It seems that many of the lyrics on that album, Mr. Dylan’s first No. 1 album in 30 years (down to No. 3 this week), bear some strong echoes to the poems of Timrod, a Charleston native who wrote poems about the Civil War and died in 1867 at the age of 39.
“More frailer than the flowers, these precious hours,” the 65-year-old Mr. Dylan sings in “When the Deal Goes Down,” one of the songs on “Modern Times.” Compare that to these lines from Timrod’s “Rhapsody of a Southern Winter Night”:
A round of precious hours
Oh! here, where in that summer noon I basked
And strove, with logic frailer than the flowers.
Reactions are mixed. Some fans are disappointed ("Bob really is a thieving little swine."), some scholars are aghast ("Maybe it’s the teacher in me. If I found out that he had done this in a research paper, he’d be in big trouble.” ), and others are just pleased that the poet lauret of the Civil War is even getting read (“If I were Timrod, I would love it.... I would say he’s doing a great honor to Timrod and let’s celebrate that.”)
Some cite folk-music traditions for the borrowing, and copyright isn't an issue:
Because Timrod is long dead and his work has fallen out of copyright — you can find his collected poems on the Internet — there is no legal claim that could be made against Mr. Dylan.
Whew! I bet SonyBMG is glad about that.
Still, it would have been kinda classy to give "influenced by" or some sort of credit to Henry Timrod.
via Quill & Quire