Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Video: Tom Lehrer | The Vatican Rag & Send the Marines

Running time: 3 minutes

The Vatican Rag

First you get down on your knees,
Fiddle with your rosaries,
Bow your head with great respect,
And genuflect, genuflect, genuflect!

Do whatever steps you want if
You have cleared them with the Pontiff.
Everybody say his own
Kyrie eleison,
Doin’ the Vatican Rag.

Get in line in that processional,
Step into that small confessional.
There the guy who’s got religion’ll
Tell you if your sin’s original.
If it is, try playin’ it safer,
Drink the wine and chew the wafer,
Two, four, six, eight,
Time to transubstantiate!

So get down upon your knees,
Fiddle with your rosaries,
Bow your head with great respect,
And genuflect, genuflect, genuflect!

Make a cross on your abdomen,
When in Rome do like a Roman;
Ave Maria,
Gee, it’s good to see ya.
Gettin’ ecstatic an’ sorta dramatic an’
Doin’ the Vatican Rag!


Running time: 1 minute

Send the Marines

What with President Johnson practicing escalatio on the Vietnamese and then the Dominican crisis on top of that it has been a nervous year and people have begun to feel like a Christian scientist with appendicitis. Fortunately in times of crisis just like this America always has this number one instrument of diplomacy to fall back on. Here’s a song about it.

When someone makes a move
Of which we don’t approve,
Who is it that always intervenes?
U.N. and O.A.S.,
They have their place, I guess,
But first send the Marines!

We’ll send them all we’ve got,
John Wayne and Randolph Scott,
Remember those exciting fighting scenes?
To the shores of Tripoli,
But not to Mississippoli,

What do we do? We send the Marines!
For might makes right,
And till they’ve seen the light,
They’ve got to be protected,
All their rights respected,
‘Till somebody we like can be elected.

Members of the corps
All hate the thought of war,
They’d rather kill them off by peaceful means.
Stop calling it aggression,
O we hate that expression.
We only want the world to know
That we support the status quo.
They love us everywhere we go,
So when in doubt,
Send the Marines!


Thomas Andrew Lehrer (born 1928) is an American musician, singer-songwriter, satirist, and mathematician. He has lectured on mathematics and musical theater. He is best known for the pithy and humorous songs that he recorded in the 1950s and 1960s. His songs sometimes parodied popular musical forms though he usually created original melodies. Lehrer’s early work typically dealt with non-topical subject matter and was noted for its black humor in songs such as “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park.” But in the 1960s, he started composing songs that dealt with social and political issues of the day. The popularity of these songs has far outlasted their topical subjects and references. In the early 1970s, Lehrer largely retired from public performances to devote his time to teaching mathematics and musical theater history at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Tom Lehrer in 1960

4 comments on “Video: Tom Lehrer | The Vatican Rag & Send the Marines

  1. Patty Youngblood
    February 29, 2020

    ” Two, four, six, eight,
    Time to transubstantiate!”
    (never forgotten lines from the big hero of my twenties and our sixties)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jack
    February 29, 2020

    One of the smartest math lessons I ever heard was when Tom Lehrer explained that Base 8 math is is just counting on your fingers if you have no thumbs. I love it!

    Liked by 1 person

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