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Symbol Analysis

Dylan's images have the same timeless quality as many Old Testament stories. This song mocks the rich, falsely secure "princes" of the world and warns of a Day of Reckoning. The title of the song alludes to an Old Testament Biblical verse, in which two riders on horseback deliver news of the fall of the ancient city of Babylon.

  • Title, Verse 9: The image of the watchtower is an allusion to the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 21, verses 5-9: "Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise ye princes, and prepare the shield./For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth./And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; and he hearkened diligently with such heed./...And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground."
  • Verse 8: The expression, "the hour is getting late" has an obvious literal meaning that it's getting late in the day, and the sun is probably setting. But the late hour is also a metaphor for the approach of a Day of Reckoning (Judgment) or the Apocalypse from the Bible. In some vague sense, the world may be coming to an end.
  • Verse 12: The two approaching riders may be a very indirect allusion to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelation, the final book of the New Testament.

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