"Don't Tread On Me" as written by and Lars Ulrich James Alan Hetfield....
Liberty or death, what we so proudly hail
Once you provoke her, rattling of her tail

Never begins it, never, but once engaged...
Never surrenders, showing the fangs of rage

Don’t tread on me

So be it
Threaten no more
To secure peace is to prepare for war

So be it
Settle the score
Touch me again for the words that you will hear evermore...

Don’t tread on me

Love it or leave it, she with the deadly bite
Quick is the blue tongue, forked as the lighting strike
Shining with brightness, always on surveillance
The eyes, they never close, emblem of vigilance

Don’t tread on me

So be it
Threaten no more
To secure peace is to prepare for war

So be it
Settle the score
Touch me again for the words that you will hear evermore...

Don’t tread on me

So be it
Threaten no more
To secure peace is to prepare for war

Liberty or death, what we so proudly hail
Once you provoke her, rattling of her tail

So be it
Threaten no more
To secure peace is to prepare for war

So be it
Settle the score
Touch me again for the words that you will hear evermore...

Don’t tread on me


Lyrics submitted by King Nothing, edited by Saint Arkham, Ashram

Don't Tread On Me song meanings
Add your thoughts

67 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +3
    General CommentLiberty or death, what we so proudly hail.
    “Give me liberty or give me death.” - Patrick Henry
    Once you provoke her, rattling of her tail
    “The use of the eastern diamondback rattlesnake as a symbol of the American colonies can be traced back to the publications of Benjamin Franklin. In 1751, he made the first reference to the rattlesnake in a satirical commentary published in his Pennsylvania Gazette. It had been the policy of Britain to send convicted criminals to America, and Franklin suggested that they thank the British by sending rattlesnakes to England.”
    Never begins it, never, but once engaged...
    Never surrenders, showing the fangs of rage
    -Benjamin Franklin's "Join or Die" propaganda (“to encourage American colonists to unite against British rule.”)

    Dont tread on me
    “The first Marines that enlisted were from Philadelphia and they carried drums painted yellow, depicting a coiled rattlesnake with thirteen rattles, and the motto "Don't Tread On Me." This was the first mention of the Gadsden flag's symbolism.”

    “Col. Gadsden presented to the Congress an elegant standard, such as is to be used by the commander in chief of the American navy; being a yellow field, with a lively representation of a rattle-snake in the middle, in the attitude of going to strike, and these words underneath, "Don't Tread on Me!"” (The cover of the album features the snake used)

    So be it
    Threaten no more
    To secure peace is to prepare for war
    So be it
    Settle the score
    Touch me again for the words that you'll hear evermore...

    Dont tread on me

    Love it or live it, she with the deadly bite
    “...even when those weapons are shewn and extended for her defence, they appear weak and contemptible; but their wounds however small, are decisive and fatal...” - Benjamin Franklin
    Quick is the blue tongue, forked as lighting strike
    Shining with brightness, always on surveillance
    The eyes, they never close, emblem of vigilance
    “I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids–She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance.” - Benjamin Franklin

    Dont tread on me

    So be it
    Threaten no more
    To secure peace is to prepare for war
    “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” - George Washington

    So be it
    Settle the score
    Touch me again for the words that you'll hear evermore...

    Dont tread on me

    So be it
    Threaten no more
    To secure peace is to prepare for war

    Liberty or death, what we so proudly hail
    Once you provoke her, rattling on her tail

    So be it
    Threaten no more
    To secure peace is to prepare for war
    So be it
    Settle the score
    Touch me again for the words that you'll hear evermore...

    Dont tread on me
    Adeorion April 15, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentMetallica is showing its patriotic signs witht his song referring to the Revolutionary War's Minutemen who beared a white flag with a snake the ha dthe words "Don't Tread On Me" on it. When I hear this song I think about a one man army preparing to go into battle with a victory being seemingly impossible but the man beats the odds, and comes out on top
    Sephirothon May 22, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthis song deffinately satirizes extreme nationalism, no doubts there. It's still awesome.

    As for the UN. It's pretty worthless as a peace keeping force. Ever hear of Darfur? (sp?) Somalia? Bosnia? The're all examples of failed international diplomacy. And the only reason we're in Iraq now is because the U.N. (France and Russia) didn't care enough to back up the resolutions they made.

