'twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form.
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."

And if I pass this way again, you can rest assured
I'll always do my best for her, on that I give my word
In a world of steel-eyed death, and men who are fighting to be warm.
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."

Not a word was spoke between us, there was little risk involved
Everything up to that point had been left unresolved.
Try imagining a place where it's always safe and warm.
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."

I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail,
Poisoned in the bushes and blown out on the trail,
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn.
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."

Suddenly I turned around and she was standin' there
With silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair.
She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns.
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."

Now there's a wall between us, somethin' there's been lost
I took too much for granted, got my signals crossed.
Just to think that it all began on a long-forgotten morn.
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."

Well, the deputy walks on hard nails and the preacher rides a mount
But nothing really matters much, it's doom alone that counts
And the one-eyed undertaker, he blows a futile horn.
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."

I've heard newborn babies wailin' like a mournin' dove
And old men with broken teeth stranded without love.
Do I understand your question, man, is it hopeless and forlorn?
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."

In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes
I bargained for salvation an' they gave me a lethal dose.
I offered up my innocence and got repaid with scorn.
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."

Well, I'm livin' in a foreign country but I'm bound to cross the line
Beauty walks a razor's edge, someday I'll make it mine.
If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born.
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."


Lyrics submitted by typo

Shelter from the Storm song meanings
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63 Comments

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  • +6
    General Commenti think the song is about the comfort (shelter) that love can bring against the "storm" (lifes emotional pain).
    willardon October 20, 2004   Link
  • +5
    General CommentWithout getting too deep, I think the song is about his wife Sara providing love and 'shelter' from the harsh situations (we all experience) in work/life. The biblical references are just a way of describing a man's life and the challenges he faces. And the ultimate message of the song is he is admitting he didn't appreciate what she was providing and how much he needed it until she was gone and he wishes he still had that comfort and warmth that she gave him. Sadly he screwed it up.
    sarahpeelon July 09, 2011   Link
  • +4
    General CommentOne should avoid the temptation to read explicit literal interpretations into songs that suggest their meanings through symbolism and imagery — like Dylan’s Shelter from the Storm. Where the narrator may at times be pictured as a warrior or Christ-like figure, this is clearly not the literal meaning of the song, which is about the redemptive power of love, and looks back on a specific love affair from a present in which the male and female are separated. Dylan uses the word “now” and the present tense when he chooses to contrast the past with his state in the present:

    “Now there’s a wall between us, something has been lost”
    “Now I’m living in a foreign country”
    “If I pass this way again” etc.

    The events of the past, which Dylan remembers in the song, are, figuratively, “another lifetime”: Dylan is metaphorically reborn by his encounter with the merciful woman. Each verse presents images of harshness and suffering which are eased by the intervention of the female: “‘Come in,’ she said, ‘I’ll give you shelter from the storm,’” concluding every verse.

    The woman’s selfless act of charity offers redemption to a sinful world where “blackness was a virtue, the road was full of mud.” “In a world of steel and death and men who are fighting to be warm,” she alone shows kindness and compassion, giving the narrator the chance to relieve his “exhaustion”. He is "hunted like a crocodile" and in the first verse is even depicted as "a creature without form": yet she speaks to him as another human. Being “hunted like a crocodile”, “poisoned in the bushes and blown out on the trail” are thus symbols for the woes and troubles of the world, from which the compassion of the woman offers respite.

    This dichotomy is in the song’s title: Shelter from the Storm, the storm being the black and muddy wilderness of toil and blood, steel and death, in which new-born babies and old men alike are abandoned “without love.” In contrast, the shelter offered by the woman is “always safe and warm.” She herself is pictured as a saintly, Classical figure with “silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair,” an image that recalls Diana or the Virgin Mary: “She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns.”

    Dylan’s sufferings, too, reach their ultimate conclusion when he is imagined as Christ, dying on the cross for the sins of the world. (The New Testament tells how soldiers gambled for Christ’s clothes.) This is not to say that the narrator is, or believes he is, Christ. The point of the comparison is that, as Christ was reborn to redeem the world, so Dylan’s “innocence,” his faith in humanity, is restored by the selfless offer of shelter from the woman.

