MASTERS OF WAR

Posted on Posted in Breedloves's Folk Songs
  • “Masters of War” is a song by Bob Dylan, written in 1963 and released on the album
    The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”. It is an adaptation, with new words by Dylan, of
    Nottamun Town“. As with many of the major songs Dylan composed at this time, he
    often adapted or “borrowed” melodies from traditional songs. On this occasion however,
    he had borrowed an arrangement by veteran folksinger Jean Ritchie. The arrangement of
    “Nottanum Town”, unknown to Dylan, had been in her family for generations, and
    Ritchie wanted an acknowledgement on the writing credit. This, however, was not to be
    the case, as Dylan’s lawyers paid her $5,000 to settle and agree not to make further
    claims. Dylan spoke to USA Todays Edna Gundersen about the song the day before the
    September 11th attacks. In the article, Dylan is quoted as saying that the song “is
    supposed to be a pacifistic song against war. It’s not an antiwar song. It’s speaking
    against what Eisenhower was calling a militaryindustrial complex as he was making his
    exit from the presidency. That spirit was in the air, and I picked it up.
    Come you masters of war
    You that build the big guns
    You that build the death planes
    You that build all the bombs
    You that hide behind walls
    You that hide behind desks
    I just want you to know
    I can see through your masks
    You that never done nothin’
    But build to destroy
    You play with my world
    Like it’s your little toy
    You put a gun in my hand
    And you hide from my eyes
    And you turn and run farther
    When the fast bullets fly
    Like Judas of old
    You lie and deceive
    A world war can be won
    You want me to believe
    But I see through your eyes
    And I see through your brain
    Like I see through the water
    That runs down my drain
    You fasten all the triggers
    For the others to fire

    Then you set back and watch

  • While the death count gets higher
    Then you hide in your mansion
    While the young people’s blood
    Flows out of their bodies
    And is buried in the mud
    You’ve thrown the worst fear
    That can ever be hurled
    Fear to bring children
    Into the world
    For threatening my baby
    Unborn and unnamed
    You ain’t worth the blood
    That runs in your veins
    How much do I know
    To talk out of turn
    You might say that I’m young
    You might say I’m unlearned
    But there’s one thing I know
    Though I’m younger than you
    Even Jesus would never
    Forgive what you do
    Let me ask you one question
    Is your money that good
    Will it buy you forgiveness
    Do you think that it could
    I think you will find
    When your death takes its toll
    All the money you made
    Will never buy back your soul
    And I hope that you die
    And your death’ll come soon
    I will follow your casket
    In the pale afternoon
    And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
    Down to your deathbed
    And I’ll stand o’er your grave
    ‘Til I’m sure that you’re dead