    And for the U.S. military, you can thank them for the world as you know it. The U.S. was a key player in both world wars. If Hitler wasn't stopped, the world would be considerably different from the way we know it. Think about the first Gulf War. Kuwait was INVADED. The U.S. basically protected a country that got stomped on. I would consider that to be a good thing. And for vietnam, that was a French possession, and should have been fought WITH them instead of FOR them. (Sorry about the political rant)
    conservativebastardon April 12, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentBack a long ass time ago when our Country was still being made into a working country and we were being botherd by the Brits. Ben Franklin thought that our country anamil should be the rattlesnake, like that on the flag that the songs based on, the gadsen flag. he said this for a number of reasons, The rattlesnake is only found in north america, a rattlesnake that he found once had 13 rattlers on his tail, when he shook one it made no sound, when he shook them all it was a sound that could make anyone stray away. the rattlesnake will not attack you unless it is threatend and has a good cause for it. but once it does fight you it will never surrender and show you who is boss, we wont start it but we will sure put up one hell of a fight and finish it. Most people with rattlesnakes eaither hate them or love them. I like them around becuase they kill all the mice. We fast and deadly in our attacks like the song says with all the tounge stuff. we shine great ness because we are a great people. A rattlesnakes eyes will never close because they cant see and they dont use them anymore(ben didnt know this at the time)but this shows that we never stop waching others so that we can be prepared for a war if it comes, an emblem of viglence. theres a few other reasons that he and others thought that it should be on the flag wich was comosed of a coild up rattlesnake that some what resembled the thirteen colonys and at the time(the head being new englanda and the tail Flordia or something like that) That made the rattlesnake a good national anmail being that were fine with you but if you walk or tread on us we will kick your ass. alot of the stuff in the song is quoted and quote modified from founding fathers like ben franklin, gorge washington and patrick henery. personaly i love the song in that i am very patriotic and willing to die in combat if my country needs it. and it is a very kickass song
    ZachH90on April 26, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentNow tell me what's the point of killing civilians?
    Devastatuson June 18, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentlol You tell me. You're the one who thinks that ethnic cleansing is a sovereign right.
    Jacktheknifeon June 25, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAmerican Nationalism is unique in the way that there is a reason behind it. American nationalism, referring to America "back in the days", when you had founding fathers, rebellion against the british, not America anno 2007 when you're sliding into a welfare state with a scary foreign policy.

    As someone just said: A rattlesnake never starts up a fight, but it doesn't tolerate any offences. The "rights" of a rattlesnake may never be violated - or else.

    This song can both mock neocon american nationalism(the bombing kind of nationalism) and support old school american nationalism (the 2nd amendment and gigantic beards kind of nationalism) without being contradictory. The lyrics speaks of what American pride is really about, which is both a satirical mock of what many american "patriots" (or should I say p.a.t.r.i.o.t.) of today think of themselves, AS WELL as a proud song about standing up for liberty.

    What I do like about it is how the rattle-snake is a perfect allegory of the perfect individual: I won't hurt you unless you hurt me; DONT TREAD ON ME.
    arkelon July 13, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentps. I'm not an American, I just happen to live in a rather socialistic country, and I pity the USA for what the politicians are doing to it. I hope that one day I can make a life for myself in the US, but it's not worth it unless I get really successful and can afford going back to my "life" every now and then :P
    arkelon July 13, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentwell put arkel.
    Zingeron July 16, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWhile on a similar subject matter, it's not really about nationalism, or the revolution directly. It's more focused on the symbol of the snake than anything else.

    Ben Franklin wrote an essay describing how the snake was perfect as the symbol of the American colonies; much of the song is in almost direct reference to that essay.

    "Shining with brightness,
    always on surveillance.
    (The eyes, they never close)
    Emblem of Vigilance."

    "eye excelled in brightness, that of any other animal, and that she has no eye-lids—She may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance."

    "Never Begins it,
    never, but once engaged.
    Never surremders,
    showing the fangs of rage"

    "She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders"

    "Love it or leave it,
    She with the deadly bite.
    Quick is the blue tongue,
    forked as the lightning strike"

    "She strongly resembles America in this, that she is beautiful in youth and her beauty increaseth with her age, “her tongue also is blue and forked as the lightning, and her abode is among impenetrable rocks.”"

    americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/1988/2/…

    It may be, as some have suggested, questioning the symbol the rattlesnake provides, but to me it seems more like they're describing the snake - paraphrasing Ben's essay.

    That's my opinion, of course.
    Seewaon September 16, 2007   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