Bob Dylan – Isis (1976)

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“Isis” is the second track on the Bob Dylan album Desire. It was written by Bob Dylan in collaboration with Jacques Levy. “Isis” tells a tale of a man who married an enigmatic figure named Isis. The story’s main part, told by her spouse, is about his separation from her. The song opens with their wedding “on the fifth day of May,” an allusion to Cinco de Mayo (a patriotic holiday of Mexico), one of several Mexican themes found in Dylan’s songs during the 1970s. Still in the first verse, the tale describes the couple’s separation and the narrator’s adventure through what sounds like the Wild West or Mexico. He rides a pony and hitches it up “on the right” in a “high place” symbolically “divided by a line through the middle” into “light and dark”. He goes to wash his clothes, as though to wash himself of his past. He falls in with a shady character who promises easy treasure. They ride “to the pyramids all embedded in ice,” and dig in freezing conditions until the treasure-hunting companion dies. So the narrator breaks into the empty tomb, finds no treasure, and realizes the adventure had been crazy. He buries the dead man in the tomb within the pyramid, says a quick prayer, and rides back to Isis because he still loves her. He sees her in a meadow where Isis asks him if he is going to stay this time. The narrator replies, “If you want me to, yes!”

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