"Pay in Blood" as written by and Bob Dylan....
Well I'm grinding my life out, steady and sure
Nothing more wretched than what I must endure
I'm drenched in the light that shines from the sun
I could stone you to death for the wrongs that you've done

Sooner or later you make a mistake,
I'll put you in a chain that you never will break
Legs and arms and body and bone
I pay in blood, but not my own

Night after night, day after day
They strip your useless hopes away
The more I take the more I give
The more I die the more I live

I got something in my pocket make your eyeballs swim
I got dogs could tear you limb from limb
I'm circlin' around the southern zone
I pay in blood, but not my own

Low cards are what I've got
But I'll play this hand whether I like it or not
I'm sworn to uphold the laws of God
You could put me out in front of a firing squad

I've been out and around with the rising men
Just like you, my handsome friend
My head's so hard, must be made of stone
I pay in blood, but not my own

Another politician coming out the abyss
Another angry beggar blowing you a kiss
You got the same eyes that your mother does
If only you could prove who your father was

Someone must of slipped a drug in your wine
You gulped it down and you've crossed the line
Man can't live by bread alone
I pay in blood, but not my own

How I made it back home, nobody knows
Or how I survived so many blows
I've been through Hell, What good did it do?
You bastard! I'm suppose to respect you!

I'll give you justice, I'll fathom your purse
Show me your moral that you reversed
Hear me holler, hear me moan
I pay in blood but not my own

You get your lover in the bed
Come here I'll break your lousy head
Our nation must be saved and freed
You've been accused of murder, how do you plead?

This is how I spend my days
I came to bury, not to raise
I'll drink my fill and sleep alone
I play in blood, but not my own


Lyrics submitted by mike, edited by SpiralEdges, Mellow_Harsher

"Pay in Blood" as written by Bob Dylan

Lyrics © BOB DYLAN MUSIC CO

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Pay in Blood song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentIn the Old Testament, God required a blood sacrifice to atone for the sins of His people. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh/2nd person in the Trinity, died on the cross and rose again on the third day. The shedding of His blood is the perfect sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world. By His blood, Jesus paid for the sins of His people. We are guilty of sin, Jesus paid our fine.

    It is amazing to listen to Bob's music having a Christian Worldveiw, because that is the Worldview he has and that he writes from. It is clear Bob had always had a strange affection for scripture, but after being saved, he found that the Bible is the Word of God.

    There seems to be two narratives in this song going back and forth with one another. The evil one who sheds innocent blood and loves it. The US murders 3000 unborn babies a day. Politicians and elites murder those who oppose them. They pay their way to success and riches and pleasure in this world by the blood of those they oppress and trample on for their own gain. The one who loves to tempt and cause trouble and do evil. They don't care about lives unless it's their own.

    The Christian narrative is the other. The one who will stand in front of firing squad bc they must uphold the laws of God. The one who is trampled on by evil doers, yet knows they have eternal life in Christ - due to the blood of Jesus covering their sin. This knowledge does not make persecution easy or fun - we just have that hope. Hope the evil one tries to take away. They strive for holiness and goodness and pray for their enemies salvation, BUT know that God is just and will give justice of hell to those who do not repent. We long for justice and the eradication of evil.

    Call upon the Lord. Today is the day of salvation! Repent and put your trust in Jesus Christ! Read your Bible! You are guilty against a holy and good God (test yourself against the 10 commandments - we all have broken them)...being NOT good people, we need a savior to make ourselves right with God. Let Jesus' blood cover your sins. Nothing but the blood of Jesus! You can't earn your way to heaven. Turn from your sins and trust in Christ! You will pay in blood. Let it not be your own!!!
    Jordy80on September 21, 2016   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe song is introspective. The first line explains that. He mentions circling the Southern zone which is obviously about touring. Dylan has fathered several children and a few of them were illegitimate, hence the line "If you could only prove who your father was". He speaks about his tumultuous life and endless touring which has taken its toll: "How I made it back home, nobody knows". He's "been through hell". The talk of "this nation must be freed - accused of murder" is a reference to warmongering within the political system.

    The refrain "I pay in blood but not my own" is another reference to those that gain from war. He pays in blood because that is the new currency. Or has that always been the currency?
    nelliewilsonon April 14, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think this song is about one man's (Bob's) disillusionment with politicians. I know little about American politics so could not speculate if the politician in question actually exists or if it is a general rant against any (or all) politicians who lie and cheat.

    As every verse ends in the word 'own' the previous line has to rhyme thus bone, stone, zone, moan & alone (missed the opportunity for 'atone' there Bob ... never mind ... slip it in your next live performance ... no charge !)
    Howlinwilfon September 22, 2013   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationThis song is about the current president. So many references point in this direction ...

    - The line about proving who your father is, is one of them ... And again, the line 'You bastard...I'm supposed to respect you'? Bastard being an illegitimate child.

    - The line saying that he's been accused of murder ... Speaks to me of the whole controversy surrounding his grandmother and the cause of her death ...

    I realize there are a lot of other lines which don't seem to fit my interpretation however, I am not really sure what to make of them. For example, the line about circling the Southern Zone, etc ...

    The song might not just be a protest against the president, but could also be a protest against an entire political group, I suppose ... And even with some Military undertones as well.

    But this is arguably the best song on 'Tempest', with the possible exception of the title track, IMHO.
    Louis126on August 26, 2014   Link
  • -1
    General CommentThanks for the comment citing the current president and Jared Lee Loughner. The only thing I can add to this intepretation is that the would-be assassin of the president in this song seems to be a disgruntled ex marine -
    "How I made it back home, nobody knows
    Or how I survived so many blows
    I've been thru Hell, What good did it do?"
    creamer1on January 06, 2013   Link
  • -2
    My InterpretationThe song is about a non-conformist who had humble beginning in life, was completely capable of contributing, but was shunned for one reason or another by the ruling class. But the protagonist continues digging his hands into life, despite feeling pushed down. He is fundamentally non-violent, but he relies on God to deliver justice to his oppressors, which is how I interpret, "I pay in blood, but not my own."

    An alternate interpretation would be a person going around inflicting punishment on people and using Christ as an excuse, because Christ's blood was the ultimate sacrifice in the Christian religion.

    Not sure where Dylan's mind was when he wrote it.
    soulmachon November 04, 2012   Link
  • -4
    General CommentAfter Googling the song list before I heard the Album, I Figured Roll on John was possibly about John Roll. A United States Federal Judge who was gunned down at a Democratic Event in 2011. On first listen though, the song is obviously about John Lennon.

    "Pay In Blood" coincidently seems to be from the point of view of a crazed political Assassin not unlike Jared Lee Loughner, killer of John Roll. The song is full of the kind of vengeful and threatening bile that comes out of the rightwing media whenever a Democrat gets into office and more specifically it references the current president.
    JFSebon September 08, 2012   Link

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