Lord Randal

It is one of the most popular ballads in western culture.
The ballad opens with two people speaking, Randal and his mother. There is no precise reference to where and when the conversation is taking place, maybe in a castle at late afternoon since the man has just come back from hunting.
Lord Randal's mother suspects her son has been poisoned. Her suspect is reinforced by the fact that Randal's dog and hawk died after eating the remains of his meal. So she thinks the girl that Randal calls his "true-love" has poisoned him. His mother is only concerned about his son's will. Randal is a rich man. In fact he wants to leave his gold and silver to his sister, his cattle to his mother and his house and lands to his brother. In the last quatrain he is understands that the girl has poisoned him; he wants to leave her hell and fire, so he wants to damn her.
Bob Dylan’s version of Lord Randal

Each stanza opens with a question; Dylan questions his son on where he has been, what he has seen and heard, who he has met, what he is going to do. His answers are full of words which recall death and sufferings .
Lord Randal and a Hard Rain's a gonna Fall are both ballads and they have a similar structure made of questions and answers ending with a refrain. Both ballads are accompanied by music and have a colloquial language. They both deal with a tragic theme but they are different in their meaning. In Lord Randal we find an handsome young man poisoned by his false "true-love" who is probably going to die, while in Dylan's version we find a radioactive dust in the air after a nuclear explosion. This version is more pessimistic because the desperation is global and it is the end of everything.
With his ballad Dylan wants to express he is against the nuclear threat and he is away from the original medieval ballad made of hunting, dogs, hawks and true loves.

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