"I and I" as written by and Bob Dylan....
Been so long since a strange woman has slept in my bed
Look how sweet she sleeps, how free must be her dreams
In another lifetime she must have owned the world, or been faithfully wed
To some righteous king who wrote psalms beside moonlit streams

I and I
In creation where one's nature neither honors nor forgives
I and I
One say to the other, no man sees my face and lives

Think I'll go out and go for a walk
Not much happening here, nothing ever does
Besides, if she wakes up now, she'll just want me to talk
I got nothing to say, 'specially about whatever it was

I and I
In creation where one's nature neither honors nor forgives
I and I
One say to the other, no man see my face and lives

Took an untrodden path once, where the swift don't win the race
It goes to the worthy, who can divide the word of truth
Took a stranger to teach me, to look into justice's beautiful face
And see an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth

I and I
In creation where one's nature neither honors nor forgives
I and I
One say to the other, no man sees my face and lives

Outside of two men on a train platform there's nobody in sight
They're waiting for spring to come, smoking down the truck
The world could come to an end tonight, but that's all right
She could still be there sleeping when I get back

I and I
In creation where one's nature neither honors nor forgives
I and I
One say to the other, no man sees my face and lives

Noontime, and I'm still pushing myself along the road, the darkest part
Into the narrow lanes, I can't stumble or stay put
Someone else is speaking with my mouth, but I'm listening with my heart
I've made shoes for everyone, even you, while I still go barefoot

I and I
In creation where one's nature neither honors nor forgives
I and I
One say to the other, no man sees my face and lives


Lyrics submitted by DJacques75, edited by Mellow_Harsher

"I and I" as written by Dylan Bob Bob Dylan

Lyrics © BOB DYLAN MUSIC CO

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I and I song meanings
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18 Comments

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  • +2
    General Comment"That [Hallelujah] was a song that took me a long time to write. Dylan and I were having coffee the day after his concert in Paris a few years ago and he was doing that song in concert. And he asked me how long it took to write it. And I told him a couple of years. I lied actually. It was more than a couple of years.

    Then I praised a song of his, “I and I,” and asked him how long it had taken and he said, "Fifteen minutes.'" Leonard Cohen
    rockisgroovyon May 25, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI and I is probably borrowed from the Rastafarian term "I and I" which alludes to the unity between God and man. However, given that Dylan was (and recently commented that he still is) a "true believer" in Christ and is Jewish born, this is probably used to refer to the Judeo/Christian trinity more than the Rasta unity.

    Jehovah God in the Bible calls Himself "I am that I am" and this gives us the I of "I and I".

    "No man sees my face and lives" is taken from the Bible where Moses was told by God (the Father in Christianity) that He could not be seen. But God is seen many times "face to face" in other passages and the people seeing him live. Think of Jacob wrestling with God. Hence there is a Jehovah who cannot be seen and a Jehovah that can be seen in the Bible, yet there is somehow an emphasis in the Bible that there is only one God (absolute monotheism).

    In Christianty the unseeable One is believed to be God the Father, while the viewable One is God the Son. In Judiasm there have been different beliefs and debates over time. Orginally these contradictory manifestations were interpretted as "Two Powers in Heaven", the "Memra" or the Greater and Lesser Jehovah. After the Christian period, Judaism moved away from this kind of teaching, probably at least partly because it gave encouragement to Christian teachings. Since then rabbinical Judaism has taught the "Two Powers" belief is a heresy.

    "In creation where one's nature neither honors nor forgives":
    This is the fallen (sinful) state of man. We are created (“in creation”) and have no honor (unable to do the right thing). God expects us to forgive one another because He has forgiven us (similar to "judge not lest ye be judged"), but we are also unable often to do this properly.

    Interesting to also note that Bono (a professing Christian) uses "I and I" in "Elevation" which is a kind of worship song to God:
    I and I in the sky
    You make me feel like I can fly
    So high, elevation

    That covers the technical bits around "I and I".

    The rest appears to me to be a dreamstate journey wrestling with commitment, sin and a search for meaning in life.

    The next almost surely religious part is the lines about the "untrodden path". Dylan is Jewish and professing Christ as saviour would be the road or path less travelled for most Jews.

    New Testament passages emphasised in Christianity such as "the meek shall inherit the Earth", the last shall be first, etc. tie in with "the swift don't win the race".

