"As I Went Out One Morning" is on the surface a song about a man who rescues a woman in chains only to discover that he has been manipulated into embarking on his act of heroism and that "she meant to do [him] harm." A character identified as "Tom Paine" "command[s] her to yield" and apologizes to the rescuer for her actions. Tom Paine is a central figure in the lyrics of this song; perhaps he represents common sense or civil liberties. However, it is also likely that it has to do with the prestigious Tom Paine Award that Dylan received in 1963 from the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee. Reportedly drunk, Dylan delivered a fairly politically incorrect speech, so much that he was booed and rushed from the stage. It is thought that afterward Bob himself wrote the song on a paper napkin.
Beyond its title, the song bears a striking resemblance to the W.H. Auden poem As I Walked Out One Evening, including sharing the very same meter.