    Like many of the songs on Blood on the Tracks, Shelter from the Storm looks back on a love affair from the perspective of the present. The narrator is now “living in a foreign country,” cut off from his old lover: “Now there’s a wall between us.” He wishes he could turn back the clock and have a second chance; last time he “took too much for granted, got my signals crossed.” In the context of an album filled with songs of bitterness and regret, however, Shelter from the Storm has a tone of acceptance and thankfulness for the time Dylan and his lover did spend together.
    SThrow63on October 15, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General CommentOne doesn't have to be a Christian to include biblical references in their songs...and "crown of thorns" is just about the most blatant biblical reference you could possibly imagine. But having said that, it doesn't mean he's comparing himself to Jesus to say that she "took my crown of thorns"- Hell, Jesus didn't have anyone to take his crown of thorns. Dylan's clearly using a biblical reference simply to refer to a heavy burden of any variety
    matty_keatingon December 02, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis song has come to be my favorite Dylan song of all time (and I am a huge Dylan fan)... due to the fact that the lyrics have so much personal meaning to me. I was in the middle of a tumult in my life, a "storm," and I met someone, who at the time, "took my crown of thorns." I love the lyric: "Try imagining a place where it's always safe and warm." That is what this girl in my life seem to offer. But the refuge turned out to be fleeting and perhaps never genuine to begin with. "In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes, I bargained for salvation and she gave me a lethal dose. I offered up my innocence and got repaid with scorn." Wow! He articulates the emotional betrayal so well.

    Yes, he uses references from the Gospels. Maybe this is pretentious of Dylan, comparing his suffering to Christ's. But we do all suffer and perhaps the message of the New Testament is that though everyone has harsh trials, there is hope. If the Gospels provide a universal metaphor, then I do not think it is wrong to compare one's suffering to Christ's.

    In any case, this song and the album (Blood on the Tracks) are awesome. I don't think that any other artist has achieved Dylan's song-writing mastery.
    oakbranch8on April 30, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General Commentthis song plays out as a story; he was lost at first - then he found her; then something happened and they fell apart. conventional break-up song.

    but as a dylan song would go, it's so much more layered than the surface would give off. 'she' is a metaphor for love, 'storm' is a metaphor for the bitterness and solitude.

    at the bottom of it all, it's really about the illusion of love. that even if love can 'give you shelter from the storm', it doesn't mean that the storm is gone no?

    and that's how i imagine this song was made; when his shelter was gone.
    jermyon August 27, 2006   Link
  • +2
    My OpinionMost likely this song is about his ex-wife (knowing he recorded this album while going through a divorce). If your a Catholic Christian the lyrics in this song can very easily speak to you as in reference towards the Virgin Mary, but I would'nt quite say that the lyrics are completely theologically sound in the doctrines towards the Blessed Virgin. It can also seem in many ways that the lyric "come in SHE said" can be interpreted as the Church. Because the universal Church (Catholic Church) is refered to at times as or in the word SHE. The interpretation of this song as in speaking towards mother nature is a good thought, and I never matched the two together before having read the above comments on this site. I quess only Bob would know the true meaning of this song. But it seems to me that the most logical meaning of this song would be that its about his ex-wife.
    pippochapon June 24, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIt seems to me that he is given shelter from the storm from nature. The line that says "If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born," gave me the idea. While the storm could resemble conformity, greed and various things like that. This might be completely wrong but thats what i draw from this great song.
    Yonderingon April 13, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI hate to beat a dead horse, but this is a metaphorical tune that is littered with biblical references...

    This verse...
    In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes
    I bargained for salvation an' they gave me a lethal dose.
    I offered up my innocence and got repaid with scorn.

    is a metaphor using Jesus' flogging and inevitable crucifixion for what Dylan suffered at the hands of his wife, friends, and the press. The entire "Blood On The Tracks" album was made during a time of major turmoil in Dylan's life. Some people wondered if he would fade away but he roared back with this album, the press dubbed it "The Second Coming of Dylan". Parallel to Jesus and Christianity, you tell me.
    OpinionHeadon June 30, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI heard the album verison and liked the song but it wasn't one of my favorites. Then I got the "Bob Dylan at Budokan" set and was just floored by the way he did this live. This live version is now one of my favorite songs of all-time.
    Deadparrot1088on January 25, 2006   Link

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