Phil Ochs – When in Rome (+ guitar chords)

Phil Ochs - When in Rome

Phil Ochs – When in Rome (+ guitar chords)

This very well may be one of the most violent lyrics in music, but Phil Ochs as a 68’er, can only be understood through an understanding of those events. He was not a prophetic writer as for instance noted by Peter Yarrow (as quoted from the documentary There But for Future), he was writing in protest! Understanding the violence in these lyrics is to understand the violence that Phil Ochs, and most of his contemporaries, were enduring.

Although most of us have long forgotten, just as we have forgotten 1848, perhaps through music it is possible to understand – and as usual, not just understand for mere understanding; but for action.

‘When in Rome’ guitar chords and lyrics

[A]In the fire blue forests, faded and forgotten
I crawled through the cotton fields, picking for cotton
The [D]overseer sneered, his whipping was rotten
With [A]ecstasy.

In [F#m]child-like terror I tore out the tap roots
[Bm]Cards of the lash were calling to follow suit
I [E7]dashed for the swamps, the hounds in hot pursuit
[D]Jealous[A]ly.

[C#7]All through the night a figure of [F#m]fright, as I hid my head
And they [C#7]buried their nose in a cut of my [F#m]cloths, now torn in shreds
And they [C#7]never would leave until they [B]believed that I was dead

But I’d [E]never curse [A]their names
Oh, [E]who am I [A]to blame
I [E]know I’d do [A]the same
[B]Endlessly.

And [C#m]all the high-born ladies
So lovely and [F#m]so true,
Have been [B]handed to the soldiers
When in Rome do as [E]the Romans do.

 

Frail and afraid in the mists of the morning
The snakes and the spiders were sadly performing
The bark of the dogs kept up the warning
Inside the wood.

Sweating and swearing I crawled from the manger
The highway appeared to take me from danger
Is there anyone here who would pick up a stranger?
Oh I wish you could.

Then someone replied “would you like a ride?” “Come in” he said.
We drove for a while, he gave me a smile and a piece of bread
The hammer was hard in the chrome of the car as I cracked his head

Then we took off in a spin
Oh I smashed his skull again
Oh thank you my good friend,
I feel so good.

And all the high-born ladies
So lovely and so true,
Have been handed to the soldiers
When in Rome do as the Romans do.

 

Late in the evening I came to the city
I fell to the sidewalks sighing for pity
A diamond was dropped from the hands of the pretty
To be so kind.

Cowards and corpses were busy competing
The rhymes of the riots were busy repeating
I raced to the corner and sped(?) from the speeding
To save my mind.

Latches and locks, companies of cops ran from the rain
There was silk in the stores for the whims of the whores, that shone with shame.
I asked for a light from a priest in the night, then I fanned the flames.

And the traffic all stood still
To see if someone had been killed
I was glad to leave a thrill
So far behind.

And all the high-born ladies
So lovely and so true,
Have been handed to the soldiers
When in Rome do as the Romans do.

 

A monk and his mother were dancing so dandy
A topless nun was handing out candy
The beautiful bishop broke out the brandy
The kiss we crave.

They stuttered and stammered, would I feel like staying
We fell to our knees, feverishly praying
the salt in the salt-peter seemed to be saying
Be brave, be brave.

I reached for a robe, I preached and I probed, and I taught the tune.
And the greed for the guilt was played to the hilt as I promised doom.
I toyed with their fears, until coins and tears filled the room.

Then I took off down the road
Laughing madly like a toad
God bless every soulless soul
That would be saved.

And all the high-born ladies
So lovely and so true,
Have been handed to the soldiers
When in Rome do as the Romans do.

 

A chorus of children were passing the hours
I joined in their fun and gave them my flowers
Covered with kisses and showered with showers
That they repaid.

Taken and trusting, would I be their teacher?
She looked so appealing, I wanted to touch her
Just out of reach, unable to reach her
Their hands were raised.

Charmed by the chalk, the lessons were taught, inside the class
They studied the rules of the samurai schools, they had to pass
The room was adjourned, the lessons were learned,
I turned on the gas

And I watched them make their pleas
They passed the test with ease
I gave them their degrees,
They made the grade.

And all the high-born ladies
So lovely and so true,
Have been handed to the soldiers
When in Rome do as the Romans do.

 

Feeling my weakness, a coward for company
I joined the ranks of the hot and hungry
To teach what it means to have love for your country
We marched away.

We lowered our lives for the lines of a border
We danced with the mothers, played with the daughters
We followed our fantasies, following orders
It was child’s play.

After the war the bullets were bored so we capped the game
With cynical smiles we put them on trial to place the blame
Now what kind of beast would love such a feast
Have you no shame?

So we hung the by the feet
Oh, we shot them in the street
Oh, the victory was sweet
on victory day.

And all the high-born ladies
So lovely and so true,
Have been handed to the soldiers
When in Rome do as the Romans do.

 

The bread and the circuses came to be nearing
The Saviour or somebody must be appearing
Pagans and pageants were all disappearing
Inside my head.

The stones on the statues were staring and stalling
Caesar and Cassius were cursing and calling
The empire had risen and now it was falling
Or so it seemed.

The crown and the cross seemed empty and lost in dark despair
And luminous lies, death in disguise were everywhere
The canvas was cold, the story was old, I said my prayers

Then I crowned him on the head
Oh, I blessed him as he bled
Oh At last, the king is dead
God save the queen.

And all the high-born ladies
So lovely and so true,
Have been handed to the soldiers
When in Rome do as the Romans do.

 

Now nothing remained for building or burning
The losing of lovers was all I was learning
A time for escape and a time for returning
Had come to me

Back through the ashes and back through the embers
Back through the roads and the ruins I remembered
My hands at my side I sadly surrendered
Do as you please.

The hero was home, proven and grown, I fell on the floor
Mad with romance they started to dance, their star was born
I bled like the rain, exploded in pain, then I screamed for more

Oh, make me feel sublime
Release me from my mind
Oh, Kill me one more time
And set me free.

And all the high-born ladies
So lovely and so true,
Have been handed to the soldiers
When in Rome do as the Romans do

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