    "Took a stranger to teach me" means that he learnt of this path through a gentile and not a Jew.

    "Look into justice's beautiful face" ties back to "no man sees my face and lives". In Christianity God makes his face available to man so that those that look to Christ are seeing God. Christ taught that "I and the Father are one". It also becomes clear in Christianity that when Jacob wrestled with God and "saw God face to face", he was wrestling with Jesus.

    That Dylan now looks into "justice's beautiful face" means that he too now has a face to face relationship with God through Christ.

    The song weaves together strands of Old and New Testament belief into a unity of belief that is the life of a believer in both religions.

    One can only guess at what the last part means. He talks about the “darkest part” of the journey. Perhaps as we mature in belief we realise that faith in God does not resolve all of life difficulties and that though God walks with us, we still have to walk the road trying not to stumble. This is where believers either become despondent and lose hope or grow in character. Dylan chooses to “follow my heart”.

    Probably people are always trying to interpret his words, hence put words in his mouth as I am doing right now.

    Lastly, people provide the biggest disappointments in life. Life can be a very lonely journey and though he has given of himself (perhaps materially, spiritually or otherwise), he cannot seem to get what he needs from others.

    Although, he may have written the song very quickly, Dylan would have spent years studying Torah and the New Testament and meditating on the concepts that he presents in the song. So although he the song elements are complex and deep, he is able to pen them quickly. I have thought on these things quite deeply and so was able to write this review quite quickly. Hehe...
    biohazard1974on January 06, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe last verse seems to be saying "I've been preaching Christianity but I haven't been able to live up to it."
    DJacques75on June 08, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentyeh thats true, also it is an ode to the Rastafarian religion, he had a rasta produce for infidels and you can notice a reggae flare on many of the songs. I think he is talking about his own life and views on religion and comparing their insignificane to an arbitary example - the Rastafarian religion.
    unihillon December 30, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI've made shoes for everyone, even you, while I still go barefoot.

    means that in his music people find a way a living but he can't find his own...

    Maybe he is stock between diffrent ideas, religions, etc..
    pmartin8on January 17, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI and I--is it the disparity between what we really believe and what we feel compelled to practice? A split personality?
    DJacques75on February 13, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Comment'I is another' according to Rimbaud. Man&woman(muse) or man&god = ONE, what we strive for. Or rather ONE = god/woman as 'one said to the other, no man sees my face and lives' I think.
    efforton June 12, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti love this song and think about its meaning often...

    1. as others have mentioned it is def. a nod to Rastafarianism "I and I" is a phrase used by Rastas. I and I is a complex term, referring to the oneness of Jah (God) and every human. I and I is an expression to totalize the concept of oneness, the oneness of two persons. So God is within all of us and we're one people in fact. The term is often used in place of "you and I" or "we" among Rastafarians, implying that both persons are united under the love of Jah.
    2. this song is heavily influenced by Rasta and the Old Testament. Think David and Bathsheba and King Solomon...
    3. The way I see it, Bob is confessing to himself and to others that he cannot possibly live up to the expectations placed on him as "the leader/poet/voice of the generation". he has problems at home and is possibly unfaithful to his wife just like everyone else. He wants to be 'the man' but knows hes not. Someone else had to teach him about justice and truth, he didnt know it himself. Other people find joy and hope in his work but he still goes "barefoot" ie he is still looking.
    4. Bottom line: he is being very humble in this song. he is just a man nothing more. he is happy that others recieve joy from what he does but he knows this joy comes from a higher power and not him directly...

    love you bob!
    mr.von November 13, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentBob Marley's bassist and drummer, Robbie Shakespeare and Sly Dunbar, play rhythm on this album.(that's Mark Knopfler on lead guitar on this song)
    swordfish08on March 07, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentVery powerful. I've definately thought this song was about a guy cheating on his wife, but there is a very subtle, very beautiful undercurrent to the lyrics of where his shame lies in the act of doing so; he mentions nowhere that he feels guilty because of his own wify, but feels guilty about the other woman, it would seem, in lines like;

    "In another lifetime she must have owned the world, or been faithfully "

    and

    "Took a stranger to teach me, to look into justice's beautiful face"
    TheThornBirdson July 20, 2009   Link

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