Is it okay to borrow copyright-expired poetry for use in your lyrics? Without attribution?
Bob Dylan is on the hot seat for repurposing the work of the Confederacy's Virgil, Henry Timrod (right).
Personally, I view most Civil War poetry as a liability. Consider this from Timrod, from A Cry to Arms:
Ho! woodsmen of the mountain side!
Ho! dwellers in the vales!
Ho! ye who by the chafing tide
Have roughened in the gales!
Leave barn and byre, leave kin and cot,
Lay by the bloodless spade;
Let desk, and case, and counter rot,
And burn your books of trade.
It has its charm but suffers from a dread mid-19th Century malady called filler - filler used to pad a line or stanza, to round it out, to make it conform or rhyme or scan. This is better, from 1866 - "Addressed To The Old Year." The "coming reign" refers to the new year:
A time of peaceful prayer,
Of law, love, labor, honest loss and gain --
These are the visions of the coming reign
Now floating to them on this wintry air.
Not bad, except for HT's self-consciously archaic manner.
This news of Dylan's interest in Timrod is as off-putting as the old news that his contemporary, the late James Dean (right, with cigarette excised), showed interest in John Greenleaf Whittier, another ACW-era versifier:
Under the great hill sloping bare
To cove and meadow and Common lot,
In his council chamber and oaken chair,
Sat the worshipful Governor Endicott.
When I read that I hear it in the voice of Bullwinkle J. Moose. Dean also liked James Whitcombe Riley producer of ACW lines like this:
When the army broke out, and Jim he went,
The old man backin' him, fer three months;
And all 'at I heerd the old man say
Was, jes' as we turned to start away,
"Well, good-bye Jim:
Take keer of yourse'f!"
Take gud keer indeed to steer clear of most ACW poetry.
More on the Bob Dylan - Henry Timrod plagiarism here.