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
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
That 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
Won't ever buy back your soul

And I hope that you die
And your death will come soon
I'll follow your casket
On a pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand over your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead


Lyrics submitted by Jack, edited by Mellow_Harsher, goodnews

Masters of War song meanings
Add your thoughts

44 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +4
    General CommentI was going to post my favorite part of this song, but then I realized that I'd basically just be copying the entire thing. Most songs have one or two parts that really stand out. Not this one. The whole thing is the zenith. Not one lackluster word in the whole thing.
    Nick the Bastardon July 15, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General Commenteat shit george bush
    Fred39on September 02, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis song absolutely blew me away with the power of the lyrics especially with Eddie Vedder's voice when he performed it at Bob Dylan's 30th anniversary tribute concert. It could be used to analyse any war but I think it was mainly written as a protest to conscription. The lyrics remind me especially of World War 1 where the Generals (especially in the British Army) were miles behind the lines living in luxurious mansions in France and sending their conscripts to their death remorselessly. A generation of youth had no choice but to charge enemy lines in pursuit of heroism, honour, adventure and glory only to be gunned down and buried in the mud. What right did they have to oppose these suicide bayonet charge tactics...what would they know they were young and unlearned.

    Or is this song written about Vietnam and the corruption of the US Generals and CIA in Indochina. Conscription was again brought in for this pointless war.

    The lyrics are so good they have stood the test of time...they remind me of Iraq an invasion justified by George Bush by illusive "weapons of mass destruction" based on evidence from some CIA fabricated telephone conversations and a few Satellite photographs of trucks carrying barrels.
    MarcyBoyon October 01, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI have a few things to say, firstly about this song. This song is one of the most timeless, masterfully wrote songs ever. War has been around since year zero and will always be a horrible, inexcusable way to sort out whatever problems one set of people have with another, Masters of War is timeless, it transcends all time because war is always disguisting and brutal. This song talks about those who instigate these wars, the fuckers that sit behind desks and sign away lives like these people exist in their bank accounts as currency to spend to buy what they want in another country or place, your oil shall cost 100,000 lives, yes they can live with that. We can all sit here and accept war as having a natural place in society, or we can actually do something about it, Bob Dylan tried to educate with this song, but it is up to us to act on the emotions that songs like these bring out in us all, not to just sit back and accept but to be proactive. Secondly, a lot of posts here treat Bob Dylan like he is some sort of songwriting god and genius and that there is not anyone like him today, well, there is. There is hundreds of people who write songs just like this, write poems just like this, write long discourses just like this, just as good as this, but they will never be allowed to be heard outside indie/cult circle, record industry, governments and those big business who have billions of dollars invested in the killing and destruction of people will not allowed another 1960's counterculture to occur. They permiate the airwaves with mind numbing crass, callow, meaningless crap, and people buy it up, eat it up like its the best thing since potatoes. Another thing, just because someone is young doesn't mean that they are not mature or wise or have ideas or think more intelligently than older people, this sort of thing, "oh hes 21 yet writing songs like this" all stems from very old fashoned values that young people should be seen and not heard and that their opinions are not of value, but it is true that a lot of young people are titheads, but we shouldn't really be surprised when one turns out to be a genius when it comes to expression him or her self.

    Brian
    fugimugimon August 02, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentThis song was written in 1963. Before the Vietnam war really started. To say this song is just about Vietnam denies it some of its power. Dylan wrote this song about a timeless event, the rich sending the poor and young off to die and making a profit from war.
    bugoffon September 26, 2007   Link
  • +2
    My Interpretationomg guys this song is clearly about drugs!!!!!!!!

    jk, Bob Dylan is great. Peace.
    Sinani201on December 07, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song is completely unbelievable. He wrote it when he was 21. Where he got that kind of wisdom I can't even begin to understand. In the liner notes of The Freewheeling Bob Dylan, the album this song is on, it says, "'I've never really written anything like that before,' [Dylan] recalls. 'I don't sing songs which hope people will die, but I couldn't help it in this one. The song is sort of a striking out, a reaction to the last straw, a feeling of what CAN you do?' The rage (which is as much anguish as it is anger) is a way of catharsis, a way of getting temporary relief from the heavy feeling of impotence that affects many who cannot understand a civilization which juggles its own means for oblivion and calls that performance an act toward peace."
    I find this song so wise and so totally relevant to the days we're living in; it addresses every aspect of what's wrong with this culture. As is implied in the liner notes, I don't think even Dylan thought that Jesus wouldn't forgive these acts, but - it's difficult to imagine. My favourite line is "you that never done nothing but build to destroy/you play with my world like it's your little toy." The arrogance of all those in power in the world - the wealthy - is so mind-boggling. Not only can they destroy the lives of everyone under them just so they can buy a new yacht, their hubris is so great they think they can outwit death. - He says it all, I'm just babbling, there's nothing I can add to this song.
    goodmorningmisterbenon March 04, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General CommentGeez Louise this is a cracker of a song. Cant understand some one can put the words together like he has--especially at the age of 21--best line "you fasten all the triggers for the others to fire" and doesnt it just explain war in a nut shell--if perhaps more people listened and thought about idea like this the government wouldn't have pawns to use to be able to achieve stuff like war-the irony of it usually being to gain power-them being the ones with the power and using Us(the people with no power) in order to get more of it. Any hoo its a great song =0)
    Nogtopooon May 18, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIf songs like this were being written today, Bush might find it more difficult to invade countries without reason...
    mrjoneson February 03, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIncredible song! This is Dylan at his most direct. His message isn't covered by the vague mask of much of his other work. This is not to criticize any of his more ambiguous songs. In fact, I mean just the opposite. It's the straightforwardness of this song, contrasted to his other works, that makes it so powerful. By abandoning the "righteous joker," he lets us know exactly how serious he is.
    I can hardly believe he had this wisdom at 21. I find myself on the verge of that age, and I can't see myself writing anything this powerful. Bravo.
    Best lines "You've thrown the worst fear / that could ever be hurled / the fear to bring children / into this world / for threatening my baby / unborn and unnamed/ you ain't worth the blood / that in your veins."
    Just think about those lines for a while and you'll know what a true genius Dylan is.
    mhutch47on April 14, 2005   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top
explain