Ballad of Hollis Brown Jonathan andrew

1 Hollis Brown

He lived on the outside of town

Hollis Brown

He lived on the outside of town

With his wife and five children

And his cabin fallin’ down

2 You looked for work and money

And you walked a ragged mile

You looked for work and money

And you walked a ragged mile

Your children are so hungry

That they don’t know how to smile

3 Your baby’s eyes look crazy

They’re a-tuggin’ at your sleeve

Your baby’s eyes look crazy

They’re a-tuggin’ at your sleeve

You walk the floor and wonder why

With every breath you breathe

4 The rats have got your flour

Bad blood it got your mare

The rats have got your flour

Bad blood it got your mare

If there’s anyone who knows

Is there anyone that cares?

5 You prayed to the lord above

Oh, please send you a friend

You prayed to the lord above

Oh, please send you a friend

Your empty pockets tell ya

That you ain’t a-got no friend

6 Your babies are crying louder

It’s pounding on your brain

Your babies are crying louder

It’s pounding on your brain

Your wife’s screams are stabbin’ at you

Like the dirty drivin’ rain

7 Your grass it is turnin’ black

There’s no water in your well

Your grass it is turnin’ black

There’s no water in your well

You spent your last lone dollar

On seven shotgun shells

8 Way out in the wilderness

A cold coyote calls

Way out in the wilderness

A cold coyote calls

Your eyes fix on the shotgun

That’s hangin’ on the wall

9 You’re brain is a-bleedin’

And your legs can’t seem to stand

You’re brain is a-bleedin’

And your legs can’t seem to stand

Your eyes fix on the shotgun

That you’re holdin’ in your hand

10 There’s seven breezes a-blowin’

All around the cabin door

There’s seven breezes a-blowin’

All around the cabin door

Seven shots ring out

LIke the ocean’s pounding roar

11 There’s seven people dead

On a South Dakota farm

There’s seven people dead

On a South Dakota farm

Somewheres in the distance

There’s seven new people born

Stanza 1 is the introduction. It introduces Hollis Brown and his family and the bad state of their house. The second stanza states Brown's financial struggles and the suffering his children are going through because of it. The thirds stanza reveals that Brown's baby is the one starving the most and that he is in disbelief on how it has gotten this bad. The fourth stanza talks about the rat infestation in their house and the plague in the livestock. Brown thinks no one can help them and continues to be frustrated. In the fifth stanza he prays for someone to help them, but is reminded by his empty pockets that they're on their own. In the sixth stanza a drought hits and evaporates all of the water in their well. This bad luck is to much for Brown and he buys seven bullets. The next five stanzas discuss Brown's torment at night. He sees his shotgun hanging on the wall, but keeps fighting in his mind what he wants to do. After the furious mental debate he grabs the gun off the wall and shoots his wife, his 5 kids, and finally himself.

This poem discusses the extreme poverty of some individuals, especially in the Great Depression. The diction Dylan uses is that of a person on the brink of madness. He uses several words to show how the repeating unlucky events have driven him insane and to the brink where he feels hopeless. The last stanza is what summarizes Dylan's theme of the Ballad. Even though Brown escaped the consequences of extreme poverty, not everyone is so lucky. Seven people are no longer in poverty, but seven new people just joined the tragic ranks of poverty that will continue like a cycle. This ballad exposes some of the unheard tales of the Great Depression and that extreme poverty will live on and on in the U.S. no matter how much time passes or how much it is ignored.

Credits:

Created with images by badosa - "Bob Dylan" • Jim Wise - "Barn" • geralt - "cross sunset sunrise" • bertomic - "drought mud cracked earth" • SimonaR - "month full moon glow" • Brett_Hondow - "bullets ammo ammunition"

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.