"Small Axe" as written by Mark Anthony Myrie and Donovan Germain....
Why boasteth thyself
Oh, evil men
Playing smart
And not being clever? Oh no
I said, you're working iniquity
To achieve vanity, yeah (if a-so a-so)
But the goodness of Jah, Jah
I-dureth forever

If you are the big tree
We are the small axe
Sharpened to cut you down (well sharp)
Ready to cut you down

These are the words
Of my master, keep on tellin' me
No weak heart
Shall prosper, oh no they can't!
And whosoever diggeth a pit, Lord
Shall fall in it, shall fall in it
Whosoever diggeth a pit
Shall bury in it, shall bury in it

If you are the big tree
We are the small axe
Sharpened to cut you down
Ready to cut you down

And whosoever diggeth a pit
Shall fall in it, fall in it
And whosoever diggeth a pit
Shall bury in it, shall bury in it

If you are the big, big tree
We have a small axe
Ready to cut you down (well sharp)
Sharpened to cut you down
If you are the big tree, let me tell you this
We are the small axe
Ready to cut you down (well sharp)
Sharpened to cut you down

If you are the big tree
We are the small axe


Lyrics submitted by kevin

"Small Axe" as written by Bob Marley

Lyrics © Peermusic Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group

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Small Axe song meanings
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14 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentPalisteve.... FYI when Bob says master he is speaking of the Lord. Its actually scripture that he is sing in the part if the song that says
    "These are the words

    Of my master, tellin' me that
    No weak heart
    Shall prosper
    And whosoever diggeth a pit
    Shall fall in it, uh, bury in it
    And whosoever diggeth a pit
    Shall bury in it, uh (... bury in it)"

    I like hearing everyones thouhts though its fun :)
    Peace and love
    Unity


    unityon March 19, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General Commenten.wikipedia.org/wiki/…">Marley actually died from cancer.
    U-Roy does a great dubbed-out version of this song as well.
    Chinupon December 02, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAs explained in Timothy White's CATCH A FIRE book:

    In what seems like a simple allegory in which a woodsman informs a large tree that it is about to be felled, "Small Axe" is actually a fascinating three pronged assertion that is readily understood by all Jamaicans but utterly obscure to almost anyone else.

    Not only is "Small Axe" intended as a warning to oppressors everywhere that the people of the Third World will one day cut them down to size, but it is also a bit of bravado that had a particular application to the Jamaican recording industry. When the song was originally written by Marley and noted Kingston producer Lee Perry, it referred to "the Big T'ree," the island's dictatorial record company triumvirate-Dynamic, Federal and Studio One.

    And the central image of tree-felling, accompanied by the excuse that it is being done according to the wishes of a superior, is a sober throwback to the old plantation-era pecking order, when slaves who were ordered to topple the island's gigantic silk-cotton trees, which they held sacred, would sprinkle some rum on the roots of the trunks and sing a woeful song. This was done to assure the spirits lurking within that this destruction was not the slaves' idea, but rather the will of their masters.
    hungdaddyon March 29, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Commenthungdaddy has done well i think to identify that it refers to the rival recording studios as well as the 'bigger picture' of government etc. I think the wailers would like this because it shows they were just people like us with real problems big and small.(government and local rivals).it gives us, the ordinary people who are not revolutionaries sitting at home on our PCs, inspiration to realise that you have to start small to achieve big, ya dig?
    GBon February 12, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti've been 2 mount zion and ther was no mantion of bob dying from g.s.w he died of skin cancer in his foot.

    it was treatable by amputation but bob didnt want 2 go on stage with a leg off so he left it 2 fester and tragically it finaaly killed him after a lot of pain and suffering
    neilybuckon October 08, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentBob didn't have his toe amputated because he believed in the rastafarian principle that the body must be "whole". A bit different from losing his leg neilybuck!
    bigecon January 23, 2009   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningRecord producers/labels in Jamaica have traditionally been controlling, paying artists one time for their songs and retaining all rights etc. When this song was written 3 major record companies controlled the industry in Jamaica, so if you were an aspiring artist, if you dd not record for them your record wouldn't get airplay or distribution (watch the Jimmy Cliff film "The harder they come")

    These 3 record companies were so sure of themselves that they actually joined forced and put out albums as "Big T'ree Records". The arrogance of this caused the wailers to do this song.

    Although it can be interpreted as David overcoming Goliath in almost any situation, 'Small Axe' like much of Marley's music (and Jamaican music as a whole) is social commentary on what was going on and important at that time. Actually the majority of Jamaican music has more specific social meanings and its quite interesting hearing them again after you realize whats really being said.
    russtafarion October 23, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is a fantastic, classic song that can only be considered modern poetry.

    The "big tree" is the Jamaicsn government. Marley was very politically charged, and many of his songs contain not-so-veiled metaphors for the poverty and oppression in Jamaica in the 70s.

    The "small axe" is the people, which Marley claims will rise up and take down the "big tree" that is the government. While that would eventually happen, Marley wouldn't live to see it, having been shot in his home in 1976 and dying from evenutal complications from that injury 5 years later.
    ascheinbergon September 24, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis is what i tell to my friends when they tell me i can't change the world. system is a big tree, but i'm well sharp
    free worldon April 15, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'm not sure, but it seems to me that the *people* are the big tree, and the master is the one who sharpens the axe to cut it down (using violence against a specific few).

    On the other hand, the same master also digs a pit.
    PaliSteveon September 18, 2005   Link

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