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The refrain from the song John Paul Jones by Johnny Horton:

He fought in the rain and he fought in the sun and he fought in the moonlight too
He fought with his knife and he fought with his gun and he fought till his blood ran through
Well, John Paul Jones was a fightin' man, a fightin' man was he
He sailed to the east and he sailed to the west and he helped set America free

I was thinking hard to try to figure out what that expression actually meant, but I don't think I have come up with a good visual representation of John Paul's blood running through in the context of the song. What picture comes to mind when you hear it?

  • One is alive until his blood runs through his body. If his blood stops running, he dies. It means that he fought until he breathes his last. – Khan Feb 17 '15 at 12:48
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    @Khan: Did you mean "one is alive [while/so long as] one's blood runs through one's body"? I think you've got it backwards. Either that, or he was fighting while he was dead, and when he finished fighting he was alive! – Brian Hitchcock Feb 18 '15 at 8:00
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The lyric is wrongly transcribed. In many websites.

Listen to this recording:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9s58mlY1R6k

Johnny Horton clearly sings "until his blood ran BLUE".

well-oxygenated blood is red. blood lacking oxygen is blue. the lyric is probably an exaggeration for being so out of breath (or one's heart so weak) that one's blood literally runs blue

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    +1 for that. The Internet: world's fastest way to spread misinformation. Many websites? I checked ten and found only one with 'blue', and that looked like a transcription different in kind from the rest. Although it is a lot easier to sing/say 'ran through'. Now I hear 'through' or 'blue' when I listen, depending on what I'm listening to hear – user6951 Feb 20 '15 at 10:10
  • I meant it was mistranscribed on many sites. I never found a site that said "blue". I listened to the song, and based on that, boldly stated it was "Blue", which I would believe even if NO website had transcribed it that way. – Brian Hitchcock Feb 20 '15 at 10:38
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As Khan says in the comments, the probable answer is that there are elided words in the chorus (to make it rhyme), such as "ran through the streets" -- or that it's a somewhat odder dialect for "ran out of his body."

At http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ran%20through?s=t , definition 35 is: (intransitive) to spread or circulate quickly: a rumour ran through the town" So if you assume "spread quickly" is the meaning here, that suggests strongly that "until he died in battle, bleeding heavily" is the intended meaning of that line in the chorus.

On the other hand, he didn't die in battle, if wikipedia is to be believed (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Paul_Jones#Later_life_and_death), but instead died of kidney failure. So if you assume the song is being accurate and not "legendary," then "run through" might just mean "collapsed from his wounds (which he survived)" or "fought till the end of the battle even when bleeding heavily."

Without knowing the exact dialect of Johnny Horton, I can't do more than hazard guesses, unfortunately.

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Actually the formulation "he fought till his blood ran through" does not make any sense at all. It seems to be a cheap rhyme to "moonlight too". You can only guess what sense might fit. Probably "he fought as long as he could". But there is a very far discrepancy between the words and this idea. I would say here the poetic capacity of the author wasn't sufficient. Song texts are no Shakespeare texts. They are created in short time and often have a lot of deficiencies.

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