In Mississippi John Hurt’s version of “John Henry” the heroic steel-driver lays down his hammer “all painted red.” (With the hero’s blood, one supposes, as if he’d burst in his exertions). This red hammer can be added to a hoard which includes William Carlos William’s “Red Wheelbarrow” on which so much depends, Bob Dylan’s “Little red wagon, little red bike” and, indeed, his “white ladder all covered in water,” in an inventory of numinous literary objects in which colour is a significant factor.