Bob Dylan, 1962 (version by O.V. Michaelsen [Ove Ofteness])
Copyright (c) 1963; renewed in 1991 by Special Rider Music
John Brown went off to war, called to battle on a foreign shore,
And his mother, she sure was proud of him!
When he stood so straight and tall, in his uniform and all,
His mother's face broke out in a glowing grin.
She said, "Son, you look so fine, I'm so glad you're a son of mine'
You make me proud to know you hold a gun.
Do what your captain says an' lots of medals you will get,
Then we'll hang them on the wall when you come home."
As that evening train pulled out, John's ma began to shout,
Telling everybody in the neighborhood:
"That's my son that's about to go, he's a soldier now, you know,"
And she made well sure her neighbors understood.
She got a letter once in a while, and her face broke into a smile,
Then she showed them to the people from next door,
And she bragged about her son, with his uniform and gun,
And this thing they called 'a good old-fashioned war.'
'A good old-fashioned war.'
After all his letters home, his mail had ceased to come,
And she hadn't heard a word for nine months or more.
Then one letter finally came: "Go down and meet the train'
Your son is coming home from the war."
Oh, she smiled and went right down, she looked everywhere around,
But she could not find her soldier son in sight.
But as all the people passed, she saw her son at last
And when she did, she could hardly believe her eyes.
His young face was all shot up, and one hand had been blown off,
And he wore a metal brace around his waist.
He whispered kind of slow, in a voice she did not know,
And she could not even recognize his face.
She said, "Oh, my darling son, Lord, tell me what they've done.
How is it that you ended up this way?"
He tried his best to speak, but his mouth could hardly move,
And his mother had to turn her face away.
"Don't you remember, Ma, when I went off to war,
You thought it was the best thing I could do?
When I was on that battleground, you were home an' acting proud.
Be glad that you weren't standing in my shoes.
And I thought when I was there, 'God, what am I doing here?
Just tryin' to kill somebody or DIE tryin'.'
But the thing that scared me most, when my enemy came up close,
I saw his frightened face looked just like mine.
Lord, just like mine!
Then I couldn't help but think, through that thunder and the stink,
I was only one more puppet in their play.
And through the roar and smoke, that string, it finally broke,
And a blast of fire blew my eyes away."
When the young man tried to walk, his mother was still in shock,
As she saw that metal brace that helped him stand.
But as they turned to go, he held his mother close,
And he dropped his medals down into her hand.