sick and the lame,
Preacherman seeks the same, who’ll get there first is uncertain.
Nightsticks and water cannons, tear gas, padlocks,
Molotov cocktails and rocks behind every curtain,
False-hearted judges dying in the webs that they spin,
Only a matter of time ’til night comes steppin’ in.



Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune,
Bird fly high by the light of the moon,
Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman.



It’s a shadowy world, skies are slippery grey,
A woman just gave birth to a prince today and dressed him in scarlet.
He’ll put the priest in his pocket, put the blade to the heat,
Take the motherless children off the street
And place them at the feet of a harlot.
Oh, Jokerman, you know what he wants,
Oh, Jokerman, you don’t show any response.



Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune
Bird fly high by the light of the moon
Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman

Reflections to Consider

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Publications

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Music

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Audio & Video

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Favorites

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Hidden Blessings

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  • Hold us together by Matt Maher +

    It don't have a job, don't pay your bills Read More
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