Bob Dylan “Boots Of Spanish Leather”
A woman I used to know put this song on as we laid in bed together. I didn’t really listen to the words. I was just happy to be next to her. She was going on a trip for grad school for a couple of months and I was savoring whatever time I had left with her. I remember being just so gosh-darn happy that I was even next to her. Sure, she was leaving, but here she was playing Dylan songs to me, right? Happy as a clam, I was.
Oh I’m sailing away, my own true love
I’m sailin’ away in the morning
Is there something I can send you from across the sea
From the place that I’ll be landing ?
No, there’s nothin’ you can send me, my own true love
There’s nothin’ I wish to be ownin’
Just carry yourself back to me unspoiled
From across that lonesome ocean.
She told me to listen to the words, and I didn’t, really, it was 4am and we were both naked and post-sex and a little stoned and all I did was hold her a little closer.
Oh, but if I had the stars from the darkest night
And the diamonds from the deepest ocean
I’d forsake them all for your sweet kiss
For that’s all I’m wishin’ to be ownin’.
Listening to that song, though, now, and hearing those words I heard in her bed then, I was completely blind to what the message was. The song is a call-and-response about two lovers bargaining when one clearly has the upper hand and is trying to let the other down gently, promising perhaps some sort of consolation prize, that being the boots. But in that bed all I could hear was the voice of the other person, the person getting fucked over, the person too blind to see what was infront of him. In the next verse, the bargaining is clear: “I’m leaving, do you want something to remember me by?”. Then in the next verse, the other person just flat out denies that Character A even asked them that question. Here:
That I might be gone a long time
And it’s only that I’m askin’
Is there something I can send you to remember me by
To make your time more easy passin’ ?
Oh, how can, how can you ask me again
It only brings me sorrow
The same thing I want from you today
I would want again tomorrow.
Her Dad drove us to the airport the next morning. She lined her bags up by the front door. Even then, I acted like she wasn’t going. I remember trying to joke around, trying to kiss her. Only really when her Dad started putting the bags in the trunk of the car did it really settle in.
I got a letter on a lonesome day
It was from her ship a-sailin’
Saying I don’t know when I’ll be comin’ back again
It depends on how I’m a-feelin’.
Well, if you, my love, must think that-a-way
I’m sure your mind is roarmin’
I’m sure your thoughts are not with me
But with the country to where you’re goin’.
When I got the call several weeks later – that she’d found someone else overseas – I listened to this song over and over and over. It became an anthem of sorts. It was the only melody I could seem to remember. On a few occasions, my friends would take me to a live show, to get me out of the house, and standing infront of the band, all I could hear was “Boots Of Spanish Leather”.
In the last stanza, the second character accepts his fate, wishes her luck and takes the boots, because now that’s all that is left, a weird physical representation of the end of the relationship.
So take heed, take heed of the western wind
Take heed of the stormy weather
And yes, there’s something you can send back to me
Spanish boots of Spanish leather.
But if you’d told me that that night before she left, laying in her bed, I wouldn’t have had any idea.