Ballad of Donald White

Written by: Bob Dylan
My name is Donald White, you see
I stand before you all
I was judged by you a murderer
And the hangman’s knot must fall
I will die upon the gallows pole
When the moon is shining clear
And these are my final words
That you will ever hear

I left my home in Kansas
When I was very young
I landed in the old Northwest
Seattle, Washington
Although I’d a-traveled many miles
I never made a friend
For I could never get along in life
With people that I met

If I had some education
To give me a decent start
I might have been a doctor or
A master in the arts
But I used my hands for stealing
When I was very young
And they locked me down in jailhouse cells
That’s how my life begun

Oh, the inmates and the prisoners
I found they were my kind
And it was there inside the bars
I found my peace of mind
But the jails they were too crowded
Institutions overflowed
So they turned me loose to walk upon
Life’s hurried tangled road

And there’s danger on the ocean
Where the salt sea waves split high
And there’s danger on the battlefield
Where the shells of bullets fly
And there’s danger in this open world
Where men strive to be free
And for me the greatest danger
Was in society

So I asked them to send me back
To the institution home
But they said they were too crowded
For me they had no room
I got down on my knees and begged
“Oh, please put me away”
But they would not listen to my plea
Or nothing I would say

And so it was on Christmas Eve
In the year of ’59
It was on that night I killed a man
I did not try to hide
The jury found me guilty
And I won’t disagree
For I knew that it would happen
If I wasn’t put away

And I’m glad I’ve had no parents
To care for me or cry
For now they will never know
The horrible death I die
And I’m also glad I’ve had no friends
To see me in disgrace
For they’ll never see that hangman’s hood
Wrap around my face

Farewell unto the old north woods
Of which I used to roam
Farewell unto the crowded bars
Of which’ve been my home
Farewell to all you people
Who think the worst of me
I guess you’ll feel much better when
I’m on that hanging tree

But there’s just one question
Before they kill me dead
I’m wondering just how much
To you I really said
Concerning all the boys that come
Down a road like me
Are they enemies or victims
Of your society?

Copyright © 1962 by Special Rider Music; renewed 1990 by Special Rider Music