"Chimes of Freedom" as written by and B. Dylan....
Far between sundown's finish an' midnight's broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An' for each an' ev'ry underdog soldier in the night
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Through the city's melted furnace, unexpectedly we watched
With faces hidden as the walls were tightening
As the echo of the wedding bells before the blowin' rain
Dissolved into the bells of the lightning
Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake
Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned an' forsakened
Tolling for the outcast, burnin' constantly at stake
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail
The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder
That the clinging of the church bells blew far into the breeze
Leaving only bells of lightning and its thunder
Striking for the gentle, striking for the kind
Striking for the guardians and protectors of the mind
An' the poet and the painter far behind his rightful time
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

In the wild cathedral evening the rain unraveled tales
For the disrobed faceless forms of no position
Tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts
All down in taken-for-granted situations
Tolling for the deaf an' blind, tolling for the mute
For the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute
For the misdemeanor outlaw, chaineded an' cheated by pursuit
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Even though a cloud's white curtain in a far-off corner flared
An' the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting
Electric light still struck like arrows, fired but for the ones
Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting
Tolling for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail
For the lonesome-hearted lovers with too personal a tale
An' for each unharmful, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Starry-eyed an' laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an' we watched with one last look
Spellbound an' swallowed 'til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an' worse
An' for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing


Lyrics submitted by Jack, edited by Mellow_Harsher

"Chimes of Freedom" as written by Bob Dylan

Lyrics © BOB DYLAN MUSIC CO

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Chimes of Freedom song meanings
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23 Comments

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  • +3
    General CommentGod, Dylan is almost too god for this site. Take from it what you will he makes many comments throughout the song
    "Chiming for the soldier who's strength is not to fight" an advocate of peace, maybe. You can take much more from this song, he writes so beautifully.
    laocoonon February 27, 2006   Link
  • +3
    General CommentLike most of his songs, this is intensely personal. This song is at the essence of Another Side, the side that Dylan always wanted to express, but couldn't figure out how to do it (until 1964). This isn't a protest song. It's about the freedom we all wish we had, but know we probably never will. Not freedom in a political sense, but in a personal sense. The kind of freedom that effects every moment of every day. Many people don't want to seek this freedom, or have given up. This song is a tribute to freedom at its essence, the undefinable freedom, and the deep desire for it which pains one with the knowledge that this kind of freedom is nearly impossible to obtain and takes superhuman strength, wisdom, and drive to ever achieve. At least, that's what I get out of it.
    amateur1979on March 08, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI think this song is written from the point of view of a young person who is on the cusp of youthful optimism and love of life, and a realisation of all the pain and unfairness that exists in the world. It's very bittersweet.
    hellopeopleon June 28, 2007   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationI think that the premise of the song is that one evening, between dusk and midnight, a storm strikes. Dylan and a few others take shelter in a church or cathedral. The first verse is about looking at the storm and feeling its majesty. Dylan uses metaphors of honorable soldiers "who's strength is not too fight". The idea of refugees too, possibly the soldiers are in a war to protect their rights, or simply that the storm is protecting them from unwanted attention. The use of the verb "flashing" here, serves to enforce this feeling of triumph.

    In the second verse, Dylan is trying to convey the the power of the storm and the image of a melted furnace is perfect in conveying this. Wedding bells too, normally so loud, dissolve into the sound of the thunder ("Bells of lightening" such a great concept!) Here, Dylan uses the word "tolling", which has connotations of a long arduous task, for example, fieldwork. The people that represent this are the rebels, the outcasts and the luckless, all those who struggle against a much higher power.

    I am less certain of the third verse, but from the talk of kind, gentle protectors and guardians, I think what Dylan is trying to say is that the storm is a provider, a protector of life. Indeed, the storm is far more powerful than anything man-made, the church bells for example. With its life giving water, the storm is more of a protector than the Church will ever be.

    In the fourth verse, "the rain unravels tales", clearly Dylan & co are trading stories. In the process, they come to realise that they are all have their own lives, experiences, stories, issues and opinions. Without this storm, they probably would not have shared them at all. Dylan then sings about those who have no-one to talk to, the "mateless mother" or the outlaw, or those who cannot share, the deaf or blind. "The tongues with no place to bring their thoughts".

    The fifth verse has me flummoxed.

    In the sixth verse, Dylan sings of them watching the end of the storm "spellbound 'til the tolling ended". Although this is good news, they can continue on their journeys, Dylan identifies with those who cannot move on, the permanently wounded, the misused and the wrongly accused, and those who are no longer of this world.

    Each verse finishes with "an' we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing". Dylan is both trying to portray a feeling of awe and a feeling of helplessness, apparent from the "story" of each verse. However, the whole line is fraught with irony, after all the storm itself is keeping them hostage, trapped inside a church until it finishes.
    rolo564on April 22, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General CommentPowerful lyrics. Gotta say I like the Byrds version of it better and the Springsteen live version even more than that.
    Moses19on August 25, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentOnly Dylan can do this song justice. The imagery in this song is some of his best (and therefore the best ever written.)

    'Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail
    The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder'

    I read somewhere that this is considered to be one of his acid songs but i don't think so. I think it's a testament to Dylan's writting skills that people find it impossible to believe that someone could just imagine this.
    msr123on January 30, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentOne of the greatest poems of the century. And the version in Another Side is wonderful. It's not about liking it or not. It's great - that's a fact.
    nicholasshineon October 05, 2008   Link
  • +1
    My OpinionThis is our National Anthem.
    guitarpickeron July 12, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWow! That's one of my favorite songs, but it's really, really hard just to "explain" a Bob Dylan song.

    I mean, in general, he's using a narrative of them being caught out in a storm as a metaphor for the idea that the concept of freedom is ringing powerfully through the world. This was written in 1963 or 1964, so it was right in the middle of the civil rights movement and all of that.

    It would take a lot of talking to really begin to explain each image, but I'll point out a couple.

    "the warriors whose strength is not to fight" this is the passive resistance preached by Martin Luther King, exemplified by Rosa Parks keeping her seat on the bus. You probably read about "civil disobedience" when studying Thoreau. Similar.

    "tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts"
    This, to me is about all the people in the world who don't have freedom of speech, who need other people to speak for them, and in this lyric, the chimes are speaking for them.

    The entire last verse has a special meaning for me. As I sat watching the news on 11 Sep 2001, this lyric came into my mind and it fit, almost prophetically. "... for they hang suspended" is the contrails we see in the sky every day. "spellbound and swallowed..." describes perfectly the feeling every American had when seeing those images for the first time that day. "And for every hung-up person..." we can only hope that they all get the message someday.
    2 years ago
    malelesbian1on July 17, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAt the risk of stating the obvious the words are about 2 people caught in a thunder and lightning storm, sheltering in a doorway, and staring up into the sky. Imagining this scenario and especially if you've been in such a situation yourself takes this song from good to great. Dylan, is untouchable as a vocalist in the way he handles a lyric. These words on paper are flat out great by any standards. Sung by a youthful and starry eyed Dyaln is just too much. Too good.
    ScottishAngleon June 28, 2011   Link

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